Justify Wins Preakness, Goes for Triple Crown at Belmont Stakes

Justify Wins Preakness - Justify Triple Crown Belmont Stakes

Justify has a chance for the Triple Crown on June 9 at the Belmont Stakes.

Justify won the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, giving him the second leg of the Triple Crown and a chance at racing immortality at the Belmont Stakes.

His win in the Preakness adds a lot of intrigue to that race three Saturdays from now, because Justify’s challengers can take heart from the performance.

Justify got an early challenge from Good Magic, the horse which finished second to him in the Kentucky Derby. Bravazo and Tenfold made late charges after Good Magic faded, finishing 2nd and 3rd. Bravazo was a half-a-link back and making up ground at the wire.

Thus, the winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown has a chance at Belmont Park to be only the 13th thoroughbred to win all three Triple Crown races. Justify is 5-for-5 on his career, but many question marks remain.

Justify Wins, Looks Tired

Many came away from the Preakness thinking they saw regression from the winner. Justify has ran 5 races in 91 days and looked tired at the end of the race. Others will think the rigor will be good training for the Belmont Stakes, which is an eight-of-a-mile longer.

Jockey Mike Smith said of that rigor, “When I saw it was Good Magic (pressing the lead), I knew we were in for a horse race and he was going to push me really early. They know they can’t let him go (on an easy lead). This was a race that he’s going to get fit off of. It was by far his hardest race.”

“Twenty Seconds…Felt Like Years”

Teo Ah Khing, chairman of Justify co-owner China Horse Club, said time seemed to stand still as the horses rounded the track. Ah Khing said, “It was like the longest race of my life. Twenty seconds without seeing the horse felt like years.”

Trainer Bob Baffert added, “I was never relaxed during the race. He was in for a fight. I was just praying for the wire.”

“Heck Yes (We’re Going to the Belmont)”

Tenfold’s trainer Steve Asmussen said the race gives him confidence his horse can pull off an upset in New York three Saturdays from now, saying, “We were three-quarters of a length away from where we want to be, so let’s figure out how to get it. Heck yes (we’re going to the Belmont).”

That appeared to be a consensus opinion among handicappers and race goers at Pimlico on Saturday. Justify was good. Justify showed grit and stamini, yet Justify appears vulnerable to the challengers.

Rain and Fog at Pimlico

One question bettors might have is whether Justify has shown he is the better horse on any track or if the 3-year old has shown he’s the better horse on muddy tracks. Both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness were ran in rainy conditions. If the track is dry at the Belmont Stakes in three weeks, the conditions should change the dynamics of the race.

Of course, the sloppy track and the fog could account for the slower times in the race than other Triple Crown-winning rides. That means we might not have seen Justify at his best yet. The defining moment of Justify’s career is less than a month away. At stake is whether he is an exceptional horse or whether he belongs among the true greats in race history.

Elliott Walden, the CEO of WinStar Farms (co-owner of Justify), said of the chance his horse has to make history: “If Justify is meant to do it, it’ll happen. And if not, it just won’t.”