JUSTIFY - After Kentucky Derby winner Justify galloped over the track at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning, Bob Baffert said the unbeaten colt is still on course for the Preakness Stakes. He is scheduled to ship from Kentucky to Baltimore on Wednesday.
“We went really easy with him today. Yesterday, we gave him a little bit of a stiffer gallop,” Baffert said. “He looks good. He’s got his bags packed and he’s ready to go tomorrow.”
Justify was Baffert’s fifth Derby winner. The first four – Silver Charm (1997); Real Quiet (1998); War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015), all won the Preakness.
“Let’s keep that up. We need to keep that up,” Baffert said. “I don’t know how they did it, but they did it. We’re hopeful that we’re going to keep that up.”
Baffert went back to California the day after the Derby and has liked what he has seen of Justify since returning to Kentucky Sunday evening. With the two-week turnaround from the Derby to the Preakness, there isn’t time to make adjustments.
“You hope they are doing really, really well,” Baffert said. “So far, I don’t see anything that would make me think that he’s not going to run a race. But you never know until you lead them up there.”
Baffert noted that the colt still has to ship well and that there is wet weather forecast for this week in Baltimore.
“I see the forecast. I just quit watching it,” said Baffert. “It is what it is.”
Baffert said that he and his assistant Jimmy Barnes watched some newsreel coverage of the great Man o’ War on YouTube.
“The voice would come on,” Baffert said, “and the guy said, ‘The main essential of a good horse is speed and the second greatest essential of a great horse is more speed.’
That’s basically what we saw on Derby Day, a horse just pouring it on. If he was a rocket, he’d be shedding his afterburners, just going on and on. That’s just the way he ran the other day, to run as fast as he did.
“Granted, the track was pretty fast, but he was just unbelievable the way he just kept on running and just didn’t have any ‘whoa’ in him at all. Then Mike Smith had trouble pulling him up,” Baffert added. “It’s probably the hardest that he’s ever had to run, but I think that quality right there is going to help him in the Preakness. Not only does he have the talent, but he has the will to win. For him, what he’s done in such a short period – it will be his fifth race in 13 weeks – it’s just incredible how tough he is.”
Justify easily won his debut in a maiden race Feb. 18, added an allowance race victory March 11, earned his Derby qualifying points with a win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 7 and won as the Derby favorite May 5.
With his four victories by a total of 21 1/2 lengths, Justify has been compared to American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner.
“Both of them, their mechanics are just smooth,” Baffert said. “They just float over the ground. And they are quick. They are quick enough to get out of a jam. He’s a big horse, but he’s really light on his feet, as you can see the way he broke. There were some fast horses in there, and he got with them right away. These horses are very rare to come by. So you better just enjoy the moment. My job is to keep him healthy and sound. He looks great.”
BRAVAZO, SPORTING CHANCE - D. Wayne Lukas’ Preakness horses, Bravazo and Sporting Chance, took a tour of the track at Pimlico early Tuesday morning.
Lukas’ pair shipped by van from Churchill Downs Monday, a trip that took about 11 1/2 hours. He said they looked fine to him Tuesday, and he switched up his training plan a bit and let them jog around the muddy track.
“We van in and they are in box stalls. You think they are going to be a little bit flat, then they get off the van and they act like they haven’t even left their stalls,” Lukas said. “On the way in, I said we’d walk them today. Once I saw them off the van and saw that they’d never turned a hair and everything was that good, I said, ‘Let’s jog them today, let them look around a little bit.’ That’s what we did. We let them stretch their legs. But they had good energy.”
Lukas said it will be an easy few days for Bravazo, who was sixth in the Derby, and Sporting Chance, who finished fourth in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard.
“I’m going to go light. They are dead fit,” Lukas said. “That two-week break from the Derby, it isn’t any different from the NBA or the NFL, the recovery is the thing. You’ve got to get that energy level back up. I want them to really have a high energy level on Saturday.”
The morning after the Derby, Lukas was quick to say that both of his colts would run in the Preakness. He has won the race six times and is tied with Bob Baffert for second place on the career wins list, one behind 19th century star Robert Wyndham Walden. His most recent win came in 2013 with long shot Oxbow.
“I’m excited because I like the big arena. I like to compete,” he said. “You hope that you have the one. Sometimes you get lucky. Oxbow came in here a couple of years ago and nobody knew he was here. But you go over there optimistic that your horses are going to run well.
“At this point in my career I am realistic, though, too,” he added. “When you are 30 you think you are going to beat everybody. At 82, you think, ‘Well, maybe Justify is a little tough,’ – that type of thing. But you still enjoy the moment, you still enjoy the competition and getting out there.”
Lukas said he is impressed with Justify, who will be a heavy favorite in the expected field of eight in his fifth career start.
“He’s a big, strong horse with tactical speed,” Lukas said. “He makes his own luck and he’s in the right barn too. Bob does a tremendous job with these horses.
“The comment before the Derby, which I never bought into, was that he didn’t have the seasoning, that he hadn’t been in a race where there were a lot of horses, he wasn’t tested and seasoned. Well, when they are that good and they have that ability, the seasoning goes out the window because they make their own luck. Mike Smith had him in perfect position all the way around there. The best horse won. It was that simple.
DIAMOND KING - It will be unlike the last time he showed up with a horse for the Preakness for trainer John Servis.
Diamond King jogged a mile over a “good” main track at Parx Racing on Tuesday morning. It was his first day back to the track after working five furlongs in 1:01.51 over a sloppy surface Sunday.
“Everything’s pretty much done. He seems really happy,” Servis said. “He came out of the work really good, so it’s just a question of keeping him on the ground right now and getting him there in one piece.”
Servis said Diamond King is scheduled to leave the Philadelphia-area track around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for the approximately two-hour trip to Baltimore, and the Quality Road colt will train over Pimlico Thursday morning.
The last horse Servis brought to the Preakness was popular Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones, the undefeated Kentucky Derby winner of 2004 who stayed perfect with a record-setting 11 1/2-length victory that broke Survivor’s mark of 10 lengths set in the 1873 Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“He was doing great,” Servis said of Smarty Jones. “I was tickled to death with how he was doing. I remember just waiting to get him to the Preakness. It was great. You’re always thinking one ahead, so I was kind of hoping it didn’t take too much out of him.”
Smarty Jones came up a length short in his bid for the Triple Crown, taking the lead into deep stretch before being passed by 36-1 long shot Birdstone in the final yards of the Belmont Stakes.
This year, it is Servis who has the long shot in Diamond King looking to spring an upset. Diamond King is a two-time stakes winner, having earned an automatic entry into the Preakness by virtue of his victory in the Federico Tesio Stakes April 21 at Laurel Park.
“It’s a little different now, obviously, but it’s nice to be back there. There’s no pressure this time, that’s for sure,” Servis said. “It was pretty crazy (with Smarty Jones), but it was fun. I enjoyed the hell out of it.”
Servis could become the fourth trainer since 1909 to win the Preakness in his first two tries. The others are Thomas Healey (1922, 1923), Jimmy Jones (1947, 1948), Henry Forrest (1966, 1968) and Tom Bohannan (1992, 1993).
Javier Castellano is named to ride Diamond King. Castellano has won the Preakness twice, including Cloud Computing last year.
GOOD MAGIC - Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic was introduced to the racing surface at Pimlico on Tuesday morning. Following the renovation break, Good Magic galloped approximately 1 1/4 mile on a muddy track under exercise rider Walter Malasquez.
This was the morning after arriving by van from Belmont Park. His first time past the grandstand, Good Magic was in a measured and controlled gallop; he picked it up slightly his second time around.
Back at the stakes barn, Malasquez, who has ridden the Curlin colt in the mornings since he was a 2-year-old, said he liked what he felt under him. The exercise rider, who has worked for trainer Chad Brown for several years and was the regular morning partner to champion Lady Eli, noted that the placid demeanor observers observed in
Good Magic on Tuesday morning is just who he is.
“He handled that track really good,” Malasquez reported. “He’s still the same horse he was in the Kentucky Derby. Nothing changed. He’s really easy and kind.”
Good Magic’s gallop also impressed Brown’s traveling assistant, Baldo Hernandez, who believes the striking chestnut colt with a distinctive white blaze dominating his face, is training better than ever following his second-place finish to Justify in the Kentucky Derby.
“I think he’s moved forward now,” said Hernandez. “The way I see him galloping today, he looks really good to me. A smooth gallop. He galloped nice and easy. He can handle a track like that, too.”
Good Magic is likely to be the second choice behind Justify in the betting for the 143rd Preakness. Last year, Brown won his first Triple Crown race when he saddled 13-1 Cloud Computing to victory in the Preakness. Hernandez was an integral part of that win.
“I’m really excited,” Hernandez said. “We’ve come in ready to go and I think we have a good shot this time. Just want to keep him happy and sound and every morning gallop him. He jogged good and galloped well this morning. He’s happy. In the stall, he’s happy. I think we’re ready.”
Hernandez said that Good Magic would gallop again Wednesday, but would likely come out earlier, at 7:40 a.m., before the track renovation break. He also indicated the Kentucky Derby runner-up would have a paddock schooling session on Thursday.
LONE SAILOR - Lone Sailor went out for a routine gallop at Churchill Downs at his normal 5:45 a.m. time Tuesday, and exercise rider Maurice Sanchez came off the track saying, “I sweated more than he did.”
That statement was music to trainer Tom Amoss’ ears.
“The things you’re looking for in deciding whether to run back quickly are: How is his weight? How is his appetite? And how is his energy on the racetrack?” Amoss said. “All those three things get a check in the box. He’s doing well. We’re looking forward to running.”
Amoss hopes Lone Sailor and Irad Ortiz Jr. are able to avoid the kind of traffic that compromised the son of Majestic Warrior’s trip in the Derby.
“I’ve got great respect for Justify, as well as the second-place horse, Good Magic,” Amoss said. “What can we do to have a better placing against those horses, rather than eighth like we had in the Kentucky Derby? We have to have a clean trip. We can’t get stopped in the race, lose ground because we’re waiting for traffic and then have to get a late start. It’s the equivalent of giving a head start to your competition in a race. You don’t want to give a head start to those two, that’s for sure.”
Lone Sailor is scheduled to fly to Baltimore Wednesday on the same noon flight in the company of Justify and Quip.
QUIP - Quip jogged a mile at Keeneland under trainer Rodolphe Brisset Tuesday morning while returning to the track for the first time since breezing four furlongs in 48.20 on Sunday.
“He walked yesterday. He jogged and stood in the gate today. Everything is good,” Brisset said. “He’s showing good energy. He was very sound this morning. He went to the gate and he was at peace, so we’re in good shape.”
According to Brisset, the son of Distorted Humor was not always so cooperative during his 2-year-old campaign.
"He’s changed a lot. After the Kentucky Jockey Club, we gave him a couple of weeks off. When he came to us at Fair Grounds, you could see the maturation,” Brisset said.
“You still have to be a little careful when he’s around too many horses. He’s still studdish. You still have to be a little careful, but he’s way more professional.”
Quip captured the Tampa Bay Derby in his 2018 debut March 10 and finished second in the Arkansas Derby on April 14.
“He’s going to do an easy mile (on Wednesday before shipping). We’re supposed to get rain, so we’ll see how the track is going to be, I’m going to get on him and do a little something, nothing crazy, and then he vans to Louisville about 8:30,” Brisset said. “I’m going to head there before him. I can race him there.”
TENFOLD - Tenfold left Churchill Downs via van for Baltimore at 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, said Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, noting that the son of 2007 Preakness winner Curlin came out of his Monday work (four furlongs in 49.40 seconds) in good order.
Asmussen is scheduled to run about a dozen horses Friday and Saturday at Pimlico, including some that shipped Monday. Blasi was scheduled for a noon flight to Baltimore.
“Now we just need to be fast enough,” Blasi said.
Tenfold, who did not race at age two, has raced three times, winning his first two starts at Oaklawn Park before finishing fifth in the Arkansas Derby. Ricardo Santana Jr., aboard for the two victories, has the mount on Saturday.
Edited Maryland Jockey Club release