Preakness profiles: Justify
Photo by Dottie Miller
by Gary Quill and Frank Vespe
In our Preakness profiles, we look into each of Saturday’s Preakness contenders.
WHO IS JUSTIFY?
The Kentucky Derby winner hasn’t done a thing wrong in four career starts. The Bob Baffert trainee has won all four career starts, all by open lengths and all while earning triple-digit Beyer speed figures. The Scat Daddy colt owns two Grade 1 victories, in the Kentucky Derby and Santa Anita Derby, making him the only runner here with more than one win in the top level of company.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT JUSTIFY
“This is going to be his fifth race,” Baffert said. “He’s been running every three weeks. He’s had a tough schedule. But he looks good. Flesh-wise, he looks healthy. The main thing is, he’s a really good horse. That’s what makes him so great. He’s a superior horse, just like American Pharoah. What he’s done in that short 75 days to win the Kentucky Derby, to go, go, go, – and he ran with some good horses – he makes my job a lot easier.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz is slated to ride Good Magic, and he, like all the other contenders, sees Justify as the horse to beat. “If Justify goes, and I have to be the one putting pressure on him, I will be,” Ortiz said. “I will have to turn it into a match race. It looks like a match race on paper. You can’t give Justify an inch.”
WHY HE COULD WIN
The convincing winner of the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths after racing just off a very quick opening half-mile (45.77), Justify has yet to taste defeat in his four-race career and is the only runner in this field to have earned four triple-digit Brisnet speed figures. Prior to this year, his trainer’s four previous KY Derby winners, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah, all doubled up in the Preakness. There’s some serious “smart money” that has faith in him because after just two career races, a maiden and allowance, the Vegas odds on him winning the Triple Crown were an insanely low 15-1. He has tactical speed, a Hall of Fame rider, and the glossiest resume in the field.
WHY HE COULD LOSE
One day after winning the Kentucky Derby, he appeared to be lame in his left hind foot and was reported to have a bruise and a cracked heel. The firestorm of speculation on the colt’s ability to run in the Preakness was eased four days later when he galloped over the Churchill Downs surface, and his trainer has been supremely confident. Still, if he’s less than 100 percent on Saturday, that opens to door for his rivals. His Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, has just one previous Preakness victory (Prairie Bayou in 1993) from 16 mounts. The previous two Derby winners Nyquist (‘16) and Always Dreaming (’17) year, who both won in similar fashion failed win the Preakness as prohibitive favorites, finishing third and eighth, respectively. As fast as the early Derby pace was, the horses labored home over very slow closing fractions.
- Trainer Bob Baffert
- Owner China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Starlight Racing, WinStar Farm
- Jockey Mike Smith
- Bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther
- Breeding Scat Daddy-Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper
- Record 4-4-0-0, earnings of $2,098,000
- Career highlights Won G1 Kentucky Derby, G1 Santa Anita Derby
- Morning line odds 1-2