CRAWFORD | Out for August, Justify's return now a longshot
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Triple Crown winner Justify has relocated from trainer Bob Baffert’s barn at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, Calif., to Baffert’s barn at Del Mar race track, where he can enjoy his days by the Pacific Ocean as he recuperates from recurrent ankle swelling.
But don’t expect to see him back in competition soon, and the longer he rests, probably ever. Baffert hasn’t shut the barn door on Justify’s future, but it’s not hard to read the calendar, or the tea leaves. “Stallionitis,” a couple of horsemen I know have remarked, and you couldn’t really blame anyone involved with the unbeaten colt if that were the case.
But the fact is, Justify did have a foot problem after the Kentucky Derby, and if he’s developed even a hint of anything wrong since winning the Triple Crown’s final jewel, it would be foolish to risk him.
The math is not difficult. A $1 million purse for a prep race, maybe, followed by a $6 million purse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, versus a reported $75 million deal for breeding rights. This is a business. A lot of livelihoods, and lives, can change forever with that kind of money.
Baffert, talking to reporters after bringing Justify out to see the San Diego-area media on Monday said the colt is in a “holding pattern,” but that he’ll keep him at Del Mar to watch him personally.
“Right now, we're just looking to get him 100 percent,” Baffert said. “. . . “He’s so valuable as a stallion. We don’t want him to get hurt. We’ll know more in a couple of weeks. Right now, he’s day to day.”
Baffert ruled out the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 18. The Daily Racing Form says he also has ruled out the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 25. That leaves the possibilities for a prep race before the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Classic pretty slim.
Speaking with Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union Tribune, Del Mar CEO Joe Harper, who had hoped to see the Triple Crown winner run his first post-crown race at his track, sounded resigned to Justify’s future.
“I think we’ll see him go back there, to Kentucky, fairly soon,” Harper told the newspaper. “Fortunately he’s here now so we’ll hope to parade him in front of the fans.”
Baffert hasn’t committed to that, but track officials are hopeful.
As for returning to the track at the full ferocity we saw in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont? I wouldn’t bet on it.
With each week that passes, the possibility becomes a bigger longshot.
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