After a day that featured upwards of 50 scratches throughout the race cards, Justify came out and took Good Magic’s best shot in the what had to be the foggiest Triple Crown race ever and came out victorious at the Preakness, in one of the few races whose field remained intact.
Bob Baffert took home his record 7th career Preakness Stakes win and improves to 5-0 in the race with his Kentucky Derby winners. Baffert was tied with trainer D Wayne Lukas with 6 career wins coming in to this race. However, Bob has achieved his success in more economical fashion to Lukas’ 6 wins from 43 horses over 38 years. Baffert takes home his record 7th Preakness Stakes win and breaks the tie with only his 19th runner in 22 years.
Pimlico and the surrounding area was drenched this week, with more than 7 inches falling since Tuesday. The track was a complete mess, with “Sloppy” not really covering just how messy the track was. The ground was so saturated, in fact, only one (The 1 1/16th mile (G3) Gallorette Stakes) of the 6 scheduled turf races was actually run on the turf.
Justify heads to the Preakness 5-0. Only 4 other horses have made it to the Belmont Stakes undefeated and only Seattle Slew won the Belmont on the way to the Triple Crown in 1977. Justify keeps bucking the historic trends of the sport and rewriting the record books. He broke Apollo’s Curse, when no horse besides Apollo, in 1882, had won the Kentucky Derby without running as a 2-year old. He’s proved 5 times that he is a special horse, and this 1/2 length victory over Bravazo after overcoming Good Magic, is the closest any horse has ever come to beating Justify.
The Preakness Stakes was the hardest race Justify has had to run, especially when you consider the two week turn around, and his jockey Mike Smith said after the race, “[Justify] is the good kind of tired” he added “that kind of tired I’m hoping, anyway, and I feel like he’ll move forward.” Baffert knew his horse was “in for a fight” today and “knew he was tired” when he saw Justify go on his left lede early and he was “praying for the wire.” His prayers were answered as Justify crossed the finish line 1/2 length ahead of the late charging Bravazo.
“”What a way to ride off into the sunset” he said of his chance to win a Triple Crown at age 52, but added he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. Smith became the oldest jockey to win the Preakness Stakes and would therefore become the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown if he can ride Justify to victory at the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Since Justify’s first work out Santa Anita and then after he broke his maiden, Baffert “always knew we had something really, really special, like American Pharaoh.” Big words about a big horse.
When Justify toyed with Bolt d’Oro in the Santa Anita Derby in April, I tried to believe in Apollo’s Curse and to tell myself that The Bolt Show didn’t need the race as bad. I tried, but deep down after that race, I knew the rest of the Triple Crown field was in big trouble. He just looked different. After his domination in the slop at the Derby, I decided that I was done trying to find reasons to bet against Justify.
It became chic during Preakness week to point to Justify’s “issues” and give reasons and trends against him winning. Good Magic’s trainer Chad Brown admitted he started considering the Preakness seriously when he saw Justify “limp” the day after the Derby. Other trainers, like D Wayne Lukas, who admitted after seeing Justify on Wednesday that his horses (Bravazo , Sporting Chance) were “in deep voodoo” have been overtaken by the Derby champ’s presence. Despite Lukas’ horse Bravazo’s 2nd place effort in the Preakness, Lukas knew what Brown did not…until another horse proves it’s possible, no one should believe that Justify is beatable.
After the race, Bob Baffert said “everybody came to see a good horse race” and Good Magic “really made us work…he’s a really good horse.” A good horse but possibly just good enough to bring out the best in Justify, the way Alydar brought the best out in Affirmed. No horse today could beat Justify and he’s out to prove himself worthy of the Triple Crown once more, this time against Big Sandy and the final “Test of a Champion” on June 9 in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes.
7 – Justify
8 – Bravazo
6 – Tenfold
5 – Good Magic
2 – Lone Sailor
3 – Sporting Chance
4 – Diamond King
1 – Quip