Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as we look at what’s next for Justify.
It has been nearly a week and we’re still talking about Justify, but what’s so wrong with that? On Monday, we brought forward some of the conspiracy theories that speculated that the Belmont was rigged for Justify. Owner Mike Repole said it appeared that Restoring Hope went out to block for Justify in the early part of the race. Bob Baffert trains Justify and Restoring Hope.
Repole said the Belmont stewards would soon be talking to Restoring Hope jockey Florent Geroux about taking his colt to a position near the lead. The stewards said they have no such plans.
Emails from readers were about 5-1 in favor of this being an overblown story. That’s kind of where I come down on this. Doesn’t make us right or wrong, it’s just an opinion.
Meanwhile, Baffert has been more than generous with sharing the 13th Triple Crown winner with fans. This Saturday, he will parade at Churchill Downs on Stephen Foster Day. Justify leaves Kentucky on Sunday and flies to Santa Anita.
So, Santa Anita will celebrate the horse a week from Saturday on the penultimate day of its meeting. All the details, such as exactly when he will parade in front of the crowd, haven’t been announced yet, but it seems like something worth going to if you want to see one of the greats.
You’ll be struck by how big he is, bigger even than Secretariat. Now, there will be no petting session. While the 12th Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, was a lovable horse, Baffert said Justify’s tolerance for people is “about five seconds.”
Some horses are just not as warm as others. The much-beloved California Chrome was known for trying to bite people, and he succeeded a few times.
Nonetheless, if you haven’t seen him, it’s worth going. It’s not likely he’ll ever race in Southern California again, and it’s almost a certainty he’ll never run at Santa Anita again.
With American Pharoah, Baffert ran him in the Haskell at Monmouth followed by a loss in the Travers at Saratoga. The Haskell makes sense if he’s well rested. It was said that Baffert was never keen on running him at Saratoga.
If the Travers is out, one option would be to run Justify at Del Mar in the Pacific Classic, but that would be against older horses, including the Baffert-trained West Coast, last year’s 3-year-old horse of the year. So that would be a tall order.
Justify’s connections are in a good spot. They could hint to a track that if they want him they will have to really jack up the purse. Let’s say the folks in Philadelphia want to up the purse by $1 million or $2 million, he could end up running in the Pennsylvania Derby. But, somehow, the Triple Crown winner running at PARX does not seem to fit.
We’ll be learning all these details within in the next month. But until then let’s take advantage of seeing him whenever we can, even if it’s just parading him in front of a large grandstand.
Santa Anita preview
The most interesting thing about Thursday’s card at Santa Anita is the strong field sizes for a weekday card. First post is at 12:30 p.m. for the eight-race card. Three races are on the turf, and four races are for maidens.
The feature, I think, is the sixth, 6½ furlongs down the hillside turf course. It’s an allowance/optional claimer for fillies and mares 3 and up. The purse is $61,000.
Here’s a look at the field sizes, in order: 9, 8, 10, 6, 10 (1 also eligible), 8, 9, 9, (4 AE).
Bob Ike SA pick of the day
SEVENTH RACE: No. 1 Muchos Besos (4-1)
Old pro from the low-profile Javier Sierra barn dueled and tired on turf last time but gets back on his best surface (dirt) and catches a field seemingly lacking in early speed. If he gets loose from the rail he will be tough to run down under regular pilot Matt Garcia. Main threat looks like Gonna Fly Now (7-2), so a win bet and exacta box might be in order.
Sunday’s result: She's Legit went mid-pack throughout in the ninth race.
Bob Ike is a Partner/VP of Horsebills.com (here’s a video) and the proprietor of BobIkePicks.com (full-card picks, 3 Best Plays and betting strategy).
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And now the star of the show, Thursday’s entries.