CRAWFORD | After work, Baffert says Justify has "right stuff" for Triple Crown
Bob Baffert called Justify's first post-Preakness work at Churchill Downs "pretty incredible" after the Triple Crown hopeful breezed a half-mile in 46.80 seconds.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Word around Bob Baffert’s barn was that Triple Crown hopeful Justify had been keyed up to go a bit faster around the Churchill Downs track in the past couple of days.
On Tuesday, with a light rain falling – of course – he got that chance, breezing a half-mile in a quick 46.8 seconds with a familiar face aboard – Martin Garcia, who also was the exercise rider for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
“All hands on deck,” Baffert said of the move to Garcia. Justify blew through fractions of :12, :23.60 and :35.20. He galloped out five furlongs in 59.60.
Baffert called it a “light breeze.” For most colts, you could call it a quick work. On the same schedule as American Pharoah used during his Triple Crown run, Justify was more than a second faster than the 48-second half-mile Pharoah worked in his first breeze 10 days after the Preakness, though Baffert said the track might’ve been a tad faster on Tuesday than what American Pharoah encountered.
“It was a little breeze,” Baffert said, smiling. “He’s a great horse. He was in hand. I knew yesterday the way he was, he was ready to do something. . . . I was surprised how easy (Justify) did it. We let him gallop out a little further down, and he just stopped, took a deep breath, turned around. He was happy. It's what you want to see. I was hoping for that kind of work. It was like American Pharoah when he came back here. He looked like that. I just wish the race was this week. We've got another week to go, but I think we're in great shape. I feel pretty strong that he's not going backwards on us, he's going forward. You can see how he's held his weight, he's just a big, massive horse.”
Baffert now will return to California. He plans to come back to Churchill Downs on Saturday or Sunday, with a final breeze expected for Monday, depending on the weather. Justify is expected to ship to Belmont next Wednesday.
In the meantime, Baffert said he’s not worried that Justify’s less-than dominant victory in the Preakness has some doubting what he’ll do in the Belmont.
Noted handicapper Andy Beyer says Justify is slowing down. To win the Belmont, Justify is likely to have to beat more challengers than any of the 12 previous Triple Crown winners. Dale Romans declared Free Drop Billy – 16th in the Kentucky Derby -- a go for the Belmont. The doubters are out there. Baffert isn’t one of them.
“I think a lot of people are not totally on board with this horse,” Baffert said. “He came around so quickly and now he's won five in a row. Everybody was expecting him to blow away the field in the Preakness and he hangs on. Andy Beyer says they're slowing down. So I don't know. I know one thing . . . he has not slowed down.”
Baffert took some time on Memorial Day to visit American Pharoah in Lexington.
“He got me so emotional,” Baffert said. “He's such a sweetheart. And he got big -- he's as big as (Justify). He grew a lot. I couldn't believe how tall he got. I asked him if it was OK if another horse came along and broke his record and he didn't seem to mind.”
Baffert said he’s been around great horses, and his assistant trainer, Jimmy Barnes, has been around great ones. They classify Justify as a great one.
“Jimmy and I, we know how to compare our horses,” Baffert said. “If we feel like we have a great horse, he's a great horse. I don't need a number or a figure. He's special. Pharoah, Arrogate and this horse. They're special. But you still have to get them there.”
That’ll be the job for Barnes this week and next. Baffert said with rain expected for much of this week, Justify won’t do a great deal. He’ll work one more time, and if all goes well, it’ll be a matter of talent – and good luck.
“I'm starting to enjoy it a little bit more,” Baffert said. “. . . But still, you can't get ahead of yourself. I hate it when people say, ‘Good luck, but I know you don't need it.’ You need luck. You need everything to go smooth. . . . We've seen so many good horses not come up. But I feel pretty good that he's the right kind of horse to do it with. He has the right stuff. What we saw today was pretty incredible, so he's right there.”
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