JUSTIFY - Justify made a visit to the starting gate and had a routine gallop Sunday morning at Churchill Downs..
“He stood in the gate, we jogged down the stretch a little ways and then galloped a mile and a half,” said assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes. Bob Baffert is expected to arrive in Louisville Sunday night, with Justify flying to Baltimore on Wednesday.
As Baffert’s chief assistant, Barnes is a familiar sight at Churchill Downs and everywhere Baffert has a quality stakes horse hitting the road.
“It’s an awesome position to have, and I’m just blessed to be here,” said Barnes, whose first full year with Baffert was 1999, when the barn had the champion filly Silverbulletday. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. These horses are like once in a lifetime horses coming through the barn. We just keep enjoying it while they come, because you never know when you might have a slow year.
“I’ve trained on my own; it’s a tough go. I like dealing with this caliber of horses, prefer to be at this level. So I’d rather just stay right here. You put in a lot of hours. It’s a dedication thing. Luckily my wife works with us, so I get to spend a lot of time with her. Maybe not at home, but we’re at the barn every day together. It’s worked out for us, we’ve been married 32 years. Just keep going along here as long as it lasts,” he said.
Barnes’ wife, top-notch exercise rider Dana Barnes, has worked for Baffert since 1998. Jimmy heard there could be an opening for an assistant in the stable, asked Baffert to keep him in mind, was hired and wound up being the chief assistant when Eoin Harty went on his own in 2000.
Barnes previously had worked for Hall of Famers Charlie Whittingham and Jerry Hollendorfer, as well as David Hofmans, who saddled Touch Gold for a 1997 Belmont Stakes victory over the Baffert-trained Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm.
“I tend to point myself toward good stables, yes, absolutely,” Barnes said. “I’ve been very fortunate to end up dealing with great horses for a long time now.”
BOLT D'ORO - Ruis Racing’s Bolt d’Oro, who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby, was taken out of Preakness consideration Sunday. Owner-trainer Mick Ruis said he'll be pointed to the Met Mile.
BRAVAZO, SPORTING CHANCE - Calumet Farm’s Bravazo, sixth in the Kentucky Derby after being well-beaten in the Louisiana Derby, worked a half-mile in 50.60 at Churchill Downs early Sunday morning in preparation for the Preakness Stakes.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he hadn’t seen the official time but had wanted something in the range of 50 seconds. He didn’t need the clocker’s splits to know Bravazo finished nicely.
“I don’t know what the splits were, have no idea,” he said. “I don’t pay any attention to that. I just want to see how they go. What were the splits? Had to be slow first.”
The official splits were 13 seconds for the first eighth-mile, 25 2/5 for the quarter-mile, 38 for three-eighths, with Bravazo going the final eighth-mile in 12 3/5 seconds and galloping out five-eighths of a mile in 1:04 4/5.
“He just ran eight days ago,” Lukas said. “He doesn’t need much.”
Calumet Farm and Lukas teamed in 2013 to win the Preakness with Oxbow, extending the historic Lexington farm’s record number of victories in the race to eight. It was the sixth for Lukas, who along with trainer Bob Baffert would tie the all-time record with another win. R.W. Walden won the Preakness seven times from 1875 to 1888.
Lukas’ other Preakness candidate, Sporting Chance, was scheduled to work a slow half-mile but wound up galloping after reportedly refusing to break off for his breeze.
Lukas and his duo are scheduled to leave Churchill Downs at 3:30 a.m. Monday for the van drive to Pimlico.
DIAMOND KING - Diamond King turned in his final work for the Preakness Stakes with a five-furlong breeze Sunday morning at Parx Racing.
Frankie Pennington was aboard as the son of Quality Road went in 1:01.50, handily, over a sloppy main track in company with 4-year-old gelding Colonel Juan. Diamond King galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.53.
“Everything went super, very good. It was exactly what I was looking for,” trainer John Servis said. “I told him I was looking for around 1:01 and then let him gallop out on his own, so it was right on the money.”
Diamond King has worked twice since his victory in the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio Stakes April 21 at Laurel Park that earned him an automatic berth into the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. He breezed a half-mile on his own in 50.21 seconds May 6 at Parx.
“He went in company today because he works better in company than he does by himself. He can be a bit lazy,” Servis said. “I’m very happy with him. I’m tickled to death. I think he’s doing great.”
Considering the weather and the forecast, Servis was relieved to get Sunday’s work in as planned, rather than have to push it back to Monday.
“Very much so,” he said. “It was a sealed racetrack. It wasn’t the best racetrack in the world but the bottom was good. I would have preferred a fast racetrack, but for a wet track it was very good, actually.”
Diamond King will have an easy day Monday and will remain at Parx until later in the week. All Preakness horses must be on the grounds by noon on Thursday, May 17.
“He’ll walk tomorrow and then I’ll just play it by ear after that,” Servis said. “I’ll see how he comes out of this work and how everything is and adjust his schedule accordingly.”
Javier Castellano, who notched his second Preakness victory last year aboard Cloud Computing, has been named to ride.
Justify figures to be a strong favorite in the Preakness, and Servis was complimentary of the Kentucky Derby winner.
“He’s very impressive. Especially as good as he did it, and as good as he looks, it’s just hard to imagine that was only his fourth start,” he said. “He’s a good horse. He might be a great horse. I think we’re finding that out.”
GOOD MAGIC - Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic will be entered in the Preakness, trainer Chad Brown announced today.
Following the Kentucky Derby, Brown initially said he would skip the Preakness. The morning after, Brown said he would wait and see.
“The horse has just been training very well since the Derby,” Brown said. “He bounced out of the race in great condition, and I think he deserves a chance in the race. He’s doing great.”
Like most trainers, Brown does not typically run a horse back in two weeks, but he said Good Magic had shown him that he is ready for the Preakness.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the horse,” he said. “I really don’t have anything else planned for him before, say, either the Haskell or the Jim Dandy anyway. That said, I wouldn’t do it just because he’s going to get a bit of a freshening. He has to be doing well, and he’s doing exceptionally well. He’s doing far better than I expected exiting the Derby. It’s remarkable to see how well the horse is moving and his energy level. He already has his weight back. He just looks great. I’m excited about it.”
This will be the fourth consecutive year that the top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby face off in the Preakness. In each of the last two years, the Derby runner-up finished ahead of the Derby winner, but in the preceding two years, the Derby winner came back to win the Preakness.
“It’s a tall order,” he said. “The horse is unbeaten and to a degree untested. He ran a great race in the Derby, and he is clearly the horse to beat. We’re going to need to close the gap on him somehow. We’re going to need to improve. Even though our horse ran an excellent race in the Derby and earned a lot of respect from everybody, he needs to again move forward, and we need to have Justify come back to us a little bit. I think that the margin that I saw between the two horses, it is not out of the question that we’ll be able to make up that difference.”
Good Magic, co-owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Farm, broke his maiden winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and was voted the Eclipse Award as the 2-year-old male champion. This year, he was third in the Fountain of Youth and won the Blue Grass prior to the Kentucky Derby. e Five purchased Good Magic for $1,000,000 as a yearling at Keeneland and subsequently sold a 50 percent share to Stonestreet, which bred the colt.
Brown, 39, won the Eclipse Award as the champion trainer the past two years. He won the 2017 Preakness with Cloud Computing, his first-ever entry in the race.
Good Magic is scheduled to ship to Baltimore on Monday and will gallop on the track Tuesday morning.
LONE SAILOR - Owner G M B Racing on Saturday evening tweeted that the Tom Amoss-trained Lone Sailor, its Louisiana Derby runner-up and Kentucky Derby eighth-place finisher, will run in the Preakness and that Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount.
“When we got into this thing in 2014, on the back of our silks are three crowns, the Triple Crown,” said Greg Bensel, the senior vice president for communications for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA Pelicans. Hw also oversees G M B Racing for Gayle Benson, now the owner of the Saints and Pelicans following husband Tom Benson’s death March 15.
“A lot of people don’t particularly know that’s what it stands for,” Bensel said of the G M B’s silks design. “But our goal is always to run in the Triple Crown races, to run at the highest level. We’ve always dreamt of the Kentucky Derby, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have three in the last three years. We’ve won the Woody Stephens at Belmont, but the Preakness and Baltimore have always been a place we’ve wanted to run and be a part of that.”
G M B Racing was represented in the 2016 Kentucky Derby by Mo Tom (8th) and Tom’s Ready (12th), who went on to win the Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
“Our horses, although they ran eighth and 12th in 2016, our head guy, Mo Tom, was a guy who’d lose a lot of weight and couldn’t really bounce back. This guy, Tom Amoss gave us a good report Derby night, a great report the next day. I’m talking about him eating his whole tub, lively, got the look in his eye, went out for a full gallop a couple days later, full of energy, full of spunk. So no reason to not think about the Preakness,” Bensel said.
“Then you want to take a peek at the field. You want to see what Justify is doing; you want to see who else is entered; you want to see how big the field is because he’s a deep closer,” he added. “You saw how he got held up by Free Drop Billy in the Derby, and then he lost a shoe. So he was running against all odds in that Derby, and still he came fighting hard in the slop to be eighth. We’re hearing that we’re probably going to have a lot of wetness and moisture in Baltimore this week. We hear the field will be somewhat lighter. Justify or no Justify, we are on go. All systems point to go for us.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. has picked up the mount aboard Lone Sailor, who was ridden by James Graham in the Derby.
“We called on Irad Ortiz here. No disrespect to James Graham. We love James Graham; he’s been great to us. But we’re going to try something a little different here and take our chance,” Bensel said. “We’ve got a horse with a big engine, who is healthy, who’s sound, who’s full of energy. And why not?”
Lone Sailor galloped Sunday morning at Churchill Downs and will fly to Baltimore Wednesday. Amoss said the colt definitely deserves another chance with the cards reshuffled.
“The caveat here is that it was a very sloppy track Derby Day,” Amoss said. “But having said that, it’s hard to not want to take a chance against a group that didn’t come home very fast in the Kentucky Derby. Our horse, like many others, got in trouble in the race and we’d like another shot at this group. I have great respect for the group, and I thought going into the Kentucky Derby that the race went through California – which it turned out to do. But I’m looking forward to getting another chance at what hopefully is a fast track, although looking at the weather ahead, it looks like more rain.”
PONY UP - Todd Pletcher has opted to bypass the Preakness Stakes with Pony Up in favor of a start in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard. John Velazquez will have the mount.
QUIP - With trainer Rodolphe Brisset aboard, Quip turned in his final timed work for the Preakness, breezing a half-mile in 48.20 at Keeneland. He covered the first quarter of a mile in 24.40 and was timed in 23.80 for the second quarter. Quip was alone on the track at Keeneland at 6:30 a.m. and beat the heat that spiked later in the morning.
“He did exactly what we wanted and exactly his usual half-mile, out five-eighths,” Brisset said. “There was nothing fancy. We don’t need anything fancy anyway. We’re ready. He’s fit. We let him go off a little faster than 25 and came home in 23, and he galloped out in 1:12 2/5. That’s his usual. He was by himself. We didn’t want to do more than this.”
Quip won the Tampa Bay Derby and was second in the Arkansas Derby to accumulate more than enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, but his connections opted to pass on the Derby and point to the Preakness. A primary reason was that the colt needed more time between races than three weeks from the Arkansas Derby to Kentucky Derby. Also, WinStar had interests in three other Derby runners, including the eventual winner, Justify.
Brisset said he likes how Quip looks and is training entering the Preakness.
“He’s shown all the signs that he is back to his own self,” Brisset said. “The race in Arkansas and the trip was pretty hard on him. We gave him an easy week and a half after the Arkansas Derby. We didn’t lose anything because he has been galloping on a daily basis. Then we decided to pick the weather last week – breezing on Thursday before the Kentucky Derby to beat the rain. That gives us a good 10 days between his last breeze and this one today. It’s good timing. Now we don’t have to do anything much, just keep him on his basic, regular galloping.”
Quip will be flown to Baltimore on Wednesday. Florent Geroux, who has been aboard for his five career starts, will ride Quip in the Preakness.
TENFOLD - Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Tenfold had a routine gallop at Churchill Downs Sunday morning and is scheduled to work the easy half-mile on Monday that trainer Steve Asmussen. Tenfold had his big work for the Preakness the previous Monday, powering five-eighths of a mile in 1:00 1/5, seventh-fastest of 23 works at the distance that day.
Tenfold, who did not race last year, won his first two races before finishing fifth in the Arkansas Derby.
Edited Maryland Jockey Club release with additional content by Dick Downey