Justify in perfect spot for 2018 Preakness Stakes
Justify and trainer Bob Baffert (c) Horsephotos.com
by Dick Powell
Bob Baffert could not have had a better Preakness Stakes (G1) post-position draw. JUSTIFY drew post seven, just like in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and is outside the other speed horses. What could have been concerning for JUSTIFY would be if he drew inside. If the long-striding son of Scat Daddy has to steady in traffic, it would be a new experience for him but jockey Mike Smith can keep him in the clear and not have a single horse in front of him. Not ahead of him; in front of him.
Another factor in JUSTIFY’s favor is having a horse outside of him. Horses have a habit of breaking to space and if he drew post eight, there would be the possibility that he would break out at the start. Now he has someone to keep him straight.
An expected wet track could play havoc with what part of the track is best. In 2016, Exaggerator rallied wide on a wet track to get up in time. On a similar wet track, American Pharoah gunned to the front from the inside and never looked back the year before. Last year, Cloud Computing ran down Classic Empire after tipping out turning for home. Hard to get any bias from recent races regardless of the track condition so, chances are, there will be no bias.
QUIP drew post one and I don’t see where Florent Geroux has any choice but to go. His only bad race was from post 11 going two turns at Churchill Downs last November and he has done his best racing when up on the lead. Even though he is owned by the same group that owns JUSTIFY, I think QUIP will go and JUSTIFY will settle early.
It doesn’t matter where LONE SAILOR, BRAVAZO and SPORTING CHANCE drew. They will be far back and come from behind if they are grabbing the track. DIAMOND KING drew post four and can follow QUIP going into the first turn. He has sprinter’s speed but I don’t see him going to the front.
GOOD MAGIC was a game second in the Derby after doing all the chasing. He handled the wet track that day, broke like a shot with Jose Ortiz, and could get a dream set up on Saturday while racing behind the leaders. TENFOLD drew post six, has a stout pedigree and will try to work out a stalking trip. I am happy Victor Espinoza has been replaced by Ricardo Santana Jr.
JUSTIFY will only have a post position problem if the Pimlico main track comes up with a golden rail on Saturday. He showed in his second career start that he can handle a wet track and he should be wide of the wet kickback if he breaks alertly and has no traffic going into the first turn.
So, I see QUIP going hard from the rail with DIAMOND KING pressing him early. GOOD MAGIC and TENFOLD can work out stalking trips and then it’s up to Smith where to place JUSTIFY. He settled beautifully in the Derby after Smith had to light him up out of the gate and I would expect him to do the same thing here.
The post positions should ensure a fast pace since the speed horses drew inside of the others. The field should get stretched out some coming out of the clubhouse turn and the race will get interesting down the backside to see who makes the first move. I don’t see anyone in here having an excuse based on their draw.