(Justify wins the Santa Anita Derby / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita Park)


From the Media Team at HorseRacingNation:

Justify leads final 2018 Kentucky Derby Media Poll
The likely Derby favorite will have to buck history Saturday

While the challenge of handicapping the Kentucky Derby includes projecting a winner at the extended 10-furlong distance, Jon White, Santa Anita Park’s odds maker, is just as concerned with who will be out front with an eighth of a mile to go.

“The way I see it, Justify is the most likely winner,” said White, a voter in the 2018 Kentucky Derby Media Poll assembled by HorseRacingNation.com.

And he’s not alone in thinking that about Saturday’s race at Churchill Downs. Justify, the undefeated winner of the Santa Anita Derby led the final rankings released Monday, topping the prospective field in both No. 1 votes and points.

“Not only has the big, grand-looking colt been poetry in motion while winning all three of his races, he has an excellent chance to be first or second with a furlong to go in the Kentucky Derby,” White said. “That’s significant inasmuch as 52 of the last 55 Kentucky Derby winners have been first or second with a furlong to run.”

A coast to coast panel of racing experts filled out a consensus Top 5 with multiple Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic, Audible and Mendelssohn.

The beneficiary of standout morning training sessions, Good Magic advanced three spots this week, while Mendelssohn, who won’t be seen on track in Louisville until Thursday, dropped three spots.

“Much like Always Dreaming last year, Good Magic is showing signs of sitting on a huge race,” said Courier Journal reporter Jason Frakes. “I’m temped to move him all the way to No. 1, but let’s see how the California horses look once they get to Louisville.”

A son of Scat Daddy trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Justify was on his way from Santa Anita Park to Churchill Downs on Monday afternoon along with fellow West Coast-based contenders Bolt d’Oro, Solomini and Instilled Regard.

The colt is one of two in the race along with No. 6-ranked Magnum Moon testing the so-called Apollo’s Curse, in that neither horse raced at age 2. Both are undefeated at 3. More history working against a top contender: A horse shipping from Europe has never won the Kentucky Derby, with Mendelssohn bidding to become the first.

“There’s strong evidence Justify will let loose in the Kentucky Derby and win another one for Bob Baffert,” said Paulick Report’s Scott Jagow. “But I cannot side with a half a millionaire favorite who’s run all three of his starts over one track versus a nearly double millionaire who’s won on three continents and was last seen blasting into another zip code against his opponents.

“Mendelssohn to win the Derby. I like Vino Rosso as an upset pick.”

The Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso, Hofburg, Noble Indy and My Boy Jack filled out the Top 10 in the final Kentucky Derby Media Poll.

“With so many horses coming into race off good setups or trips, the puzzle that is this year’s Kentucky Derby runs deep,” said Churchill Downs track announcer Travis Stone, who will be in the announcer’s booth for a fourth Derby on Saturday. “It should be a great race!”

Kentucky Derby Media Poll (Week 10)
 Horse (1st-place votes)  Points Previous 
 1. Justify (7)  315 1
 2. Bolt d’Oro (1)  291 3
 3. Good Magic (3)  282 6
 4. Audible (2)  280 4
 5. Mendelssohn (2)  279 2
 6. Magnum Moon  268  5 
 7. Vino Rosso (2)  242 7
 8. Hofburg  198 10
 9. Noble Indy  196 9
 10. My Boy Jack  185 8
 11. Flameaway  180 12
 12. Enticed  160 11
 13. Solomini  155  14 
 14. Lone Sailor  125  16 
 15. Free Drop Billy  106  15 
 16. Combatant  83 N/R
 17. Instilled Regard  67 N/R
 18. Promises Fulfilled  57 19
 19. Bravazo  53 18
 20. Firenze Fire  39  20