Washington (AFP) – Favored Justify won the 144th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, ignoring the wettest conditions in race history to become the first Derby champion since 1882 who didn’t race as a two-year-old.
Trainer Bob Baffert won for the fifth time at Churchill Downs while jockey Mike Smith captured his second victory at the 1 1/4-mile classic.
Justify won in 2mins 4.20 secs with Good Magic second, holding off Audible, who finished third.
Despite a muddy track that absorbed a Derby-day record three inches of rain and intense downpours as horses were loaded into the starting gates, Justify broke well, settling into second behind early leading-longshot Promises Fulfilled.
Justify took the lead on the far turn and charged into the backstretch. Good Magic chased in pursuit but never had a move to overtake and held off fast-closing Audible at the line.
“It took a great horse to do what he did today,” Baffert said. “I rank him up there with my top ones. We knew we had something special.”
Baffert admitted the wet conditions had him concerned.
“This track had me worried but we saw something special,” Baffert said.