DEL MAR, CA (WAVE) - The news was a disappointment. But for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert, it was not unexpected.
Baffert told WAVE 3 News Anchor Shannon Cogan via Facetime from Del Mar, California, that for about three weeks he had a feeling Justify wouldn't race again.
"We've been like in denial... that maybe he could come back and run," Baffert said.
Justify demonstrated some lameness right after the Derby win, but went on to capture the Preakness and the Belmont. He also broke the Apollo curse, which meant that no unraced juvenile had won the Derby since Apollo back in 1882.
Baffert said recently Justify had some more filling in his ankle.
"It didn't come down like 100 percent, still little inflammation in there. And not completely gone. It's one of those things if he kept going then he would get hurt so ..." Baffert said. "He's been good to us. But like any horse I had, if they had it, I would do the same thing. He needs some time off."
Justify will parade at Del Mar this Saturday, giving San Diego racing fans a chance to see him. Then he will leave Wednesday for WinStar in Versailles, Kentucky.
Baffert calls Justify "a man amongst boys" and said he needs more room.
"He has bitten so many people since he's been here. Ripped so many shirts," Baffert said with a laugh. "He's a nice horse. He'd good, like I said, for four seconds, and then tries to get a little chunk out of you, but playful."
Even Baffert didn't escape without a little nip. That came several days before the Belmont, when he bit his trainer's hand.
"No doubt in my mind that he's the best horse in training in America because what he did was pretty incredible," he said as Justify in a stall behind him sneezed on his back. "Oh thank you. He just sneezed all over me. I can feel it in my back. He's trying to tell me 'Hey, put me in.'"
Baffert will be coming to Louisville in August for the induction into the Kentucky Sports' Hall of Fame.
While Justify won't be in the Breeder's Cup, there is another Baffert trainee that Baffert hopes can do it. That's McKinzie, who missed the Tripe Crown Series due to a bruised hock.