By Steve Sherack
BALTIMORE, Md – It couldn’t have rained any harder during training hours at Pimlico Thursday morning.
That is, of course, until it was time for GI Kentucky Derby winner Justify (Scat Daddy) to stretch his legs.
With the rain almost on cue coming to a halt during the renovation break, a small crowd began to emerge from cover by the stakes barn as Justify walked under tack at 8:15 a.m.
Led out by longtime Bob Baffert assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes aboard a stable pony, a slew of media and fans were lined up with their cameras and cell phones raring to go as Justify made his way to the gap. With the sloppy, sealed track still being worked on for a few minutes, Justify, as always, stood patiently and never turned a hair.
The unbeaten ‘TDN Rising Star’ got acquainted with the Pimlico main oval by galloping a very easy 1 1/2 miles while under a snug hold beneath regular exercise rider Humberto Gomez. Justify arrived in Baltimore late Wednesday afternoon.
Baffert later met the press for about 15 minutes while photographers lined up to get that coveted bath shot of the hulking chestnut.
“I’m happy with the way he went around there,” Baffert said. “He was just getting warmed up. He was ready to do a lot more, but we didn’t want him to do too much.”
The Hall of Fame trainer is seeking a record-tying seventh victory in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. All four of his previous Derby winners–Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015)–have added Preakness victories.
“He’s a superior horse, just like American Pharoah,” Baffert said. “What he’s done in that short, 75 days to win the Kentucky Derby… he makes my job a lot easier.”