It’s the night before the Kentucky Derby, and I think I finally know what to do with Justify. I’m a firm believer in historical trends and the “Curse of Apollo” is one of the strongest in sports. Churchill Downs is a zoo on Derby Day and that energy permeates throughout the racetrack. A horse is exposed to new levels of activity and noise — something that conditioning as a 2YO obviously helps. It’s hard to say whether Justify has developed that experience in just 3 races — all which have come this year as a 3YO.
Ultimately, the horseplayer in me sees too much risk to take a low price on this equine wunderkind. Yes, he’s blazing fast, but I think it best to side with history. This leaves the question of who to bet. I’ve written about Audible before:
“This is a horse that has done nothing wrong. You can excuse the sprinting effort on debut in September — even though he made up tremendous ground. And then all he’s done is win, starting with stretching out to a mile at Aqueduct. He blew away an allowance field, albeit there were only 4 horses running. At Gulfstream, he brought it to a new level, running Derby-level speed. He was dominant in both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby is trained by über-trainer Todd Pletcher. He has the experience that some of the field lacks. I think he stands a good chance come Derby day, and will likely be on most of my tickets.”
I still feel that way about Audible. He’s come back as a fast 3YO and NY-bred is no longer any sort of disadvantage — he cost $500K at auction and runs that way. I’m also intrigued by Mendelssohn, even though it’s hard to comparatively gauge the UAE Derby effort. He was impressive last fall winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, but this is a completely different beast. Ryan Moore is a major plus. I’ve never thought that Good Magic is fast enough to win this and it has been some time since Bolt D’Oro crossed the finish line first. Magnum Moon has the same Apollo issues that Justify has, without the same level of speed. Vino Rosso is a bit of a wildcard — he’s always been a morning horse and he showed up in the afternoon in the Wood. But he’s a bit too inconsistent for my tastes on Derby Day.
The rest all have small chances with improvement, although I’d be surprised if the winner did not come from the horses that are listed above. It’s going to be Audible for me in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. Good luck to everyone playing!