LOUISVILLE — Kentucky Derby winner Justify will move on to the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on May 19 to attempt the second test in the Triple Crown.
A day after a dominant performance in the 144th edition of the haloed Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert brought the undefeated son of Scat Daddy outside of the barn to a large gathering of media and clicks of the camera.
“He looks phenomenal today,” Baffert said. “He’s full of himself. He knows he’s a stud. He came back and he really wasn’t that tired. He ate up last night and today he’s been a handful. When I got him out of the stall, he was pulling me around. Usually they’re a little bit tired.”
Over a soupy track on the wettest Derby in history, Justify, guided by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to a 2½-length victory over Good Magic, made history of his own. While Smith picked up his second Kentucky Derby victory and Baffert picked up his fifth, Justify became the first horse in 136 years to win the 1¼ mile Kentucky Derby without having raced at age 2. Undefeated in four starts, Justify has earned two grade-one victories since beginning his racing career just 11 weeks ago.
“It was just an awesome performance,” Baffert said. “We were hoping he had that in him. At the three-eighths pole I thought, man, he better be a really good horse. We saw another gear that we hadn’t seen yet. That’s where the greatness comes in. He’s got that big, long stride and he’s just so efficient. He does it so easily.”
Justify will not accompany his trainer back to California but will stay at Churchill Downs with assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes. The plans are for the colt to spend the next few days walking the shedrow and return to the track on Wednesday. Baffert will return to Churchill Downs this weekend and make final plans for Baltimore.
Trainer Chad Brown reported that Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic came out of the race well and jogged briefly Sunday morning. Brown noted that the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes’ on June 9 was most likely not in his future, but a decision on the Preakness was pending.
“I want him back in New York and that gives me time to decide what’s next,” Brown said. “I want to provide the owners with as much information as possible about what I see and then let them decide. You run a horse back in two weeks off an effort like this, even if he’s not going to run for a while, it doesn’t mean it’s good for the horse long-term. That said, his sire (Curlin) came back in two weeks and won the Preakness.”
The future for Todd Pletcher’s four Kentucky Derby starters is not confirmed, but all were scheduled to leave Churchill Downs on Sunday and return to Pletcher’s New York base. Although all exited the Kentucky Derby in good order, Pletcher stated his team had to flush dirt and mud from his starters eyes last night and was still flushing mud from ninth-place finisher Vino Rosso’s eyes Sunday morning.
Pletcher noted Vino Rosso would likely contest the June 9 Belmont Stakes in New York. Magnum Moon, who finished next to last, will get a break and a freshening. Decisions had not been made for third-place finisher Audible or 17th-place finisher Noble Indy.
Of the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field only Bravazo, who finished sixth for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, was likely to contest Justify in the May 19 Preakness Stakes. Lukas has won the Preakness six times and owner Calumet Farm holds the record for Preakness wins by an owner with eight. Lukas and Calumet teamed to win the 2013 Preakness with longshot Oxbow.
“Yes, probably,” Lukas said. “I’ll talk to (Calumet Farm owner) Brad Kelley. He’s pretty game. I’d say we’ll probably go.”