CRAWFORD | Back on track: Baffert says Justify's heel is 'fine,' and, 'We're on to Baltimore'
Kentucky Derby winner Justify returned to the Churchill Downs track for the first time since his Kentucky Derby win and didn't seem to show any ill effects from a heel ailment that raised questions earlier this week.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There was, perhaps, a bit more media than usual for a Kentucky Derby winner’s first gallop after his big win, but Justify faced a few questions after he walked a bit gingerly on his left hind foot the morning after his Derby win.
Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes sent Justify to the track for the first time since that victory on Thursday morning. He proclaimed the unbeaten colt, "100 percent," and described what he saw on the track as “perfect.”
Later in the afternoon, Bob Baffert told a national racing teleconference that Justify is "fine" and that, "It's all behind us, and we're on to Baltimore."
Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farms, and Louisville owner Jack Wolf also were on hand Thursday morning to see the Scat Daddy colt get back out onto the track.
Trainer Bob Baffert had explained Justify’s ailment as “scratches” and likened it to a diaper rash. Since that time, a veterinarian from the Kentucky Racing Commission said colt showed no signs of lameness.
“He’s had a cracked heel, which is what Bob alluded to with the scratches,” Walden said. “And he’s had that on and off. But that’s just typical. A lot of horses get that.”
Baffert said Thursday, "We were treating for a cracked heel, but it never developed into one."
Justify showed no ill-effects during an easy gallop on the Churchill Downs track just after 7:30 a.m.
“He was ready to get back out to the track,” Barnes said. “He was getting a little pushy in his stall, and you could tell it was just time for him to get back. . . . Each day he’s gotten better and we were 100 percent. So, no reason to hold my breath. He just bruised his heel, and he had a little bit of a cracked heel there, also, which with just a little bit of walking, that went away.”
The plan is for Justify to gallop each morning leading up to his trip to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes next week. Baffert is expected to return to Louisville on Monday.
“You don’t need to do much,” Barnes said. “Just keep him healthy and happy.”
The field Justify will face in the Preakness is still taking shape. He’ll face WinStar Farm’s Quip, who skipped the Derby after a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby. Wayne Lukas expects to send Bravazo, sixth in the Derby, and Sporting Chance in the Preakness. Other possibles include Steve Asmussen’s Tenfold, Federico Tesio winner Diamond King, Lone Sailor (eighth in the Derby for trainer Tom Amoss). Others who may be under consideration are Derby runner-up Good Magic, Dallas Stewart’s Givemeaminit and Todd Pletcher’s Pony Up.
Count Amoss as one trainer who was impressed with Justify's return to the track.
“I thought he looked identical to how he looked for the Kentucky Derby when I watched him train, and I don’t think that’s very good news for anybody who wants to run against him in Baltimore,” Amoss said. “I’m not bubbling over with confidence that the Derby winner is going to get beat. (But) I think (running in the Preakness or not) is still going to boil down to how our horse is doing.”
Mick Ruis, trainer of Bolt d’Oro, said the day after the Derby that his colt would not go in the Preakness, but told BloodHorse.com on Wednesday that he might reconsider.
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.