BALTIMORE – Justify is the talk of Pimlico Race Course and the horse racing industry with a very real chance to win the Triple Crown.
But he’s got a few notable challengers in the Preakness. It’s not the 19 he beat in the Kentucky Derby, but the eight-horse field is no cakewalk.
“It’s tough,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “We have Good Magic, who I have a lot of respect for. He’s a champion. Ran second to us. He’s right there with us. … And then you’ve got Quip. He’s a really good horse. He’s fast.”
Baffert also doesn’t want to count out veteran D. Wayne Lukas’ two horses. The odds may count a few out, but here’s a look at the leading contenders:
He’s horse to beat as the 1-2 morning-line favorite for a reason after winning his first four races by a combined 21 1/2 lengths, including the Kentucky Derby in the same slop that could await Saturday. Baffert is 4-0 with Derby winners in the Preakness, so he knows how to handle the two-week turnaround.
“They were peaking at the right time,” Baffert said. “And that’s what the Derby winner usually is – a horse that’s peaking. And they train well. They came out of the race well. With him, think he’s doing the same.”
A game second to Justify in the Derby, Chad Brown’s horse was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion and has looked great in workouts since arriving at Pimlico. Good Magic is the 3-1 second choice because he has shown he can hang with Justify, and maybe this time he’ll have that one extra kick to get by him down the stretch.
Intrigue, thy name is Quip, the Tampa Bay Derby winner who skipped the Run for the Roses to rest up for the Preakness. The best of the new horses finished second in the Arkansas Derby and is 12-1 for Rodolphe Brisset, who used to train Justify.
“He’s a slight-made horse we felt like would do better with the five weeks,” said Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, which co-owns Quip. “We feel like he could have run in the Kentucky Derby but we wanted to give him a chance to catch up to himself.”
One of Lukas’ two horses along with Sporting Chance, Bravazo is 12-1 after finishing sixth in the Derby. He’s next to Justify in the starting gates but figures to come off the pace late.
“Somebody had to be,” Lukas said. “I’d just as soon be next to him. I don’t think he’ll be next to him very long.”
Traffic trouble in the 20-horse Derby was more of a problem for Lone Sailor than the mud, and the No. 1 post position is another considerable challenge. If the Louisiana Derby runner-up can find some room between horses, the 15-1 shot is a threat as long as Justify doesn’t save something for the stretch with a slower run in the first half-mile or so.
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