Taiba’s Quest for Kentucky Derby Glory

The Tale of Taiba: A Potential Superstar in the Kentucky Derby

A Remarkable Journey Begins

Four years ago, a promising young colt with just three starts under his saddle captured the attention of racing enthusiasts as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Justify, as he was named, went on to win the Derby and ultimately complete the coveted Triple Crown. Now, a similar narrative unfolds with Taiba, a talented colt aiming to follow in Justify’s footsteps.

Mike Smith: A Familiar Face in the Saddle

Jockey Mike Smith, who guided Justify to victory in the 2018 Derby, finds himself in a familiar position once again. This time, he is teamed up with Taiba for the 148th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Smith can’t help but draw comparisons between Taiba and his former mount. He praises Taiba’s extraordinary talents and reveals that both horses possess an exceptional combination of high cruising speed and intelligence. Smith’s confidence in Taiba’s abilities is palpable, as he shares, “Going in with Justify, I just thought he stood above them, to be honest with you. He was a big, powerful, fast horse.”

Astonishing Similarities

Beyond their shared connection with Mike Smith, Justify and Taiba share several other remarkable similarities. One such parallel lies in their limited racing experience. Taiba, a $1.7 million purchase by Amr Zedan, the owner of Medina Spirit, enters the Kentucky Derby with just two races under his belt. His debut saw him secure a convincing victory in a six-furlong maiden race, followed by an impressive triumph in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, where he overcame a favored stablemate, Messier.

A Potential Superstar in the Making

Taiba’s rapid progression from a maiden race victory to conquering a nine-furlong marquee event like the Santa Anita Derby is a testament to his immense talent. Experts and analysts express awe at his performance, suggesting that he may possess the potential to become a superstar in the world of horse racing. Xpressbet columnist Jon White believes that Taiba’s Santa Anita Derby win, achieved with just one prior start, sets him apart from any other horse in the history of the race. White goes on to assert, “When you watch that stretch run, it isn’t like Taiba barely got up and beat him. He motored right by him and went away from him. He gets into the stretch drive, puts his head down, and finds another gear. That’s what I mean by saying he could be a superstar.”

Outpacing the Derby Favorites

Notably, Taiba’s speed figures surpass those of the Derby favorites, Zandon and Epicenter. His maiden debut showcased exceptional maturity and speed, surpassing anything his competitors have achieved thus far. This unique combination of talent and maturity has elevated Taiba’s reputation in the racing community, leaving many intrigued by his prospects in the Kentucky Derby.

Challenging Historical Precedents

Despite Taiba’s undeniable talent and achievements, there are significant historical challenges that he must overcome. Taiba aims to become the first horse in 139 years to win the Kentucky Derby after just two previous starts. The last horse to accomplish this feat was Leonatus in 1883. Additionally, Taiba hopes to emulate Justify’s victory in 2018 as the second horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.

Defying Expectations and Making History

Taiba’s journey to defy these historical precedents and achieve glory in the Kentucky Derby has garnered attention and speculation. Pundits and enthusiasts are captivated by his potential to “thumb his nose at history,” just as Justify did in 2018. However, concerns arise regarding Taiba’s limited workout schedule since the Santa Anita Derby. Trainer Tim Yakteen aims to ensure Taiba enters the Derby with a “full tank” and opted to postpone one of his workouts.

Calming Concerns with the Morning Workout

To assuage any doubts surrounding Taiba’s preparedness for the Kentucky Derby, Yakteen arranged a three-furlong “blow-out” drill at Churchill Downs just days before the race. With acclaimed jockey Joel Rosario aboard, Taiba exhibited impressive speed and prowess, covering the distance in a commendable 38.4 seconds. This workout reinforces Yakteen’s belief in Taiba’s readiness and follows a similar training pattern employed prior to the Santa Anita Derby.

A Shared Legacy: Baffert’s Influence

Another intriguing connection arises between Justify and Taiba through their association with renowned trainer Bob Baffert. While Justify’s success came under Baffert’s tutelage, Taiba was initially in Baffert’s care. However, due to Baffert’s suspension, Taiba was transferred to the barn of his former assistant, where he became eligible for the Kentucky Derby. This shared legacy adds an additional layer of interest to Taiba’s story, highlighting the impact of influential trainers on the development of equine athletes.

California’s Dominance in the Derby

In recent years, California-based colts have enjoyed significant success in the Kentucky Derby. Justify’s triumph in 2018 marked one of seven victories for California-based horses in the past ten editions of the race. This trend prompts experts to consider the implications when selecting the most talented horse in the field, as California-based contenders often possess an edge in their performances.


Taiba’s journey to the Kentucky Derby represents a captivating tale of talent, potential, and historical significance. His limited racing experience, combined with his impressive victories, has made him a horse to watch in this esteemed race. While he faces challenges and hurdles, the parallels with Justify’s improbable victory in 2018 inspire curiosity and ignite hope. As the Kentucky Derby unfolds, racing enthusiasts eagerly await Taiba’s bid to etch his name in history.


1. Has there ever been a Kentucky Derby winner with only two previous starts?

No, Taiba aims to become the first horse in 139 years to win the Kentucky Derby after just two previous starts. The last horse to achieve this was Leonatus in 1883.

2. Can Taiba overcome the “Curse of Apollo” like Justify did?

Yes, Taiba aspires to join Justify as the second horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old. Their shared goal is to defy historical precedents and make history.

3. How does Taiba’s speed compare to the Derby favorites, Zandon and Epicenter?

Taiba’s speed figures surpass those of Zandon and Epicenter. In his maiden debut, Taiba displayed exceptional maturity and speed, surpassing anything his competitors have achieved thus far.

4. What are some concerns surrounding Taiba’s preparation for the Kentucky Derby?

Concerns have arisen due to Taiba’s limited workout schedule since the Santa Anita Derby. However, trainer Tim Yakteen aims to ensure Taiba enters the Derby with a “full tank” and believes his recent workout at Churchill Downs demonstrates his readiness.

5. How does Taiba’s journey mirror Justify’s on a broader scale?

Aside from their shared association with jockey Mike Smith, Taiba and Justify also share similarities in their limited racing experience and their connection to trainer Bob Baffert. Both horses aim to make history and defy expectations in the Kentucky Derby.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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