MIKE SMITH, JUSTIFY, WINNER: “He rides with room to grow. He’s learning and it’s the first time he rides with the infield open, I don’t know if he saw the umbrellas and everyone screaming that he got to looking at them so much that I had to get the bit out of his mouth to really make him pay attention and that’s when he kind of skirted away and focused. What you’re seeing right now is really just raw talent. He’s got so much room to grow and to even get better, believe it or not. I think this race is going to put a lot more bottom into him. He handled a 1 1/8 really well and like I said what you’re seeing right now is just raw talent. If he moves forward off of this race, which he should, then it’s even kind of scary to talk about.”
JAVIER CASTELLANO, BOLT D’ORO, SECOND: “We were second best today. I wouldn’t change anything. I have no complaints and unfortunately, we were second best today.
“He felt great, perfect. He felt good, and did everything the right way. He broke well out of the gate and unfortunately we were running against the best horse in the country.
“I told Mick that it was a very good race. The best horses in the country showed up today and gave a great performance. This was Justify’s game plan and it suited him, his ability to be able to go to the lead. I had to try and catch him today. I think it will be interesting in the Derby because I think there will be more speed, it will be interesting. It will suit my horse, he’ll be able to sit off that faster pace but I’m still very satisfied with today and my horse’s performance.
“It was emotional turning for home because I’m trying to catch the best horse in the country and I’m thinking, ‘I’m happy. I’m very pleased.’
“Justify has the ability to go to the lead, has a lot of speed and he took it easily today.”
BOB BAFFERT, JUSTIFY, WINNER: “There was concern down the backside when he took off like that. I was worried about him. Mike (Smith) let him run a little bit but he said he (Justify) saw something in the infield and he sort of spooked. He said I might want to put a little more bit on him to control him, and I told Mike he better start working out between now and then (Kentucky Derby May 5) to hold him down.
“It was very exciting. Those are two really tough horses. I figure that race for Bolt d’Oro probably took a little bit out of him with McKinzie (in the San Felipe on March 10), but they’re two really good horses. I think the whole field is really tough.
“But Justify is just a natural and he’s just learning how to run. He has that big, beautiful stride . . . he reminds you a lot of Point Given, just a big, red train type of horse. He’s quick and he’s light on his feet. It’s just good that he showed up, he did what we thought and were hoping he was going to do. I just feel fortunate to have him. It takes a lot of the sting out of what happened to McKinzie. It’s a tough business but we’ve just got to keep going.”
JACK WOOLF, STARLIGHT RACING, PART OWNER, JUSTIFY: “He did it pretty easy. We came in late on both him and Audible and they’re both Grade I winners. We’re just tagging along here with WinStar, the China Horse Club and Head of Plains…Even I couldn’t screw it up! We’ve got two great trainers with Bob here and Todd (Pletcher) back there.”
MICK RUIS, BOLT D’ORO, SECOND: “I didn’t think the fractions were real, real fast. I think it was a good race and was what we needed. Hopefully we come out of here really good and get that mile and a quarter. We knew we were up against it a little at a mile and an eighth and that we would have an advantage when he goes a little longer. This is a good steppingstone – we were within two lengths of the winner, so this is one we can build off and go to Churchill Downs.
“I wanted to go in here really positive, so I think this is a nice race coming off that really hard race (the San Felipe Stakes). Hopefully we get to come back really good.”
GENNADY GENNADYEVICH GOLOVKIN, world middleweight champion who presented the trophy and defends his title on May 5, the day of the Kentucky Derby: “That was a classic win and it will be a nice daily double when Justify wins the Kentucky Derby and I win my fight that night.”
NOTES: Baffert added to his Santa Anita Derby record with his eighth winner.