Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is seeking his fifth Kentucky Derby victory with the talented colt Justify, who comes into the race off an impressive victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) to remain undefeated in three career starts.
The colt earned the highest Beyer Speed Figure (107) of any of the major Road to the Kentucky Derby point races and beat the more accomplished Bolt d’Oro in his stakes debut.
While the colt undoubtedly has a ton of talent, he is looking to win the Run for the Roses off just three career starts, and none as a juvenile. The last Derby Sportsbook to have not raced as a two-year-old was Apollo in 1882.
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Justify bids to end Apollo Curse
Since Regret won the Derby off three career starts in 1915, it has been accomplished just once, Big Brown getting the job done on three starts in 2008, his prep coming in a win in the Florida Derby (G1).
Justify only had to beat four foes in each of his first two starts and faced just six in his Santa Anita Derby victory.
However, what he lacks in experience is more than made up for in talent and his connections — Baffert calling the shots and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the irons.
Baffert second in Derby wins among trainers
Baffert’s four Derby victories came with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015). His overall record in the race is 27-4-3-3. The only trainer with more wins in the Run for the Roses is Ben Jones with six.
While Smith is the all-time leader in wins in Breeders’ Cup races, his record in the Kentucky Derby is just 23-1-4-1, his win coming aboard Giacomo in 2005, one of the biggest upsets in Derby history.
Justify was a $500,000 purchase, by Scat Daddy out of the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic ($133,981), who won three routes and has dropped two other Sportsbooks, including top earner The Lieutenant ($125,537), who won three times going long.
There is no doubt this colt is a serious contender for the Derby. The question is whether he offers much value for the top spot as the likely betting favorite.
Sportsbook Odds: +350
Last Race: Won Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Handicapper Michael Dempsey will be covering the Triple Crown for OddsShark and his full card reports with selections, analysis, fair odds line and wagering recommendations for major tracks can be found daily at turfnsport.com.