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- The 2018 Kentucky Derby is Saturday, with 20 horses entering the starting gate at Churchill Downs with hopes of winning the “Run for the Roses.”
- Justify enters the race as the favorite at 3/1, and is an excellent bet for casual gamblers looking to get a little money down on the race as the favorite has won the Kentucky Derby for five straight years.
- While the field in this year’s Derby is remarkably strong, Justify enters the race undefeated, and most of the knocks against him can be seen more like superstition than any critique of his racing ability.
The 2018 Kentucky Derby is Saturday, and across the country, casual horse racing fans are gearing up to watch what is known far and wide as “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.”
There are 20 talented horses set to enter the starting gate at Churchill Downs, and most agree that the 2018 field is particularly strong. Five horses stand out as contenders to win the roses on Saturday, but for casual bettors looking for a trend to follow when putting their money down on the race, one horse stands out from the crowd – Justify, the current favorite, available at 3/1 odds.
While betting the favorite is not often seen as the “sharp” play when it comes to other sports, in horse racing, and especially at the Kentucky Derby lately, playing the favorite has been remarkably profitable. The past five winners at Churchill Downs have entered the race as the favorite, and on Saturday, Justify has an excellent chance to make it six in a row.
There’s plenty to like about Justify. He’s undefeated entering the race, having won all three contests he’s run in his young career. Racing out of the seventh post, he’s in a prime spot to find a good stalking position in the pack heading into the first turn, and from there will hopefully be able to outstride his opponents in the home stretch.
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Trainer Bob Baffert has helped four horses along to Kentucky Derby wins, including American Pharoah, who in 2015 became the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
Further, most of the knocks against Justify come off as little more than superstition. Justify will have to break the “Curse of Apollo,” which dictates that horses who didn’t race as a two-year-old can’t win at the Derby – no such horse has accomplished the feat since Apollo did it in 1882.
That’s a long trend, but as ESPN’s Chris Fallica notes, horses that fell to the “Curse of Apollo” didn’t lose because they didn’t race when they were a year younger, but rather because they just got beat.
“Curlin didn’t lose the Derby because he was unraced at two years old; he lost because he drew Post 2, and Street Sense ran huge. Bodemeister didn’t lose in 2012 because he was unraced at two years old; he ran a winning race and got beat late by longshot I’ll Have Another.”
The most significant concern might be Justify’s inexperience. In his three races, Justify has beaten just 14 horses, and he’ll have to beat 19 on Saturday to take home the win. But the big field effects every horse in the race, and winning the Kentucky Derby with relatively few starts under a horse’s belt is not that uncommon an occurrence.
There’s plenty of other talented horses in the Derby this year, and for bettors that have a gut feeling on one horse or another, be it Mendelssohn or Magnum Moon or even one of the longshots, by all means, put your money where you want to put it. But Justify has all the makings of another Derby winner and has a trend five years in the making backing him up. There are no safe bets in gambling, especially in horse racing, but a bet on Justify is likely the best investment you can make on this year’s field.