JUSTIFY, RESTORING HOPE - Bob Baffert discussed today's workout reported in 1:01.80 for five furlongs. Last Tuesday, Justify worked four furlongs in 46.80.
"He went a little quick last time, so I wanted to go three-quarters with him," Baffert said. "I think he went off in 13, 12 and 4/5, whatever, just kept him in hand the whole way and let him gallop out seven-eighths. It went smooth. He relaxed nice. Last time he was a little bit fresh I think, and he really wanted to do a little bit more. But he came back, and Martin was happy with him. He said he didn't take a deep breath. All seems good."
Justify's six furlongs was timed in 1:13.60.
Baffert is seeking to join Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons as the only ones in history to train two Triple Crown winners. Fitzsimmons trained father and son Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935). Ben Jones trained 1941 Triple Crown hero Whirlaway and was the trainer of record when eventual Triple Crown winner Citation won the 1948 Derby. However, Citation ran back in the Preakness and Belmont with Jones' son, Jimmy, back as his trainer.
If he wins, Justify will be the first unraced 2-year-old to win the Triple Crown, already being the only one to win the first two legs. He also could give a third Belmont Stakes victory to WinStar Farm, which won in 2010 with Drosselmeyer and in 2016 with Creator. WinStar owns Justify with China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners.
"Let's see if he can do it," Baffert said. "He came out of nowhere, and now he's picking up steam. People say, 'Oh, he's so beautiful. What a beautiful horse.' He's become a rock star, like Pharoah, so let's see if he can do it."
Even if Justify is the best horse, Baffert said he still needs racing luck in the Belmont.
"He has to break well," he said. "I remember Pharoah was in the gate and he stepped back right when it opened, and he broke about a length off. He (Victor Espinoza) hustled him immediately, but that could have been bad. He could have stumbled or somebody could have cut him off. I always worry about the break. The break is so important. After that, you have to let it happen. I feel good that he's doing well. He looks great. Physically, he looks healthy. He's moving well. That's all you can ask for.
"He's a seasoned horse now. He's had those five races. I can just tell he's more professional. He's been shipped around, been in some tough fights, handles it well. I like our spot. He's basically just run himself into shape."
Immediately after his heralded stablemate's work, Restoring Hope had his final major preparation for the Belmont Stakes, working three-quarters of a mile in 1:13 under jockey Florent Geroux.
"He worked really well," Baffert said. "He always works well. He's a really good work horse. He went a little bit faster, but I wanted to do a little bit more with him because he hasn't run in a while. So we let him work a little harder, but he handled it well."
Owned by Gary and Mary West, Restoring Hope finished third in the Wood Memorial, then was 12th in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard.
"His Wood, he was really green for that race," Baffert said. "He was off and on, then at the end he started kicking back on again. He's had a few races now. The Pat Day Mile was sort of a disaster. He's just one-paced. I see him up there, he'll be forwardly placed, that's where he needs to be. 'Flo' has worked him now, he knows him really well.
"He's well bred. He's as good as the majority in there, I think. He ran well in California. I've always thought he was a really top horse. I really thought he was a Derby horse. Then we all thought, Maybe he's a Belmont horse. I was going to run him on the Preakness undercard, but I ran Ax Man instead. I didn't want to run those two together, so we'll see what he does."
Baffert is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday night's New York Mets game with the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field, with the Belmont post-position draw before the game.
"I threw at Dodger Stadium," he said of being recognized for American Pharoah's Triple Crown. "I could have hit a bird, I threw it pretty high. I asked Jill, 'How was that?' She goes, 'It was good, for a girl.' When you pass 60, you don't feel the pressure. When I was younger, I felt, 'Don't bounce it.' You don't want to bounce it, that's the worst you can do."
FREE DROP BILLY - Albaugh Family Stables' Free Drop Billy had a walk day after working five-eighths of a mile in 59 1/5 seconds Sunday. Trainer Dale Romans said the colt will train Tuesday and very early Wednesday before flying to New York, with that flight scheduled to arrive at MacArthur at 12:45 p.m.
NOBLE INDY, VINO ROSSO - Todd Pletcher reported that Noble Indy and Vino Rosso continue to train forwardly.
"Both horses just galloped on the training track this morning," he said. "Tomorrow, they might go to the main track to gallop. We'll just play it by ear on the track conditions."
Should either win, Pletcher would become the first trainer since D. Wayne Lukas, who won three straight Belmonts from 1994-1996, to fashion back-to-back victories in the "Test of the Champion." Woody Stephens won five straight from 1982-86; Lucien Lauren won two in a row with Riva Ridge (1972) and Triple Crown winner Secretariat (1973), and Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, who won six overall, had consecutive wins with Omaha (1935) and Granville (1936).
In the 1800s, David McDaniel, Frank McCabe, James Rowe, Sam Hildreth and R. W. Walden had two straight wins among their Belmont victories.
SEAHENGE - The Aiden O'Brien trainee isn't shipping overseas to run in the Belmont after all. The racing office at Belmont Park was notified today.
TENFOLD - David Fiske has been declaring for months that Winchell Thoroughbreds' Preakness Stakes third-place finisher Tenfold has the best pedigree for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes of any horse in this 3-year-old crop.
"I guess it's put up or shut up," Fiske, Winchell Thoroughbreds' long-time racing and bloodstock manager, said recently with a laugh. "I've been telling people there's no better-bred Belmont horse in the crop, so we'll see if breeding means anything."
Tenfold is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who lost the 2007 Belmont Stakes by inches to the filly Rags to Riches, and is out of a mare by Tapit, who has sired three of the past four Belmont Stakes winners. The year Tapit "missed" in that skein was 2015, when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah beat the Tapit-sired runner-up Frosted.
Curlin had a Belmont Stakes winner in his first crop at stud in 2013 victor Palace Malice, along with third-place finisher Keen Ice in 2015 and 2017 runner-up Irish War Cry.
The Winchell family campaigned Tapit and still retain 50-percent ownership. Because one can never have too many horses by the world's leading sire - even if you already have a dozen of his daughters and breed another six to eight mares a year to him - Temptress was bought as a yearling for $190,000. She never ran in a stakes and was retired after winning an allowance race, but the Winchell operation saw enough to put Temptress in their broodmare band and send her to Curlin.
"At one point we tried to buy part of Curlin," Fiske said. "We thought he had a lot of upside, so we figured, shoot, if we were willing to buy part of him, I guess we'd be willing to breed to him. So Temptress' number came up."
Fiske said expectations for Tenfold were "the same as all of our foals: When they're born, they're all Derby winners ... until they prove that they're not.
"I don't know if there's a 3-year-old around better bred for the Belmont than he is. He's by a horse that lost the Belmont by a nostril and is one of the top sires in the country, and he's out of a mare who is by arguably the best Belmont sire ever."
Steve Asmussen trains Tenfold and also trained his parents.
"I'm extremely excited about that, and have been," he said. "Temptress was a mare that didn't do as well as she should have on the racetrack over an unfortunate foot injury. But she was just absolutely gorgeous. And with Winchell owning the mare, you can't wait until she has a baby. And then this is what she has. She was just like him: big, beautiful and elegant."
Asmussen still feels the sting of Curlin's Belmont defeat.
"Can't believe he got beat," he said recently. "Watching the replay, I keep waiting for him to win. It was meant to be, just like Creator was meant to be."
Nine years later, Asmussen won the Belmont with Creator by a nose.
Like Curlin, Tenfold did not race last year.
Tenfold galloped once around the Churchill Downs oval Monday morning. Tenfold and the other Asmussen horses participating in the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival left Churchill Downs late this morning for Louisville International Airport, with their Tex Sutton equine flight scheduled to arrive at Long Island MacArthur Airport at 2:15 p.m.
Edited NYRA release