Secretariats, Arrogates, and even Gun Runners of the world donít come around too often.
Arrogate was never in the Triple Crown discussion, Secretariat, citing Bold Ruler his sire, stamina was in question. Gun Runner was just another third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby.
Secretariat became legendary after winning the Triple Crown, showing he was a Ďtremendous machineí in his runaway victory in the Belmont Stakes.
Arrogate became a household name in the racing world when he ran down fan favorite California Chrome, another legendary horse from modest means, in the 2016 Breeders Cup at Santa Anita.
Arrogate went on to win the Pegasus and Dubai World Cup establishing himself as the best horse in the world in 2017.
Gun Runner was good three-year-old, that most wrote off as limited after a third-place finish in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. What he accomplished in 2017 as a four-year-old ending it with an exclamation point in the 2017 Breeders Cup at Del Mar was nothing short of amazing.
Hype certainly wasnít part of the early careers for any of these legendary athletes. Yet, in todayís world of social media, Justify, a twice raced undefeated colt by Scat Daddy is being heralded as the next Arrogate, or Gun Runner and crowned the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner in March.
Donít get me wrong, Justify is a magnificent specimen, a pleasure to watch move, train, race, but horses, athletes, in general, can make liars out of you.
Justify has done no wrong in two starts, one versus a maiden field and the other versus a field four other horses that had been toiling in anonymity in their careers.
He has faced NO allowance winners, NO stakes winners and NO graded Stakes winners.
His trainer Bob Baffert, who is no stranger to superstars, trained the first Triple Crown winner in ages, American Pharoah, Arrogate and countless others, thinks the colt is special, but has to be worried of the weight the colt not only carries from the social media following and hype machine, but in his up and coming races.
Social media is known to be emotional, fickle and as we learned in American politics polarizing. Itís sexy nowadays to jump on a bandwagon. If everybody thinks so it must be true. Wrong!
Emotions have no place in the decision-making process and hinder our objectivity and common sense or in this case horse sense. Social media has no horse sense. It sensationalizes the moment, then its off to another subject, horse, person, lacking accountability.
As far as the horse himself, Justify is talented, no doubt, as I already said once, but as a conscientious professional donít we need to see him accomplish something first?
Arrogate stamped himself as a super horse when he won the Travers at Saratoga at 6-1. He demanded attention after winning the Summer Derby at the Spa. He flew under the radar into upstate NY and left a superstar. He validated his performance with an even bigger effort running down at the time All-World California Chrome in the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita a couple of months later.
Arrogate didnít have the social media weight on his back when he came into Saratoga that August, he did after.
Secretariat lost his final prep, the Wood Memorial. Heading in to the 1973 Kentucky Derby, Secretariat, was a constant source of rumors of being unsound, others questioned whether he could go the distance, other cited that he was built like a sprinter. After he won the Derby, he quieted his critics. A legend was born. Secretariat came into the 1973 Kentucky Derby with negative publicity and hype, he did after.
Gun Runner was viewed as a nice horse. Pundits knocked him because he had faced nothing but short fields, beating up on horses that were not high stakes quality. He was always labeled of Ďbeating nobodiesí. It took Arrogate to elevate Gun Runner in the 2017 Dubai World Cup. Gun Runner ran his eye balls out only to be outdone by Arrogate who had a significant uphill climb after a poor start. It would also be the last time Arrogate won a race. Gun Runner didnít lose again in 2017.
These super star horses above proved something in their careers, but they got their status because their connections allowed them to have a foundation. All three of them proved their hype by performing on the playing field.
Secretariat raced nine times as a two-year-old and three races as a three-year-old before the Kentucky Derby. He had a total of 12 races under his belt when he entered the gate on the first Saturday in May.
Gun Runner raced three times as a two-year-old, and only had two starts into the first Saturday in May, both wins in Louisiana in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. He finished third in the Kentucky Derby, but what that foundation did for him as a four-year-old is invaluable.
Those experiences made Gun Runner who he is, the foundation and experience from dealing with top horses from his own age group helped him develop into a phenomenal four-year-old.
Arrogate had four starts prior to the Travers from April 2017 to his romp at the Spa on August 27, 2016 in the Travers. Thatís a four-month span to lay a foundation of much needed experience.
Experience and foundation matters, no matter how good a horse is. Would Secretariat been the horse that he was if connections only gave him two powder puff races into the Derby? I donít believe so, same can be said for Gun Runner, Arrogate, but all of them had the credentials that substantiated the hype or the following.
Todays hype is all about the need to be right on social media. Bragging rights, ĎI told you soí, look at me and what I know. There is no more such a thing as expertise, patience or even objectivity on social media. Everyone is viewed as equal, everyone is an expert. There lies the problem, not everyone can be an expert.
For Justify to succeed in Kentucky Derby, he must endure 4 races in 75 days and the last two will have to be versus the top colts in the 2015 foal crop. They will have seasoning, foundation and are battle hardened, Justify will have to prove himself, learn on the fly and adapt, cope, in order to succeed.
He will have to justify himself to prove he belongs and not just because social media say so.