Baltimore, Maryland (WAVE) – Is the hype Justified?
Kentucky Derby winner Justify takes his shot at the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday.
The Bob Baffert trainee jogged on the muddy, wet Pimlico track on Thursday and Friday morning.
“Well I mean he's real light on his feet, he goes over the top of it. Yesterday they were going in just a little deeper, but today he was going over on top of it, but he handled it really well,” Baffert said.
Justify is a perfect 4-for-4 in his career and will attempt to keep a streak alive for his trainer.
Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby four other times, and all four times, his Derby winners have followed up that win with a victory two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes. Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002 and American Pharoah in 2015.
“Bob obviously knows what a good horse is and so when he's telling me he's American Pharoah like, that's how he described him. That gives you pause to be excited to believe that he might be the real deal,” Elliott Walden recalls. Walden is the president/CEO and racing manager for Winstar Farm, one of the groups that own Justify.
A minor setback in his left hoof after the Derby is no longer an issue, according to Baffert.
“It’s like getting blisters from your shoes on Derby day, a few days later their fine,” Baffert said.
Baffert also says the nerves haven’t caught up to him just yet.
“I get a little nervous the day of the race,” he said. “Now if I was riding him, if I was the jockey, I’d be really nervous.” Hall of Famer Mike Smith has that job.
Justify is 2-for-2 on off tracks, including his win in the Kentucky Derby. It has been raining all week in Baltimore and more rain is expected on Saturday morning.
“It looks like it’s not going to stop raining here so we’ll make the best of it, but the nice thing is he’s handled it well, he’s run well on an off track,” Walden said.
Winstar Farm and the China Horse Club both own an interest in Justify and in Quip, the Tampa Bay Derby winner who passed on the Kentucky Derby to wait on the Preakness.
“He’s here and doing well, we skipped the Derby on purpose to point him to the Preakness,” Walden said. “If Justify doesn’t bring his A game, for some unknown reason, Quip is going to hopefully be there to pick up the pieces, If Justify does bring his A game, I don’t see Quip beating him.”
That seems to be the prevailing thought. Good Magic is considered the only major contender to knock off Justify, if the Derby winner regresses a little.
“He looks good, he looks good,” Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas said. He has spent the week watching all the contenders in the Stakes Barn at Pimlico. “I think he’s going to run better than he did in the Derby.”
Will that be enough to beat Justify?
“I don’t see it, but I’d sure put him in my exacta,” Lukas advised. “I wouldn’t just bet two horses here, I’d have to box maybe four.”
Good Magic is trained by Chad Brown. Brown also trains Cloud Computing, the 2017 Preakness winner.
Lukas will saddle two horses in the race, Bravazo, coming off a sixth place finish in the Kentucky Derby and Sporting Chance, 4th last time out in the Blue Grass Stakes. That said, he knows Justify is the horse to beat.
“I think he's clearly the best horse,” the 82 year-old six-time Preakness winner said. “He was the best horse in the Derby and it was 20 horses that took a run at him, he's got only seven to beat here, why wouldn't you like him? I think you should bet your money on him. Now having said that, I'm not going to concede the race to him, he's got to go around there and earn it.”
I bet against Justify in the Derby. I thought he would chase Promises Fulfilled and get caught up in a speed duel, only to fall back to second under the wire. My pick was third place finisher Audible. I was half right, only Justify ran along with the fast early fractions and then still had plenty when they turned for home. The mud here should make that trip possible again, and I won't be fooled again.
For what it’s worth here are my picks for Preakness 143 – WIN – Justify, PLACE – Good Magic, SHOW – Quip .
My only hope is the that the $2 win tickets I purchase on Justify are worth something someday as souvenirs of a Triple Crown winner.
(Copyright 2018 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.)