Justify is one win from becoming the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown.
The 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy is the 24th horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and the fifth to do so for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert has one Triple Crown under his belt, courtesy of American Pharoah in 2015.
“I’ve never had a horse work like him,” Baffert told the Associated Press on Monday about Justify. “His mechanics, his motion, just the way he did it. … This horse is starting to act like Pharoah.
“What he’s done since February, you have to be a superstar to do that. He’s like Pharoah. They’re superstars.”
Justify is a spotless 5 for 5 in his career with an average victory of 4.4 lengths, his most dominant victory in a graded stakes occurring in the Santa Anita Derby by three lengths. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness by 2.5 lengths and one-half length, respectively.
He will face familiar opponents in his quest to complete the Triple Crown. Bravazo (sixth), Hofburg (seventh), Vino Rosso (ninth) and Free Drop Billy (16th) already lost to Justify in the Kentucky Derby, while Bravazo (second) and Tenfold (third) fell short in the Preakness.
Post time: Saturday, 6:46 p.m. Eastern time, NBC
No. 1 Justify (4-5 odds)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Mike Smith
Justify’s victory in the Preakness by a half-length appears to be less impressive than when American Pharoah won that same race, but Justify traveled more than 2.5 seconds faster than American Pharoah over the final seven-sixteenth of a mile, covering that distance in 44.51 seconds, compared with 47.04 for American Pharoah. And Justify did it against stiffer competition.
|Horse||¼ mile||½ mile||¾ mile||1 mile||1 3/16 miles|
|Justify||23.11||47.19 (24.08)||1:11.42 (24.23)||1:36.10 (24.68)||1:55.93 (19.83)|
|American Pharoah||22.90||46.49 (23.59)||1:11.42 (24.93)||1:37.74 (26.32)||1:58.46 (20.72)|
No reason to doubt him here.
No. 2 Free Drop Billy (30-1)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
This son of Union Rags, a former Belmont Stakes winner, finished in the money in three graded stakes as a juvenile, including a win in the Breeders’ Futurity. Since then, however, it’s been all downhill: five losses culminating in a 16th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
No. 3 Bravazo (8-1)
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
Jockey: Luis Saez
After a disappointing performance in the Louisiana Derby, he finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and then chased Justify in the Preakness, finishing second.
His speed, pedigree and stalker running style set up nicely for a strong finish at Belmont in the “Test of Champions.”
No. 4 Hofburg (9-2)
Trainer: William Mott
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
With just four career starts, Hofburg will be looking for his first career stakes win. The closest he has come to a graded stakes victory was a second-place finish to Audible in the Florida Derby, his final prep leading up to the Kentucky Derby, in which he finished seventh.
Hofburg’s pedigree gives him a chance on Saturday. His sire, Tapit, has three recent Belmont Stakes winners on his breeding resume: Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016) and last year’s winner, Tapwrit (2017).
No. 5 Restoring Hope (30-1)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Didn’t qualify for the Derby field on points so he settled for the Pat Day Mile (G3) at Churchill Downs, in which he finished 12th. Best used at the bottom of trifecta and superfecta tickets.
No. 6 Gronkowski (12-1)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
An illness forced him out of the Kentucky Derby but he’s won four of six starts in Britain, all on synthetic surfaces, including England’s Burradon Stakes. Unfortunately, the top horses in Europe race on grass, not on synthetic, making him a long shot on Saturday against stiff competition.
No. 7 Tenfold (12-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Son of two-time horse of the year Curlin did not race as a 2-year-old and is 0 for 2 in graded stakes, yet he did finish third in the Preakness behind Justify and Bravazo. And like Blended Citizen, Tenfold is peaking at the right time, but he needs a fast race to have a chance against Justify.
No. 8 Vino Rosso (8-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: John Velazquez
This New York-based colt has three wins in six starts, including this spring’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct by three lengths. One of two closers in the race — Blended Citizen is the other — he will need a swift pace in front to set up a rally.
No. 9 Noble Indy (30-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
The Todd Pletcher-trained colt notched back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park to start his career last winter, then finished third in the Risen Star Stakes before winning the Louisiana Derby by a neck. He finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby last time out over a sloppy and sealed track.
No. 10 Blended Citizen (15-1)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Kyle Frey
This son of Proud Citizen has victories on dirt, turf and synthetic tracks, including the Grade III Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 12. His best speed figures have come as a 3-year-old, a sure sign of a maturing colt on his way to better performances.