On Saturday, May 5, some of the more fast, powerful, and athletic horses in the world ran in the 144th Kentucky Derby. And when the dust settled, it was the overwhelming favorite standing in the winner's circle ― the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner is Justify, and he left no doubt about just how fleet of foot he is.
Heading into Saturday's race, it was pretty clear who was favored by the odds. Horses like Justify, Mendelssohn, and My Boy Jack were getting very good odds in the Saturday morning betting lines, and when it's come to recent Kentucky Derby finishes, being the favorite has mattered a lot. In fact, the favorite has won the race each of the last five years.
And this time around, the outcome was more of the same. It was Justify who galloped across the finish line ahead of the field, etching his name into the annals of racing history. This also means that Justify has secured the first leg of racing's vaunted Triple Crown, with the next two legs coming in the forms of the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness. The Triple Crown is the greatest achievement in horse racing, and has only been achieved 12 times in history, the last time being in 2015.
This marks the first time in 136 years that a horse that did not race at two years old nonetheless won the Kentucky Derby. In the world of horse racing, this drought was known as the "Curse of Apollo," named after the winner of the 1882 Kentucky Derby, who was the last horse to accomplish the feat. Justify wasn't the only horse in Saturday's field that could've broken the curse; Magnum Moon also did not race as a two year old, but he finished in 19th place.
For Justify, this victory sets up another high-stakes race on the horizon. Namely, the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the aforementioned Triple Crown. Horses that win the Kentucky Derby are virtually assured to compete in the Preakness, barring any unforeseen injuries.
Although a horse achieving the Triple Crown is rare in the extreme in a historical sense, it has happened relatively recently, as American Pharoah pulled off the feat in 2015. Justify, like American Pharoah, was trained by Bob Baffert, considered by many analysts to be the best of the best as horse trainers go.
It remains to be seen how successful Justify will be in the rest of his racing career, of course. The Triple Crown is an immensely unlikely outcome by the numbers, not least of all because subsequent fields will include horses who didn't race in the Kentucky Derby, and are therefore much fresher and better-rested.
Justify finished the Kentucky Derby with a winning time of 2:04:20, narrowly beating out Good Magic in second, and Audible bringing up the rear in third. Mendelssohn, who many had predicted to be in the mix, notched a disappointing finish, coming in dead last at 20th place.
If you're curious to see what's next for Justify, you won't have to wait that long to find out. The Preakness will be taking place in approximately two weeks, on Saturday, May 19. Were Justify to notch another first-place finish then, he'd subsequently be lined up for an attempt at racing immortality in the Belmont Stakes, which is scheduled for Saturday, June 9.
In other words, in a little more than a month, you'll know exactly how far Justify is able to take this victory. But for now, it's more than enough to say that he's the Kentucky Derby's champion for the year 2018.