Justify charged to the finish line Saturday evening to become the winner of the 144th Kentucky Derby

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 05, 2018 07:22 PM
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Justify was crowned the winner of the 144th Kentucky Derby in a tightly contested race on Saturday evening at Churchill Downs in Louisville, kicking off the first of the Triple Crown races of 2018.

Beating a crowded, rainy racetrack filled with 20 of the fastest horses around, Justify crossed the finish line in 2:04.20 and beat second-place Good Magic and third-place Audible. (The track record for the Run for the Roses is 1:59.4, set by Secretariat in 1973.)

Securing the Kentucky Derby’s jewel earned Justify’s team the guaranteed $2 million purse that was up for grabs. And they did it during the wettest Derby to date, as WKYT meteorologist Chris Bailey reported that more than 2.31 inches of rain fell by 4:20 p.m., topping the previous record set in 1918.

Coming into today’s 1.25-mile race, there were a few stands out to win the iconic American thoroughbred race, with the overall favorite being the 3-year-old colt Justify (who won the Santa Anita Derby earlier this year by three lengths). Behind him were other contenders like Mendelssohn, Magnum Moon, and Bolt d’Oro and Audible.

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ridden by jockey John Velazquez, Always Dreaming took first place at last year’s derby, entering as a 9–2 favorite. It was the fifth time in a row that the overall favorite took home the grand prize, just as Nyquist, American Pharoah, California Chrome and Orb did before him. That streak continued today with Justify’s win.

Always Dreaming continued to race in the 2017 season, but placed 8th at the Preakness and did not compete in the Belmont Stakes. According to Horse Racing Nation, Always Dreaming took a break from racing after ulcers were found in the horse’s stomach. After being cleared by a veterinarian the horse returned to racing in 2018.

With Justify’s victory, thoroughbred racing fans will begin speculating whether the champion horse could pull off a Triple Crown—winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes all in the same year—though it may be very unlikely. There have only been 12 Triple Crown winners in history, with the winner, American Pharoah, coming in 2015 after a 35-year wait.

Aside from the thrilling race, the Kentucky Derby is also known for the many colorful and outlandish outfits of those in attendance, and coming off their popular Winter Olympic duties, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir provided fashion commentary during the event for NBC. This was the duo’s fourth time hosting the derby, the last time being in 2016.

But now that the Kentucky Derby has wrapped, the racing world will now turn to the final two races of the Triple Crown: the Preakness Stakes, scheduled for May 19, and the Belmont Stakes on June 9.