DOES JUSTIFY NEED A RABBIT’S FOOT?
For some 144 years or so one of the most burning quest of life has been asked…Who’s going to win the Kentucky Derby?
There is a lot that goes into making a Kentucky Derby horse and even more into yielding a Kentucky Derby champion. But in reality, could things all come down to a four-letter word when it comes to wining the world’s most famous race?
Now we are not talking about what some novice wagering folks hope to see drop before the horse enters the gate. Nor are we referencing the exclamation of a golfer after a failed four-foot putt. We instead are talking about the one thing all horsemen hope for when their prized pupil heads into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
Four-time Kentucky Derby winning conditioner Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002,2015) is all-too familiar with what it takes to win on the biggest of stages. The hall of famer is back again this year with what looks to be the morning line favorite in Justify. Lightly raced but ultra-talented, this son of Scat Daddy has wowed folks in his three lifetime starts. Tremendous speed, great athletic skills, and playmaking abilities are all fine attributes for Baffert’s latest prodigy. But the former quarter horse jockey points to a four letter word as one of the most important factors.
“More than anything right now we need luck,” says Baffert. “In a race like the Kentucky Derby where there are 20 horses in the field racing luck plays a huge factor. The best horse does not always win races like this. There are so many things that can happen that are beyond your control. You just try and prepare your horse and then hope you get things to go your way.”
Having been one of the top trainers in the game for over three decades, Baffert knows a thing or two about talent. With 27 horses sent to post in the Run for the Roses since 1996, the Arizona native has had some very talented athletes that didn’t make it to the winner’s circle. Superstars of the sport like Indian Charlie, Point Given, Pioneerof the Nile, Lookin At Lucky, and Bodemeister all came up short for Baffert in their run for Kentucky Derby glory. Each came in hotter than a piece of Nashville chicken, but things happened during their trek beneath the twin spires and they were unable to close the deal.
Justify appears to be another three-year old that Baffert has primed for a big run. Off the charts in his Santa Anita Derby win on April 7, this grandson of Ghostzapper might just have the talent to over ride his lack of experience. Not raced as a two-year old, Justify no doubt has the goods to beat any three year old in a mile and a quarter.
“He is a very gifted athlete,” says Baffert. “It doesn’t matter that he is lightly raced. If he can remain healthy, he will have a chance because he is just a beast of a race horse. As you see things happen over the years you realize how important the racing luck is. As good as American Pharoah was I couldn’t relax when he ran. You want a clean trip through that first turn, but even then there are no guarantees.”
With that in mind, when Justify packs his tack for Churchill Downs will there be a rabbit’s foot somewhere in the baggage?…We know he’s got the talent and his conditioner will have him ready, so what else does he need?
The Kentucky Derby will be run on May 5 in Louisville, Kentucky.