Justify wins the Santa Anita Derby (G1) (c) Benoit Photo
Santa Anita Derby winner Justify
Santa Anita Derby (G1) star Justify has been sublime from three dominant wins in 2018 and will aim to buck a 136-year drought in the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1). Apollo, who in 1882 won the Kentucky Derby, was the last horse to take the Run for the Roses after going unraced as a two-year-old. But Justify might be up to the task.
The Bob Baffert trainee has been virtually unchallenged to date as closed as the 3-1 deserved favorite in the final pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.
Going to the lead soon after the start in the Santa Anita Derby, Justify flashed his brilliant and seemingly effortless stride to coast home a convincing winner, passing his initial class test with style under Mike Smith. He defeated classy Grade 1 victor Bolt d’Oro in the process and posted a seasonal-best 114 BRIS Speed figure for his work.
Baffert holds the physically imposing Justify in incredibly high regard, too. “I pinch myself. I had (American) Pharoah, Arrogate, and then I have this one,” stated the Hall of Fame conditioner.
Bred in the Bluegrass State by John Gunther, Justify was a Book 1 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, bringing the gavel down at $500,000. He races for a partnership that includes China Horse Club, WinStar Farm, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners LLC.
Justify is by the late Scat Daddy, who was a top-class juvenile who carried his form over into his sophomore campaign. Trained by Todd Pletcher, that son of champion Johannesburg bagged the 2006 Hopeful Stakes (G1) as a two-year-old, followed by scores in the Florida Derby (G1) and Fountain of Youth (G2) at three. His racing career concluded with an unplaced showing in the 2007 Kentucky Derby.
However, Scat Daddy left his mark in the breeding shed in a big way. A sire of nine individual champions, Scat Daddy is well represented on the Kentucky Derby Trail in 2018 – with the splendid Mendelssohn; Blue Grass (G2) runner-up Flameaway; Arkansas Derby (G1) fourth-placer Combatant; as well as Justify.
Justify is one of a trio of winning foals out of the Grade 3-placed Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic. His second dam is 2004 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) third-place finisher Magical Illusion, who looked like a budding star prior to her retirement. Justify receives ample stamina influence through his female family.
While Justify is late to the party, not making his debut until February 18, he moves on to Churchill Downs as the center of attention. Could he be racing’s next super horse?