Justify beat out a talented field of 20 horses to win the 144th Kentucky Derby.
Justify, who became the sixth straight favorite to win the Derby, may have felt like a sure thing just before the race at 3/1 odds but was a completely unknown entity to the horse racing world just a few months ago. But thanks to an early tip, one bettor was able to lock in Justify at 300/1 odds for $500 back in February, before he had ever run a race.
On Sarturday, he got to cash in for $150,000.
Futures aren’t as big in horse racing as they are in other sports, but if you have a read on a horse early and know the right people, you can lock up a good price on a horse to win the Kentucky Derby weeks before you know if they’ll even be in the race.
In the case of the story above, the hot tip came in from a friend of a friend, and helped lead to the fateful bet, as Bill Krackomberger writes for Gaming Today:
One of my buddies received a call four days prior to the race in which Justify broke his maiden. He was told, “Bob Baffert (trainer) thinks he has a monster of a horse and will point him toward the Kentucky Derby if everything goes correctly”
My friend repeated the story out loud when he hung up the phone; and one of the guys around him, (a so-called friend of his) heard it. This “friend” showed up a few days later with a Derby futures ticket on Justify to win at 300/1 ($500 to win $150,000).
ESPN confirmed the ticket’s authenticity with Johnny Avello, executive director of Wynn Las Vegas’ race and sportsbook where the bet was placed, who said he negotiated the odds of the ticket over the phone.
“I got a call from a guy I know, a very respected horseman,” Avello said during Friday’s VSiN radio show. “He says to me, ‘Johnny, I got a horse I want to bet in the future book.’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you 250-1.’ He says, ‘Come on, Johnny.’ I said, ‘I’ll give you 300-1.’ Now he’s sitting 300-1 on Justify at a big number.”
After Justify came through with the win, that decision to up the odds wound up being worth $25,000 in extra cash for the lucky bettor.
The 300/1 odds were terrific to have on a horse running as a 3/1 favorite, and Avello’s booking on the horse gave the context of the situation. When the bet was placed, Justify had never raced in his life — it wasn’t even a sure bet that he would be running in the Kentucky Derby, as he still hadn’t qualified for a trip to Churchill Downs.
Further, Justify would have to break the “Curse of Apollo” to win — he had never raced as a two-year-old, and no horse has won the “Run for the Roses” without doing so since Apollo in 1882.
Justify would go on to break the curse, and has now won all four races that he’s ever run, but it was only a few months ago that he was an unraced unknown with over 120 years of history working against him. For the person that was brave enough to put $500 on him then, that $150,000 payout is well-earned.