After Kentucky Derby winner Justify galloped over the track at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said the unbeaten colt is 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 won the Kentucky Derby on May 5 over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs. He beat Good Magic, whom he is slated to face again in the Preakness, by 2½ lengths. He 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 this week. 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 (big) 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, who trains Justify for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners. “It is what it is.”
While talking about Justify's performance in the Derby, Baffert said that he and his assistant Jimmy Barnes were watching 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 (jockey) 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 resounding victories by a total of 21½ 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.”
Video of Justify training at Churchill Downs on Monday:
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