Training in Louisville, Ky., ahead of Saturday’s Preakness, Justify jogged to the front of the grandstand under exercise rider Humberto Gomez before turning around for a brisk gallop, picking up the pace throughout.
“He looks no different than he did before the Kentucky Derby, so we’re pretty happy where we are right now,” said Baffert, who flew back home to California the day after the Derby and arrived in Louisville on Sunday night. “He looks healthy. He didn’t lose an ounce of weight, which is important. That’s one thing about him. The next day [after the Derby] when I brought him out, he was so bright and full of energy, I was pretty impressed myself. Usually, all my Derby winners, it takes them about five days to really snap out of it. But he was pretty sharp the whole time.
“You can tell by their eyes, their body language that he’s enjoying it out there. He wanted to go faster than the rider” allowed, he added. “That tells me he’s still on ‘go.’ ”
Baffert said Justify has been reshod with a full horseshoe on his left hind foot and with the hoof adhesive Equilox added. Justify had been training in a “three-quarter” shoe, in which the heel end on one side is cut back to alleviate pressure on a bruised area that developed after the Derby.
Justify, who is expected to van to Louisville International Airport about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and arrive at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport about 1:30 p.m., is undefeated in four starts and positioned well to add a fifth win Saturday. Baffert has won the Preakness with each of his previous four Kentucky Derby winners: Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, War Emblem in 2002 and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.
With additional Preakness wins by Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010, Baffert is poised to tie seven-time winner R.W. Walden (1875-1888) for the all-time lead. Fellow Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has Bravazo and Sporting Chance running in Saturday’s race, also has won the Preakness six times.
“Wayne and I, we’re from the quarter-horse world, where we had to run ’em one week and come back the next week for all the money,” Baffert said of the two-week turnaround between the Derby and Preakness. “We know the turnaround because we’ve dealt with the turnaround all our life. A lot of these trainers, they want to give their horse extra time. That’s why I have a really great foundation in my horses. … That’s why he’s been able to recover quickly after every race.”
Castellano eyes back-to-back titles
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano is in familiar territory with an unfamiliar horse after being named to ride the John Servis-trained Diamond King for the first time Saturday.
Last year, Castellano went into the Triple Crown’s second leg with a horse he had never ridden, guiding 13-1 long shot Cloud Computing to a victory over Classic Empire and Derby champion Always Dreaming. It was the second career Preakness win for Castellano, who also was victorious aboard Bernardini at odds of nearly 13-1 in 2006. The four-time Eclipse Award winner’s only Triple Crown race victories have come in Baltimore.
Only six jockeys have won the Preakness in back-to-back years. Hall of Famer Pat Day won three straight editions from 1994-96; the others are Victor Espinoza (2014, 2015), Eddie Arcaro (1950, 1951), Fred Taral (1894, 1895), Tom Costello (1881, 1882) and Lloyd Hughes (1879, 1880).
“I’m very lucky and very fortunate, and I’m pretty excited, too, to be able to come back to the Preakness for another year,” Castellano said. “I am thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to be there in my career and all the trainers and owners that give me the opportunity to ride their horses, some of the best horses in the country. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it.”
Castellano became available to ride Federico Tesio winner Diamond King when Audible, whom he rode to a third-place finish in the Derby, was removed from Preakness consideration last week.
Odds and ends
Lukas and his two Preakness horses, Bravazo and Sporting Chance, shipped from Louisville to Baltimore on Monday along with Lukas’ stable pony. Lukas, as usual, rode along in the truck.
Bravazo finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and won the Grade II Risen Star on Feb. 17 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Sporting Chance finished fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Derby undercard.
Elsewehere, trainer Rodolphe Brisset said Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Quip came out of his half-mile workout Sunday morning at Keeneland in Lexington in fine shape. Under Brisset, Quip covered the 4 furlongs in 48.20 seconds.
“He looked good,” Brisset said. “He walked the shedrow and everything is good. He will go back to the track tomorrow.”
Quip is scheduled to ship to Baltimore by plane on Wednesday.