With big crowd on hand, Kentucky Derby winner Justify arrives at Pimlico

A little over an hour behind schedule Wednesday afternoon, Kentucky Derby winner Justify arrived at Pimlico Race Course in preparation of Saturday’s 143rd Preakness Stakes.

Despite a spitting rain, a large crowd of reporters and fans waited for trainer Bob Baffert’s horse to emerge from the van that shipped him and other horses from Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Baffert, looking for his seventh Preakness win and 14th Triple Crown victory, said that Justify was not the worse for wear after making the trip. Justify is scheduled to have his first Pimlico workout Friday morning.

“He shipped really well,” Baffert said. “We just walked the shed row this morning [at Churchill Downs] because we didn’t want to do too much with him. He looks like he came off the van in great shape. He’s really full of himself. I could tell by the way he was dragging me around. He’s on his game. That’s you want to see a few days out.”

Asked if there’s a little more tension for him coming in as the trainer of the Derby champion, Baffert said: “I like when I have the Derby winner because I know that I have a pretty good horse. It’s fun for everybody. I’ve come in here getting beat in the Derby and been lucky enough to win [the Preakness]. Every time I came, I was always in awe of the Derby winner.

“You as a trainer, you’re a fan also. I remember Smarty Jones when he was in here. I wanted to see him up close. Monachos, and all these horses. You see ’em and you’re [thinking], ‘Maybe I’ll buy a horse that looks like you one day or whatever.’ You’re getting educated. They all come in all sizes and shapes. It really fun to be here again.”

Tina Cavallaro of Rockville has been coming to Pimlico since childhood to see the horses arive for the Preakness. She even worked the event for several years, but she came up Wednesday to see Justify’s entrance.

“We always hope, somebody wins the Derby, they enter their horse here at the Preakness and so as a fan, as a community, anybody who loves racing, we want to see the greatest horse in our time,” Cavallaro said. "We always hope that’s the one coming on the van next, the one that won the Derby.”

Baffert just loves coming back to Baltimore year after year.

“I love this place. It’s my favorite leg of the Triple Crown because it’s a relaxed atmosphere, we’re all in here in the same barn,” Baffert said. “We get to hang out with each other. The tension of the Derby is over. We have a Derby winner. It’s a way of celebrating the Derby winner and see who gets the next leg “

don.markus@baltsun.com

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