When McKinzie, a winner at Los Alamitos at age 2 and Santa Anita at age 3 was withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby trail due to some minor injuries, Hall of Fame trainer went down his Santa Anita shed row looking for a replacement. He drafted an allowance winner named Justify and immediately got himself a Derby contender.
With Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith in the saddle, the son of Scat Daddy from the Ghost Zapper mare Stage Magic made every pole a winning one on his way to a three-length win in the $1 million, Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
Racing for the China Horse Club and Ah Khing Teo, Head of the Plains Partners and Sol Kumin, Starlight Racing and Jack Wolf and WinStar Farm and Kenny Trout, Justify defeated six rivals in the mile and a furlong race that gave Baffert a record eighth win in the track's major race for the 3-year-olds and probably one of the favorites for the May 5 Kentucky Derby.
The 100 points Justify earned put him in a tie for seventh place with Coolmore's Mendelssohn in the contest to determine the allotment of stalls in the 20-stall Kentucky Derby starting field.
With Smith keeping Justify's mind on his business by letting the colt know he had his whip in his left hand, they crossed the wire three lengths ahead of Bolt d'Oro and Javier Castellano, the winners through disqualification of the San Felipe in their last start. Core Beliefs and Tyler Baze took third in the race that was clocked in 1:49.72 for the mile and a furlong on a fast track.
Looking into Justify's future, Smith said, “What you're seeing right now is just raw talent. He has so much room to grow and to even get better. I think this race is going to put a lot more bottom into him. If he moves forward off this race, which he should, then it's even kind of scary to talk about.”
Good Magic, 2017's Eclipse Award winner as 2-year-old colt of the year, took the lead around the far turn and sped to a 1-1/2-length win in Keeneland's $1 million, Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. That win earned the e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables' colt 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to place him at the top of the list with a score of 134.
His 4-1/2-length win in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, coupled with his Eclipse Award and his Blue Grass win, will surely make him one of the favorites in the Derby wagering.
With New York riding champion Jose Ortiz in the saddle for many-time champion trainer Chad Brown, the colt by champion Curlin from the Hard Spun mare Glinda the Good defeated 13 rivals in the Blue Grass by running the mile and a furlong in 1:50.18 over a fast track.
John C. Oxley's Flameaway, the winner of Tampa Bay's Sam F. Davis earlier in the season, took second and collected 40 Derby points for a total of 70. That number puts him ninth on the list.
The Albaugh Family Stable's Free Drop Billy was placed third by the stewards after the colt was interfered with in the home stretch by Sporting Chance. Free Drop Billy finished his Derby qualifying season with 44 points which should be enough to get him into the Kentucky Derby.
Brown spoke like a trainer pointing for the Derby when he said, “I thought it was an outstanding performance. He was well-placed early and kept steady throughout. Maybe we dock one point where it looked like he jumped a shadow near the wire, but that’s him. He’s going to look around a little bit. I was really happy how he ran today. For only two starts this year, I was hoping to be peaking for the Derby and hopefully we’ll advance another step on Derby Day. Looks like is a very good crop of horses this year and it’s going to be a tough race.”
Derby Point Standings
Here are the current standings of the top 20 horses racing in North America that are trying to qualify for the May 5 running of the Kentucky Derby. A field of 20 will be selected that may include one representative from Europe and one from Japan. In the event of a tie in qualifying points, purse earnings in unrestricted races will be used to break the tie. Under the system formulated by Churchill Downs, there is no advantage in qualifying first; nor is there a disadvantage in qualifying 20th. As of April 4, the number of North American qualifiers has been reduced to 19. Wins on synthetic surfaces at Kempton Park and New Castle in England have qualified the Kentucky-bred Gronkowski (named after the New England Patriots football star). Trainer Jeremy Noseda has told interviewers he is planning on shipping to Louisville for the Derby.
134 points. E Five Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet's Good Magic, Chad Brown, $1.8 million
110. China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm's Audible, Todd Pletcher, $803,520, and WinStar Farm's Noble Indy, Trainer Todd Pletcher, $640,000
107.Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso, Todd Pletcher, $572,500
104. Ruis Racing's Bolt d'Oro, Mick Ruis, $980,000
103. Godolphin's Enticed, Kiaran McLaughlin, $545,880
100. Smith, Magnier and Taber's Mendelssohn, Aiden O'Brien, $1.94 million, and China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm's Justify, Bob Baffert, $600,000
70. John C. Oxley's Flameaway, Mark Casse, $672,260
54. Calumet Farm's Bravazo, D. Wayne Lukas, $349,913
52. Robert J. Baron's Promises Fulfilled, Dale Romans, $266,480
50. Lowana and Robert E. Low's Magnum Moon, Todd Pletcher, $540,000
Joe Peacock's Runaway Ghost, Todd Fincher, $520,310, and WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing's Quip, Rodolphe Brisset, $212,000
44. Albaugh Family Stables' Free Drop Billy, Dale Romans, $597,200
42. GMB Racing's Lone Sailor, Tom Amoss, $273,347
40. Juddmonte Farms' Hofburg, Bill Mott, $192,000
39. Mr. Amore Stables' Firenze Fire, Jason Service, $647,500
34. Zayat Stables' Solomini, Bob Baffert, $616,000;
European Qualifier. Phoenix Thoroughbred III's Gronkowski, Jeremy Noseda, $79,496.
See more Equestrian news at www.TAPintoHorses.net
Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TAPintoHorses/
Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox.