As they turn for home May 5 in the Kentucky Derby, NBC announcer Larry Collmus will be prepared to call Justify's name at Churchill Downs.
The three-length Santa Anita Derby winner on Monday jumped to the top of Collmus' ballot — along with that of 14 other voters — in the 2018 Kentucky Derby Media Poll assembled by HorseRacingNation.com.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Justify moved his record to 3-for-3 and in turn took the No. 1 spot in the rankings, which include input from representatives of the Daily Racing Form, BloodHorse and other leading racing outlets.
“Justify earned his spot at the top of my list with that performance,” Collmus said. “Bolt d'Oro looked solid, too.”
The Santa Anita Derby runner-up, Bolt d'Oro, is also second overall with Audible, Mendelssohn and Magnum Moon rounding out the Top 5.
A change at No. 1 is the first in five weeks. Bolt d'Oro took control March 12, two days after stewards placed him atop the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. That same weekend, Justify won his second career race, with the son of Scat Daddy then earning a quick step up to Grade 1 company.
As with Magnum Moon, Justify did not race at age 2, presenting a challenge to the “curse of Apollo” streak dating back to 1882. Additionally, the son of Scat Daddy will enter the Kentucky Derby with three career starts. Just one other Derby winner in recent memory — Big Brown, in 2008 — was so lightly seasoned.
“Move over Apollo and meet Justify, who proved he's the real deal by winning the Santa Anita Derby in easy fashion,” said Art Wilson, with the Southern California News Group. “His critics say he won't get the same soft pace on Derby day, and he might not. What makes him so dangerous is that he doesn't need the lead. He can lay second or third off a blistering pace. I'm a believer now.”
The weekend's other winners, Good Magic in the Blue Grass Stakes and Vino Rosso in the Wood Memorial, came in at Nos. 6 and 7, respectively.
Magnum Moon was the only horse in the Top 7 not to receive a No. 1 vote, but he will get the opportunity to jump up following a final prep Saturday in the Arkansas Derby. The same applies to Solomini, who's No. 9 and represents Baffert's second shot in the field.
Others in the Top 10 this week are Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy and Flameaway, who was second to Good Magic in the Blue Grass.
“After starting the year with plenty of upsets, the big names have really stepped up in the most important preps,” said Horse Racing Nation's Brian Zipse. “This looks like one of the most intriguing Kentucky Derby fields in years.”
Added SportsLine's Jody Demling: “Well, this is going to be a fun few weeks. There's as many good horses at the top of the list as I can remember in years.”
|Kentucky Derby Media Poll (Week 7)|
|Horse (1st-place votes)||Points||Previous|
|1. Justify (15)||480||5|
|2. Bolt d'Oro (1)||437||1|
|3. Audible (2)||427||2|
|4. Mendelssohn (4)||422||3|
|5. Magnum Moon||411||4|
|6. Good Magic (2)||401||6|
|7. Vino Rosso (1)||328||N/R|
|8. Noble Indy||277||8|
|14. My Boy Jack||168||12|
|15. Free Drop Billy||132||20|
|16. Runaway Ghost||119||17|
|17. Lone Sailor||101||15|
|20. Promises Fulfilled||50||18|
Next 10 receiving votes (with points): Combatant (49), Restoring Hope (18), Sporting Chance (17), Firenze Fire (14), Greyvitos (13), Instilled Regard (8), Analyze It (7), Snapper Sinclair (7), Dream Baby Dream (4), Tenfold (4).
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