Derby 144: It’s all Justify

Well, the Derby panned out the way I predicted, and I picked the winner (and so did thousands of others): Justify was in contention for the whole race, pulled away at the far turn, and won by two lengths over Good Magic.

I had predicted a fast pace, with Instilled Regard going out front, and that’s what happened: the first quarter mile was in :22 and change, and the half-mile was in a little over :45. I was a little surprised that Justify stayed so close to the lead and for a while was worried that he might tire himself out. But he put it into a higher gear around the turn, pulled away from the pack, and held off a hard-charging Good Magic, who would not give up but didn’t have that higher gear to catch Justify.

I had picked Free Drop Billy to finish third; unfortunately, I picked the wrong closer. My Boy Jack finished fourth.

My only mistake was underestimating the gutsy performance of Good Magic, who ran a great race and was breathing down Justify’s neck the whole way. Audible put on the afterburner in the homestretch but ran out of room.

Who was disappointing? Bolt D’Oro, my sentimental choice, just ran out of steam. As my brother put it, he saw Justify in front of him, remembered that he had seen this race before at Santa Anita, and preferred not to relive it. He finished a disappointing 12th. Perhaps it’s not in his pedigree to go a mile and a quarter.

The biggest shock was Mendelssohn. The second choice when betting started got bumped, but simply couldn’t overcome the trip overseas and the foreign surface to run a good race. He finished last. 

My plea to Churchill Downs: Please limit the number of horses to 14. This is a traffic jam and an accident waiting to happen. There’s no need for half of those horses to be in the Derby; most have no chance. Make it a safer and fairer race by limiting the number of entries.

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