2018 Kentucky Derby: Trainer Bob Baffert and Justify

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

April 18th, 2018

The final Derby prep race of the year, the 2018 Arkansas Derby, took place this past Saturday on April 14. Magnum Moon easily won the Arkansas Derby. However, Magnum Moon's win didn't do much to change the current future book odds on the Derby favorite, Justify.

There are reasons why Justify is a 5/2 choice to win the Run for the Roses. Not only does he appear to be the best 3-year-old of his generation, but he's also trained by the greatest ever, Bob Baffert. Keep reading for a closer look at both Bob Baffert and Justify.

2018 Kentucky Derby:  Trainer Bob Baffert and Justify

Trainer Bob Baffert

Before Bob Baffert dominated races like the Breeders' Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup, he routinely won Triple Crown races. Baffert's first Derby winner was the great Silver Charm in 1997. He saddled Real Quiet to a win in the 1998 Kentucky Derby. Baffert won his third Derby with War Emblem in 2002.
Article Image

Bob Baffert at Saratoga - Photo by Courtney Heeney/Coglianese Photography

However, Bob wouldn't take home another Derby win until American Pharoah in 2015.  Pharoah broke a 37-year streak when he not only won the Derby, but also added the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

In recent years, Baffert hasn't unleashed his very best 3-year-old until the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He won the Travers with Arrogate in 2016. In 2017, he won the Travers Stakes again with West Coast. There's no doubt that Justify is Baffert's top 3-year-old. Could Bob add another Kentucky Derby trophy to the mantle with Justify come May 5?

Is Justify as Good as American Pharoah?

Before writing "yes" or "no", it's important to note that American Pharoah didn't peak until the Breeders Cup Classic. His win over Firing Line and Dortmund was decent, not great. He looked better as the
Article Image
Triple Crown wore on. Mainly, he looked better because Firing Line went to the bench while Dortmund was dog tired after already having raced so much as a 2-year-old.

That's the big question about Justify. American Pharoah didn't have to peak to beat Firing Line in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. Justify must peak in the 2018 Kentucky Derby to beat Mendelssohn, Bolt d'Oro, and Magnum Moon. Justify's competition, at least on paper, goes much deeper than American Pharoah's competition. What it means is that if Justify were to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby, he'd must be as good as American Pharoah. He could even lose the 2018 Kentucky Derby and be as good as American Pharoah.

Bob Baffert doesn't even think in as good, or could be as good. From Bob's point-of-view, Justify is the 3-year-old that he's trained that has the best chance of winning the Triple Crown since American Pharoah. What he's saying is that West Coast and Arrogate weren't ready for the rigors of the Triple Crown. Justify is.

Another question is whether Justify can get past the 2-year-old curse. He didn't run as a 2-year-old.  Then again, the favorite has won the Kentucky Derby every year since 2013 and Justify will be the favorite. The 2-year-old curse probably doesn't mean as much as the favorite's trend since 2013.

The bottom line is this:  Bob Baffert will get Justify ready for the Derby on May 5. If he's better than his rivals on May 5, he'll win the Kentucky Derby. If he isn't, he won't.