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Justify Wins Derby, Leads Scat Daddy’s Historic Crop

The Curse of Apollo is Broken!

Justify defied the historic odds against him, along with “Apollo’s Curse” while making good on his opening  as the odds on favorite and becoming the 144th Kentucky Derby champion. Not since Apollo in 1882, the 8th, yes 8th, running of the Kentucky Derby, had a horse not run as a juvenile (2-year old) and gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. On top of that, even Apollo had won on multiple tracks before, but Justify had never run any on his 3 career races outside of Santa Anita Park in Del Mar, California. Justify did just that at Churchill Downs, looking right at home in Louisville as he got a perfect break out of the gate, getting ahead of the crowd and avoiding getting mud in his face. He then ran just  behind the lighting fast early pace (1/4 mile in 22.6 seconds!!) and once he took the lead no horse on this planet was going to catch Justify in sloppiness that was the 144th Kentucky Derby.

Not to be overlooked is the unsung hero of this Triple Crown season, Justify’s late great sire, Scat Daddy. He is only the 4th stallion in history, to send 4 colts to the Kentucky Derby and the first since 1923. Scat Daddy, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner himself, passed away unexpectedly of sudden heart attack at the premature age of only 11 years old. He was a total success as a stud, despite finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby, and was having his best year before that fateful day, December 14, 2015. The year he passed, Scat Daddy broke the North American record for the number of juvenile stakes winners in a season with nine. He had already sired his final crop earlier that year and they grew into his final crop of 3-year olds this year. At the time of his death, Scat Daddy has already sired 69 stakes winners and that number has continued to grow with the likes of turf dominator Caravaggio and now Justify.

Justify started out his 3-year old season as, at best, the #3 horse for Bob Baffert, his trainer and now 5-time Kentucky Derby champion. Baffert’s early best contender, McKinziw, suffered a DQ 2nd place at the San Felipe and then an injury that took him off the Derby trail. Solomini, also in the Derby had been Baffert’s defacto #1. Justify replaced McKinzie in the Santa Anita Derby, beat the brakes of the field and skyrocketed to the favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Another Scat Daddy colt in the Derby, Mendelssohn, despite his last place finish at the Derby, has won races on 3 different surfaces (turf, synthetic, dirt) in 3 consecutive races on 3 different continents leading up to the Derby. He was bumped at the start and in this weather never stood a chance to recover and come back, leading his jockey Ryan Moore to pull him up. If he is indeed healthy, I think better weather and a better start could bring results at the Preakness. All of his transcontinental travel may also have caught up to Mendelssohn and UAE Derby winners are now 0-14 all-time at the Kentucky Derby.

Neither Flameaway nor Combatant finished better than 13th but they still make up a historic single sire crop at Churchill Downs. No one besides Justify factored much into Saturday’s Kentucky Derby when it was all said and done. Justify took advantage of the amazing raw talent that allowed him to run away with the Derby on one of the sloppiest tracks in the race’s history. Just as important as anything else coming out of Saturday evening, all of the runners appear to have come out of the sloppy Derby relatively healthy.

In two weeks, Justify will continue running in honor his late sire Scat Daddy, tries to cement his sire’s legacy in the breeding shed, as well as his own on the track, and become the 13th Triple Crown champion. Justify will look to open his career a perfect 5-0 at the Preakness. If he win wins the Triple Crown, Justify would improve to 6-0 in his career with all 6 races coming within 3 months, especially if  you consider February only has 28 days. The Scat Daddy colt did not run a race in his life before February 18, 2018 and yet here we are 2 1/2 months later and Justify is the Kentucky Derby champion with 2018’s chance at a Triple Crown. The next two weeks leading up to the Preakness and Justify’s next hurdle on his quest will be filled with much anticipation with a what looks like a true contender out of  one of the leading sires who was inexplicably lost much too soon.

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