Big Red? Baffert Hoping Unbeaten Colt Will Justify Barn Nickname In Santa Anita Derby

No McKinzie, no problema.

Bob Baffert just goes with the flow and taps Justify on the shoulder to take on Bolt d’Oro in the most anticipated race of the year, Saturday’s $1 million, Grade I, Santa Anita Derby.

“You hate to see a horse get hurt,” Baffert said, speaking of McKinzie, who will miss the race due to a minor hind end issue, “but things happen, so you just have to keep moving forward. You can’t look back.”

Justify, undefeated and unchallenged in two victories by a combined margin of 16 lengths, had been expected to run out of town, with McKinzie facing Bolt d’Oro in the Santa Anita Derby, before an injury dashed those plans.

Now, not only will Justify be favored against Bolt d’Or, he’ll likely be the one to catch in the mile and one-eighth steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

“I’ll let Mike Smith deal with that,” Baffert said. “Last time (winning a one mile overnight race by 6 ½ lengths on a muddy track March 11), he sat off a horse, but the jump (the start) is more important than the barrier.”

A $500,000 chestnut son of Scat Daddy, Justify is being heralded in many quarters as being “any kind,” despite beating only four horses in each of his victories.

“We call him Big Red at the barn,” Baffert said. “We’re always looking for the big red sonofagun, but he’s got to pass this test before we start calling him anything special.”

McKinzie, meanwhile, is recovering at Santa Anita and will be pointed for a summer campaign. “We’ll give him 30 days of R&R and point to races like the Haskell, the Pennsylvania Derby and the Travers,” Baffert said.

The Santa Anita Derby awards 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. The winner’s share is $600,000. Second is worth $200,000, third $120,000 and fourth $50,000.

Estimated post time for the Santa Anita Derby is 4:12 p.m. Pacific Time. The race will be televised on NBC 2 Sports.

The 81st Santa Anita Derby, race nine on a 13-race program that starts at 11:30 a.m.:Instilled Regard, Joel Rosario, 5-1; Orbit Rain, Brice Blanc, 50-1; Bolt d’Oro, Javier Castellano, 6-5; Jimmy Chila, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1; $20,000 supplementalnomineePepe Tono, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Justify, Mike Smith, 4-5; and Core Beliefs, Tyler Baze, 20-1.

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