(Reuters) – Justify will be gunning for the second jewel of U.S. thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown on Saturday at the Preakness Stakes where Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic will try to spoil the party in a much-anticipated rematch.
An eight-horse field is set for the 1 3/16-mile race at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course and since the Preakness does not usually throw up surprises it is widely being considered a two-horse race.
Justify is the favorite at 1-2 and will break from the seventh post while Good Magic, who drew the fifth post, is the second pick at 3-1.
Tom Amoss, the trainer for GMB Racing’s Preakness contender Lone Sailor, said on Friday both Good Magic and Justify looked really good and described as “formidable” the task ahead for the other six horses.
“Those horses were dominant in the Derby over the rest of the field, and the Preakness typically plays toward how the Derby plays. The fact that Justify is the heavy favorite and Good Magic is the second choice makes plenty of sense,” Amoss told reporters.
“To turn the tables on those horses, we have to get into position to run a better race and avoid traffic to hopefully be a part of that finish.”
This will be the fourth consecutive year the top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby have a rematch in the Preakness. In the last two years, the Derby runner-up finished ahead of the Derby winner in the Preakness.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Justify won the Derby as the favorite and all eyes will be on whether the Bob Baffert-trained chestnut son of Scat Daddy can create some intrigue going into the June 9 Belmont Stakes, the final stop for the Crown.
His biggest threat is considered to be the Chad Brown-trained Good Magic, who finished 2-1/2 lengths behind Justify over the soggy track at Churchill Downs two weeks ago and won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Brown is well aware of the challenge awaiting Good Magic and jockey Jose Ortiz in taking down Justify, who is undefeated in four starts.
“I love what I see,” Brown said after Good Magic jogged over the wet track. “The horse’s weight continues to hold very well.
“He’s had three good gallops over an off track here at Pimlico … He’s very fit. As you can see, he’s full of himself. His energy level is where we want it to be.”
A repeat of the soggy track that greeted the 20 horses at the Kentucky Derby is likely on Saturday with more rain expected in Baltimore.
Hall of Fame trainer Baffert is not looking for Justify to make a big step forward in the Preakness.
“He just has to stay the way he is,” said Baffert, who has won the Preakness Stakes six times, including with all four of his previous Derby winners. “He ran hard early and fast (in the Derby).
“It’s muddy. The break still is so important. The main thing is that you have a good horse.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond