Lucarelli basks in Derby dream with Justify

Courtesy of Mary Costa  Redbird

Courtesy of Mary Costa Redbird

Justify is the sixth consecutive favorite to win the Derby, extending the longest streak of favorites winning in race history.

Justify is trained by 4-time Kentucky Derby victor Bob Baffert while Audible is trained by Todd Pletcher who has won twice at the Kentucky Derby including past year.

There was a 20-1 longshot owned by a Saudi prince in the mix, as well.

"For a young horse, man, he's got a great mind", hall of fame jockey Mike Smith, who's ridden him in two of the victories, told the LA Times.

Smith has achieved so much on the big stage, but he doesn't take anything for granted at his age.

Perhaps Smith knew that his horse could handle a vicious pace and was content to let Justify do whatever he wanted.

"We knew he was the horse to beat", Pletcher said. "The trend is a lot different now than it was however many years you want to go back".

Good Magic - last year's 2-year-old champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile victor - was the only horse to have a serious shot at Justify turning for home. But My Boy Jack had won the Southwest Stakes in Arkansas in February on a muddy track.

Smith was in a body cast following a 1998 spill at Saratoga, and in his rush to return he almost ruined his career, as it took him nearly two years to recover to full health. Since then, he's accumulated over 4,500 wins in more than 19,760 starts and earnings in upwards of $359 million.

While Baffert was hailing the start for his horse Justify, it was equally telling for Aidan O'Brien's globetrotter Mendelssohn, who was involved in a bit of a scuffle as they jumped and proceeded to bottom out late to finish last. It also is one reason Baffert appeared so calm all week.

Minutes after Justify won the 144th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, Lucarelli picked up his phone in West Palm Beach, Fla., on the first ring, didn't bother with the unnecessary and pointless formality of "Hello" and informed me that he already had 92 text messages.

"I thought we had the exacta, too", he said.

Justify, the 3-to-1 favorite, did not have it that easy. For Smith, the right strategy seemed to be to sit, maybe three to four lengths off the lead, and then ease past Promises Fulfilled when he hit the brick wall that was waiting for him. He made his move in the far turn and steadily pulled away for his most significant win.

Justify was not the only 2-year-old in the derby this year.

"This track had me anxious, but you just saw a great performance".

"This track had me anxious but we saw something special", Baffert said. "I did that, and the rest is up to him". "I was anxious about us doing everything right". I mean, they get the credit.

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