He has galloped through questions about a sore foot. He shipped to Baltimore from Kentucky routinely enough. And he has scared off all but seven rivals for the Preakness Stakes.
So a delayed flight and a little post-position draw Wednesday was not going to derail the Triple Crown bid of Kentucky Derby winner Justify.
Certain to be an odds-on favorite for the fourth time in his 13-week career, Justify (1-2 morning line, 1-3 Wynn Las Vegas) drew the same post he had in the Derby – number 7 – for the $1.5 million classic at Pimlico.
“We're putting some added pressure on all of us,” trainer Bob Baffert said after hearing the morning line. But he also said Justify’s flight from California went well Wednesday even though it was delayed by weather. “It went really smooth; no hiccups. We were a little bit worried (Tuesday) night because the plane was delayed in Florida. But the horse shipped well, and he was full of himself when he got off the van.”
Baffert has tamped down worries about a tender, left hind foot that Justify favored the morning after his Derby victory on a sloppy track. Garden-variety, 1½-mile gallops since late last week at Churchill Downs have also quieted most of the worriers if not the skeptics.
As for the likelihood of a wet track Saturday, Baffert pointed out that Justify has “run on two wet tracks, and he’s won on them.” Those two wins came by an average of 4½ lengths.
If only from his second-place finish in the Derby, Good Magic (3-1, 3-1) in gate 5 also brings in a bad-weather résumé. Because his late fade raised questions about his ability to go much longer than a mile, Good Magic might find the 9½-furlong distance of the Preakness more to his liking than the 10 furlongs at Churchill Downs.
“Chad is one of the best guys in placing horses in spots where you’re going to get in the money or win,” said Bob Edwards of e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, one of Good Magic’s owners. “He wants this horse to win, and he’s going to put this horse in the best position to win.”
The biggest difference between the Derby and the Preakness, though, may be up front early. Arkansas Derby runner-up Quip (12-1, 12-1) on the rail and D. Wayne Lukas trainee Sporting Chance (30-1, 25-1) in post 3 are new shooters that are candidates to join Justify on the early lead. With a fourth-place finish in the Pat Day Mile on Derby day, Sporting Chance also brings the most wet-track experience, having won last summer’s Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga and finishing a distant third three months ago in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Bravazo (20-1, 20-1) from the outside, Tenfold (20-1, 22-1) from post 6 and Diamond King (30-1, 25-1) from gate 4 might also bring early speed. Bravazo is another Lukas colt that finished sixth in the Derby three months after winning the Risen Star in New Orleans. With four wins from his six starts, Diamond King is a Maryland-based colt that won last month’s Federico Tesio Stakes and will get two-time Preakness-winning jockey Javier Castellano as his new rider. Tenfold is a lightly raced colt that won his first two races before finishing fifth for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Arkansas Derby.
The one closer in the Preakness – Lone Sailor (15-1, 28-1) in post 2 – finished eighth in the Derby for trainer Tom Amoss. He broke his maiden on a sloppy track in a sprint last September at Saratoga, but he has not won in seven races since, including a close second in the Louisiana Derby. Amoss is making a jockey switch, bringing on Írad Ortiz Jr. to replace James Graham.
Following is the post-position draw with each horse’s trainer and jockey:
1. Quip – Rodolph Brisset, Florent Genoux
2. Lone Sailor – Tom Amoss, Írad Ortíz Jr.
3. Sporting Chance – D. Wayne Lukas, Luís Contreras
4. Diamond King – John Servis, Javier Castellano
5. Good Magic – Chad Brown, José Ortiz
6. Tenfold – Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr.
7. Justify – Bob Baffert, Mike Smith
8. Bravazo – D. Wayne Lukas, Luís Sáez
Normally seen Friday morning, Ron Flatter’s racing column will be posted Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week at VSiN.com. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, posted Thursday afternoon and Friday morning this week at VSiN.com/podcasts. Please subscribe and post a review where available at Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music and Stitcher.