Baffert on Belmont Stakes: Breaking from Gate the Main Thing

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10:34 am
Justify completed his final serious preparations for the Belmont Stakes with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.40 with Martin Garcia in the saddle.
With a few hundred spectators on hand, Justify came onto the track at on a morning with the temperature in the low 60's. Justify broke away from the stable pony Sunny and trainer Bob Baffert’s chief assistant Jimmy Barnes at the 4 1/2-furlong pole and began his breeze at the half-mile marker through splits of 12.80, 24.80, 37 and 48.80 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven-eighths of a mile in 1:27.20.
“It was a really nice breeze and exactly what we were looking for,” Baffert said. “He relaxed nicely and seemed very happy. Martin was very happy with him as well so I was happy, too. He was a little fresh earlier in the week so it was good to see him relax nicely.”
Restoring Hope, breezed six furlongs in 1:13 under his Belmont jockey, Florent Geroux, in fractions of 12.60, 24.40, 36.20, 48.40 and 1:00.20 with a gallop out of 1:26.40.
“Restoring Hope went really well,” Baffert said. “He’s always been a really good work horse. He’s sort of a one-paced horse. He went a little faster than Justify, but I thought overall the work was very good.”
Justify and Restoring Hope are scheduled to make the two-hour flight to New York from Louisville on Wednesday and will leave Churchill Downs’ Barn 33 between 8:00 and 8:30 ET.
“I think the Triple Crown brings a lot more people into the game,” Baffert said. “It also brings a lot of new owners. I saw a lot of new faces in the game after Pharoah won the Triple Crown. It’s no walk in the park to win, but it’s very important to our sport when we have a Triple Crown possibility on the line.”
“Mike (Smith), just like any other rider, has to have the horse underneath him to succeed,” Baffert said. “A good rider’s job is to keep the horse out of trouble and make split-second decisions if he needs to. Really the biggest part of the race is breaking cleanly from the gate. With Pharoah, he broke about one length slower than the field. It could’ve been a bad situation, but he got into a good position early. After the gate break, you just have to see how the race plays out.”
Preakness runner-up Bravazo left trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ Barn 44 early Monday morning via van to New York.
Preakness third finisher Tenfold, jogged one mile following his five-furlong breeze in 1:01.60 Saturday at Churchill Downs. Tenfold is scheduled to fly to New York on Tuesday and leave Churchill Downs at approximately 10:30 ET.
Free Drop Billy
Free Drop Billy walked trainer Dale Romans’ Barn 4 shedrow following his five-furlong move in :59.20 Sunday at Churchill Downs. Free Drop Billy is scheduled to join Justify and Restoring Hope on Wednesday’s flight.