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  • Chris Costello

Justify is the real deal as he wins the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby

In my last blog I talked about whether Justify would be a pretender or a star at the Kentucky Derby, and I predicted correctly. Justify is a STAR!!! I thought last year the weather was bad in Kentucky during the first weekend in May. Boy, was I wrong. I didn't even wear one of my suits all weekend. Friday was an overcast day that seemed like it could rain any minute and on derby Saturday, I don't think there was a minute where it didn't rain. I actually had to change into my backup rain gear by mid-afternoon. I knew by lunchtime when the dirt track was being sealed as the rain got heavier and heavier that the Derby was going to be another sloppy race. The difference with sloppy tracks is that Churchill Downs is one of the most unique of all in the country. When the dirt track is sloppy, it's like peanut butter. Either horses eat it up or they hate it. Its one or the other. By the time the horses were coming over to the paddock for the Derby and the crowd was singing "My Old Kentucky Home," I was freezing. I was shivering and tired of the rain, but I couldn't wait to see Justify. In my mind I thought of American Pharoah finishing a sloppy race all clean with a shiny coat by being out in the front the entire race and I thought Justify would do just the same. Here we go, 6:50pm, seems post time keeps getting later and later, ha, Justify breaks great and is out front with the pace setters. When I saw 45.77 half mile on the jumbo screen I was worried Justify couldn't keep this pace up. I was wrong. Not only did he keep it up, he went into the final turn strong and took the lead. As he glided down the stretch he never let down and stayed strong. Despite great challenges from Jose Ortiz on Good Magic, and Javier Castellano on Audible, Mike Smith and Justify crossed the finish line first and were crowned the winners of the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. The curse of Apollo was no more. Apollo was the last 3 year old to win the Kentucky Derby who didn't race as a juvenile. That was back in 1882, and now in 2018, it was Justify. Justify is 4-0 for his career and I think he hasn't even come close to showing how good he is and how good he can be. The really scary thing about Justify is he keeps learning and showing improvement each race he runs. Mike Smith and his trainer, Bob Baffert are professionals and they are playing it really cool when it comes to answering questions about Jusitfy. We always try to compare athletes. I don't know why, but we do. Yes, i see comparisons between Justify and past champions like American Pharoah, Arrogate, and California Chrome. I always try not to get ahead of myself as i know how good stars are for this sport, but I believe not only is Justify a star, he is going be one of those horses we look back on and just say WOW! One of the horses that we will watch in race replays from years ago. One of the horses that we will have framed racing pictures or paintings of. One of the horses that I got a picture of with, and I will tell stories about Justify to my son when he's older and learns to love the sport of horse racing just like his father. I may not have hit the superfecta or exact 5 this year again, but I was the closest I've ever been no thanks to the 15 horse, Instilled Regard. Close is never winning in horse wagering, but I do think the day was a victory. All 20 horses started and finished safely and the jockeys did, too. Scott Jordan, the starter and the crew were in sync all day with great starts. Most of all, Justify was introduced to the world. I just hope the world is ready for him, because Justify is ready to take over it. He heads to Maryland next week for the Preakness. After getting soaked in Kentucky I can't wait for some Costas Inn crabs, and for Justify to romp the 2nd jewel of the crown. I don't want to bypass this race, but it seems all his competition will be waiting for him in Elmont, NY to play spoilers in his bid for the triple crown. Well, I'll tell you what I say about the horses that wait until Belmont and are fresh and well rested. A mile and a half is a mile and a half, rested or not. I warn those waiting to race him at the Belmont Stakes and not challenging him at the Preakness. JUSTIFY IS COMING, BEWARE!

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