Baffert Accepts Traditional Invitation
By Dick Downey
Kentucky Derby winner Justify is on course for the Preakness Stakes after checking out well Sunday morning.
“I spoke to Bob early this morning and extended him the traditional invitation to the Preakness, which he gladly accepted,” said Maryland Jockey Club President and General Manager Sal Sinatra. “Bob is looking forward to returning to Baltimore where he has had great success, and we are thrilled to welcome him back. We’re excited to have the Kentucky Derby winner coming to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, and we’re looking forward to a great race and an incredible week of events including InfieldFest and Black-Eyed Susan Day.”
According to the Maryland Jockey Club press office, Justify will be shipped in to Baltimore during Preakness week.
Undefeated through four starts, including a victory in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 in his stakes debut, Justify became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old.
Baffert will be seeking his record-tying seventh Preakness victory, having previously tasted success with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Lookin At Lucky (2010) and Triple Crown champion American Pharoah (2015). Baffert’s four previous Derby winners were Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah.
Trainer Robert Wyndham “R.W.” Walden won the Preakness seven times between 1875 and 1888, so Baffert will be seeking to tie that mark.
Mike Smith, Justify’s rider has one previous Preakness victory to his credit with Prairie Bayou in 1993. He's finished second twice including on the Baffert-trained Bodemeister in 2012.
A total of 15 stakes worth $3.7 million, eight of them graded, will be contested over Preakness weekend, beginning with Black-Eyed Susan Day Friday, May 18.
Preakness Week at Pimlico offers several events including Sunrise at Old Hilltop, where fans can have breakfast trackside while watching horses go through their morning exercise Tuesday through Friday before the second leg of the Triple Crown; the traditional Alibi Breakfast on Thursday; and Budweiser InfieldFest on the big day headlined by Post Malone, 21 Savage and Odesza. There's a new 65-foot stage designed to give attendees a view of the live racing. Also scheduled to perform are DJs Vice and Frank Walker.