2018 Derby Preview of Justify (condensed)


That word best describes the point I reach each spring as I apply lessons learned from my 26 years of Kentucky Derby research. The stories the media shares about the contenders and their connections vary year to year, but the race’s ending almost always turns out the same. Speed rules.

Only four horses since 1992 qualified for my “Superfast” Gold Standard criteria. Justify came amazingly close to that standard in only the second race of his career. The raw talent he possesses is rare indeed!

The figures I use to measure early speed place Justify on the same level as recent Kentucky Derby winners Orb (2013), California Chrome (2014) and American Pharoah (2015):

Orb: 93

California Chome: 94

American Pharoah: 92

Justify: 93

Justify also enters the Kentucky Derby with the largest pace-superiority gap over his opponents, a four-length early pace advantage over his next-fastest rival. It’s unlikely that any entrant in this year’s race will tire him out early.

The only question remaining is whether such a lightly prepared horse can stretch that tremendous speed to a mile and a quarter.

In the early stages of the Santa Anita Derby he cooperated fully with his jockey in slowing down and rationing his speed. In the final few furlongs he unleashed that conserved energy to great effect. He flew through the stretch with gusto while extending his lead all the way to the finish. And he did it with such ease that Bolt d’Oro’s highly accomplished jockey, Javier Castellano, decided to look for a different Derby mount.

Castellano’s departure from the Bolt d’Oro camp reminds me of the character in the movie Jaws who first sees the enormity of the shark. After recovering from his astonishment, he tells the ship’s captain, “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat.” Javier is off in search of a bigger boat.

There you have it. No caveats. No asterisks. Accept odds as low as 2-1 on Justify if they’re offered. If bettors send him to the starting gate at odds any higher than that, consider stretching your betting comfort zone at least slightly and getting more action in.

Betting the 2018 Kentucky Derby

Top Pick: #7 Justify

Second-Best: #4 Flameaway

Third Choice: #16 Malibu Moon

I recommend betting primarily on Justify, with Flameaway and Malibu Moon as minor backups. In other words, arrange your bets so that your largest potential payoff will be with a victory by Justify.

Roger LeBlanc

May 3, 2018

To see the full date-stamped publication of “LazyBettor.com 2018 Kentucky Derby Preview: Odds and Endings,” go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/823610

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