Justify seeks an encore in Baltimore
By Bob Ehalt
Don’t look now, but there just might be an encore in Baltimore.
Two weeks after Justify splashed to a 2 ½-length victory in the Kentucky, the Bob Baffert-trained colt will try to claim the second jewel of the Triple Crown in the Preakness – and the chances are quite good that he’ll be running over another wet track on Saturday.
With rain pelting Baltimore throughout the week and forecasts calling for rain and thunderstorms on Saturday, the odds of a wet track at Pimlico for the Preakness are just about equal to Justify’s morning line odds of 1-2.
That price on Justify might seem woefully low but it’s a fair assessment of how he towers over his seven rivals. The undefeated son of Scat Daddy figures to be even tougher to catch in the shorter, mile-and-three-sixteenth Preakness than he was in the Derby, when he prompted a fast pace before taking charge and then fending off a bid by 2-year-champion Good Magic at the top of the stretch before drawing clear.
“He looks no different than he did before the Kentucky Derby, so we’re pretty happy where we are right now,” Baffert said. “He looks healthy.”
Clearly Baffert and Team Justify have no concerns about reports that their 3-year-old exited the Derby with a minor foot bruise. Underscoring that belief, Justify’s morning trips to the track for exercise have been uneventful.
Strengthening Justify’s chances, Baffert already owns six wins in the Preakness and he’s a perfect 4-for-4 in the Preakness with his foursome of Kentucky Derby winners. A victory on Saturday would also give 14 Triple Crown wins, tying the record belonging to D. Wayne Lukas.
“I never think about breaking records or anything like that. I’m like, we live for the moment and right now, the moment is this race,” Baffert said. “I got a little (New England Patriots coach) Bill Belichick in me. I’m like, ‘On to Baltimore.’ I don’t want to talk about this.”
Good Magic is the only other starter listed at less than 12-1 in the morning line. It was original thought the Derby runner-up would target the Belmont Stakes for a rematch with Justify, but when trainer Chad Brown soured on the idea of running in the Belmont, Good Magic was entered in the Preakness.
Though not as speedy as Justify, Good Magic shapes up as the one most likely to push Justify and make him work hard for a Preakness win. It would figure that he tackles Justify earlier in the Preakness than he did in the Derby and that promises to hold the key to deciding the race.
Perhaps the race turns into a two-horse duel to the wire with the better horse crossing the wire first.
Then again, the battle could open the door for someone to sneak into the picture.
That looms as the best hope for the rest of the field which includes Quip (12-1), Lone Sailor (15-1), Sporting Chance (30-1), Diamond King (30-1), Tenfold (20-1) and Bravazo (20-1), because without Justify running his B-minus or C race, they will be very hard-pressed to beat him.
An encore in Baltimore?
Even through the mud of Pimlico, it’s looking clearer and clearer each day.