“Phenomenal” Justify Eyes Middle Jewel

Bob Baffert and Justify | Eclipse Sportswire

China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm's 144th GI Kentucky Derby hero Justify (Scat Daddy) emerged from his authoritative victory in the slop with excellent energy Sunday morning, and trainer Bob Baffert indicated the colt will be pointed to a start in the May 19 GI Preakness S. at Pimlico as expected. Baffert led Justify out of his barn on the Churchill backside shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday morning to greet the media.

“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.”

Baffert took time to reflect on Saturday's performance, noting that the colt showed the greatness he had hoped for in the stretch run.

“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.”

As for the potential of a Triple Crown bid for the undefeated chestnut, Baffert noted that he plans to focus on daily details in the time leading up to the Preakness.

“I'm not thinking about that at all, not yet,” he said. “Right now I'm just thinking about keeping him healthy. We still have another one in a couple of weeks if all's well. We won the toughest and most important one. If he wins the Preakness then we'll see.”

Baffert also said that Derby 10th-place finisher Solomini (Curlin) could make his next start in the GI Belmont S. June 9.

Trainer Chad Brown said Derby runner-up and 2017 juvenile champion Good Magic (Curlin) was highly unlikely to start in the Belmont, but could return to challenge Justify in the Preakness.

“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… Whether we run in the Preakness will have no bearing on the Belmont. I don't see a mile-and-a-half for this horse.”

Brown reported that Good Magic came out of the race in good shape after a short jog Sunday morning and will ship back to Belmont Park Monday.

Todd Pletcher said he was pleased with the effort of third-place finisher Audible (Into Mischief).

“I went back and watched Audible's race several times and I'm even more impressed with his effort,” the conditioner said. “He couldn't adjust to the track to start and was having a hard time dealing with the kickback. But when Javier [Castellano] got him running, he was really coming on. All things considered, he ran really well.”

Pletcher said he did not yet have plans made for Audible and 17th-place finisher Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy), but 19th-finishing Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon) would receive a freshening after encountering trouble early in Saturday's race. Vino Rosso (Curlin), who closed belatedly to finish ninth in the Derby, will be pointed to the GI Belmont S., according to Pletcher.

“We'll almost assuredly go for the Belmont,” Pletcher said. “Vinny [Viola of St. Elias Stable] and Mike [Repole of Repole Stable] are New York guys and winning the Belmont is something they want to do. The horse is bred for it and he'll be going there.”

Jerry Hollendorfer-trained fourth-place finisher Instilled Regard (Arch) will receive a 30-day freshening at Taylor Made Farm before returning to target races like the GI Haskell Invitational and GI Travers S., assistant trainer Christina Jelm reported. Meanwhile, sixth-place finisher Bravazo (Awesome Again) will likely return for the Preakness, according to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, while Hofburg (Tapit), a late-running seventh Saturday, could come back for the Belmont, trainer Bill Mott said.

The connections of Bolt d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro; 12th) and Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy; 20th) were regrouping Sunday while reporting that their colts emerged from the race no worse for the wear. The former is scheduled to return to trainer Mick Ruis's Santa Anita stable Tuesday with the GI Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August as his main summer goal, while the latter was slated to begin his journey back to Ireland Sunday.


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