The Mint Juleps.
The “Derby Bourbon Pecan Pie.”
It all builds up to the hype of the most exciting two minutes in sports, the run for the roses, the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby.
More than 2.5 inches of rain had fallen in Louisville, according to local meteorologists, making it on record the wettest Derby day ever.
Horses and jockeys had to navigate sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs in the first leg of the Triple Crown, but the beat went on.
In front of 157,813 in attendance, of the 20 fastest horses in the world, the favorite Justify not only won the rainiest Kentucky Derby, but the colt lifted a 136-year-old curse while in the process.
Justify ran the 1¼ miles in 2:04.20, going the first half-mile in 45.77 seconds and won by 2½ lengths on Saturday.
The horse ended the so-called Curse of Apollo, becoming the first horse since 1882 to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.
“It will take a horse like him to break that curse and wow he is just something else,” Justify’s jockey, Mike Smith, said. “I can’t describe how special this horse is. My vocabulary doesn’t have the words for it.”
Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert who won his fifth career Derby, second-most all-time shared his assessment.
“When he got away clean, then I thought we had a chance,” Baffert said. “We had to get away. Then Mike took his time. And I saw that 22 and change, I thought wow that’s fast.”
Baffert is set up to make another run at the Triple Crown. Three years ago, he trained American Pharoah to the sport’s first sweep of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years and just the 12th ever.
“I rank him up there with my top ones,” Baffert added.
Justify is the sixth consecutive favorite to win the Derby, extending the longest streak of favorites winning in race history. He is the ninth undefeated Kentucky Derby winner and is unbeaten in four career starts.
“Amazing horse,” Smith said “He’s got that ‘it’ factor. He is so above average, he’s got unbelievable talent, and he’s got a mind to go with it. He was loving this stuff.”
Justify paid $7.80, $6 and $4.40. The victory was worth $1,432,000 to owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners. They bought Justify for $500,000.
“I just kept a great horse,” Baffert said. “I’m just glad it is over.”
Good Magic finished second and returned $9.20 and $6.60. Audible finished third and paid $5.80 to show.
As mother’s day approaches, I viewed the 144th running of the derby with my mother. The joy on her face as Justify crossed the finish line was priceless. She is a die-hard Miami Heat fan. However, words cannot be used to share her love for horses in general.
The beauty of horses expressed by her is heartfelt. Legend has it; she traveled on a horse in her native country of Haiti the day of her wedding. She had a look of nostalgia on her face when viewing the race with a smile as if her love was justified.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report