Preakness field taking shape to challenge Justify
With 10 days remaining until the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes, Justify may not have to face a full cast of challengers when he lines up for the second leg of the American Triple Crown on May 19. The 1 3/16-mile Preakness is limited to 14 runners and approximately 10 horses appear under consideration to face the Kentucky Derby hero at Pimlico.
Justify utilized his speed to establish forward positioning behind the pacesetter and after surging to a clear lead on the far turn, the long-striding chestnut was never threatened in the final furlongs recording a 2 ½-length decision in the Kentucky Derby. The lightly-raced colt made any experience concerns irrelevant and six-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert has a proven track record in Baltimore, capturing the middle jewel with all four of his previous Kentucky Derby scorers. Justify will be an odds-on favorite; the only question is how short a price.
Good Magic will be the main rival if confirmed. The 2-year-old champion ran a big race in the slop, taking an early run at Justify when he threatened to get away from the pack and gamely withstanding the fast-finishing Audible to save second by a head. Trainer Chad Brown will wait to make a final decision but considering he’s already ruled out a Belmont Stakes bid, all signs point toward Good Magic continuing along the Triple Crown path at Pimlico. His presence would provide a major boost to the quality of competition.
Bravazo has been confirmed by D. Wayne Lukas following a solid sixth-place effort at 66-1 odds. After racing about 10 lengths back in midpack, Bravazo offered a solid middle move to reach fourth in upper stretch. He flattened out a bit late but the Kentucky Derby represented a significant improvement upon a well-beaten eighth in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Bravazo showed some class earlier this year upsetting the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds and Lukas has won the Preakness six times, including the 2013 edition with Oxbow following a well-beaten sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
Lone Sailor is also expected to wheel back after checking in eighth following a rough trip under the Twin Spires. The late runner had trained forwardly in preparation for the Kentucky Derby and could be one to consider underneath for the Preakness gimmicks.
Bolt d’Oro raced closer than expected before weakening to 12th in the Kentucky Derby and while his Preakness participation looked doubtful in the days afterward, trainer/owner Mick Ruis has not shut the door on the possibility. The multiple Grade 1 winner has proven no match for Justify in his last two starts but has the class to challenge for a minor award if able to deliver his best in the Preakness.
Quip will be the most accomplished of the new shooters. Following a win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and a second in the Arkansas Derby (G1), connections elected to bypass the Kentucky Derby in favor of the Preakness. That decision was made easier by the common ownership of WinStar Farm, who also campaigns Justify and Audible, and the same strategy was employed last year by owners Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, who already had Practical Joke in the Kentucky Derby field and elected to wait on the Preakness with Cloud Computing, who justified their decision-making when posting a 13-1 upset. Quip does his best running on the front end.
Diamond King stamped his Preakness ticket winning the April 21 Federico Tesio at Laurel Park. He’ll be tested for class, but the hard-trying colt shows four wins and a third from the five races he’s finished.
Sporting Chance couldn’t accumulate enough points to qualify but the juvenile Grade 1 winner will be given a chance in the Preakness by Lukas after a fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3).
Tenfold is expected to join the mix for Steve Asmussen after a fifth in the Arkansas Derby.
Telekinesis hasn’t been mentioned yet, but the Preakness appeared to be a likely destination following a head second to My Boy Jack in the Lexington (G3) and the Ghostzapper colt shows a recent 5-furlong drill for Mark Casse.
Pony Up is another possible candidate for the Lexington-Preakness route after finishing third last time for Todd Pletcher.