Bet Down in Derby Future Wager
By Dick Downey
Photo from Santa Anita
In a one-mile allowance race on a sealed muddy track on March 11 at Santa Anita, Justify made short work of four rivals, putting them away in the blink of an eye when asked by Mike Smith. He was sent off at 1-20 odds.
Justify raced three wide dueling for second place untill Smith smooched him in the far turn, and then he was gone. Smith didn't ask him down the lane. The race was timed in 1:35.73. In the winner's circle, Smith compared Justify to Easy Goer.
Shivermetimbers was a distant second, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Justify. Pepe Tono was another 1 1/2 length back in third.
The chart says Justify "broke a step slowly, went up three deep into and on the first turn, stalked outside a rival on the backstretch, swept to the front outside the pacesetter nearing midway on the second turn, kicked clear just off the rail and drew away through the stretch in hand."
Just after the race, Justify attracted several thousands of dollars of wagers in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager and was 6-1 at this post. The pool closes in a little over a half-hour.
Bob Baffert was on his way to Ocala for a 2-year-old sale when the race was run.
Mike Smith's reaction:
Mike Smith: “That was extremely impressive. He passed the two turn test with flying colors. He had a little bit of the second race jitters in the post parade, in the beginning. But man, he took a deep breath and chilled out. For a young horse he has a great mind. That might allow him to catch up even sooner than a normal horse, because of his talent and the mind to go with it. He settled and took dirt. Just a little, I didn’t want to get carried away with it. He just kept passing every test so I just stayed out of the way.
(After hearing the final time of 1:35.73) “And he was gearing down. I didn’t want him to completely pull up so I just squeezed him a little bit but he was gearing way down and did that with flying colors. I was happy to keep the weight on his back anyway. That (acceleration) came so natural. He switched leads and naturally opened up his stride and was two in front. I was like, ‘wow.’ I didn’t ask him to move, he just did that extremely easily. He came off that turn like it was a stroll. Just very, very impressed. I hate to compare him to other horses right now, but doesn’t he remind you of an Easy Goer way back in the day? Just a big ol’ red horse with a big, powerful stride. The distance didn’t seem to bother him. I know that was just a mile but he could have galloped out another quarter of a mile if he had to. There’s a lot of potential there.