'A Big, Strong Horse'
By Dick Downey
After returning to Kentucky from his Southern California base, Bob Baffert was on hand Monday morning at Churchill Downs to watch Justify train.
“Right now it seems everything is going smoothly,” Baffert said. “I’m very happy with how he’s doing training for the Belmont. I think to win the Triple Crown you have to be a big, strong horse and be able to handle a lot of different situations. This horse is just that. He eats everything in front of him and doesn’t lose any weight.
"That’s a big thing for a horse to be able to win the Belmont. War Emblem lost weight after the Preakness, and that didn’t bode well in the Belmont. Justify looks really happy for a horse that’s done a lot in just a few months. It just shows the quality he has.”
Baffert said Justify is possible to breeze Tuesday morning, 11 days ahead of the big race.
“We could put a little breeze in him, I’m really not sure yet. We’ll just play things day to day,” Baffert said.
Although the probability of rain through Tuesday training hours is less than 50 percent as this is posted, there are off-and-on chances of thunderstorms in the forecast.
“We learned a lot from Pharoah,” Baffert said. “Good horses teach you a lot, and we keep that experience with us. I feel pretty good about him. The biggest pressure is making sure we don’t disappoint the fans. I’m more worried about that than winning the Triple Crown. We walked into Belmont with Pharoah and I told Bode (my son) that we may get some hecklers. He was disappointed when we didn’t have any, but we may with this horse since he’s been late to the party.”
“Justify is a great horse, but I have a great team,” Baffert said. “Jimmy (Barnes) and everyone who works with us does a great job. We get put in situations like this all year long. I’m at the stage of my life now that I’m ready for these type of situations. If I had these horses 25 years ago, I probably wouldn’t be ready and would second guess myself. It’s just like a coach – have a game plan but tweak it if need be. Everyone on the team knows their role.”
Restoring Hope is set to breeze on Tuesday, unless poor weather intervenes.
Free Drop Billy worked a strong five furlongs in 59.60, breezing, going solo for Dale Romans, who afterward declared him probable for the Belmont Stakes.
Free Drop Billy's splits were 12.60, 23.80, 35.60 and 47.00, and he was out six furlongs in 1:12.00, seven in 125.20 and a mile in 139.80 at the track kitchen.
Romans also sent out Promises Fulfilled and Tiz Mischief, neither of which are being pointed to the Belmont. They each worked five furlongs in times identical to that of Free Drop Billy.
Preakness runner-up Bravazo galloped 1 1/2 mile for D. Wayne Lukas, and Steve Asmussen’s Preakness third-place finisher Tenfold galloped about 1 1/2 mile.