Friday, 17 August, 2018

Three horses who could stop Justify from winning the Triple Crown

Can Hofburg or one of the other eight contenders beat Justify in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday or will Justify bathe in the history of a Triple Crown Justify's Triple Crown Hopes Come Down to the Start
Cary Erickson | 10 June, 2018, 02:11

Justify's owners reportedly sold the horse's breeding rights for $60 million before the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. He wasn't a 2-year-old champion bred and built to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. A troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby hid the strong performance by the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt but everyone saw how good Bravazo could be in his second-place performance to Justify in the Preakness. Bob Baffert, his Hall of Fame trainer, was delighted with how well the horse handled the shipping and the unfamiliar surroundings on an overcast morning.

"He'll probably get schooled in the one hole sitting in there a long time", said Baffert. "It looked like he was happy".

"He was a little fresh", said Baffert, who also won the Belmont Stakes with Point Given in 2001. "He couldn't have looked any better".

Hoppertunity will be joined in the Brooklyn by Paul Pompa, Jr.'s homebred Hard Study, a 5 ½-length victor of the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out over the local course on May 4, and hard-knocking veteran War Story, exiting a close runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on April 21.

Baffert said he omitted the customary ear plugs, which might have put Justify slightly on edge. He will gallop Thursday and Friday.

Justify is looking at his sixth race in less than four months, something that might take a toll on other horses.

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Baffert has decided against schooling Justify in the paddock or the starting gate.

"We're quietly optimistic that we can hopefully do it again", Baffert said. "He went around there today like he's been here". He's out of (the sire) Tapit, and Tapit horses have done very well in the Belmont (winning three of the past four).

That shouldn't be a problem for Justify, according to Baffert.

"I've had a lot of success with Curlin and Tapit offsprings", trainer Steve Asmussen said. "My horses, when they come here, just float over this". Yet Justify's hopes of becoming the 13th horse to win racing's Triple Crown could be settled in the first few seconds of this year's edition of the Belmont on Saturday.

Baffert admits no other horse has compared to American Pharoah - his 2015 Triple Crown victor.

"If he runs the race he ran at the Preakness (second to Justify), that would give him a shot to win this". Smith, who rides Justify on Saturday, watched as exercise rider Humberto Gomez was aboard for the gallop.