With attendant gray skies and a muddy Pimlico Race Course track as a harbinger of what may await the eight starters in the 143rd Preakness Stakes May 19, the heavy favorite Justify drew the No. 7 post position for the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown during the Preakness draw held in a temporary chalet in the track's infield.
For bettors looking for omens, that was also Justify's post position in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby. And the forecast for wet weather and a sloppy track Saturday does not figure to be an adverse factor for Justify. The Bob Baffert-trained colt won the Derby May 5 in those very conditions. Plus, he also won at Santa Anita Park in the wet in March.
At Churchill Downs, Justify got a perfect ride from jockey Mike Smith, who will be back in the irons at Pimlico.
The morning line odds had Justify as the chalk at 1-2, and that number made Baffert wince a little.
"That's putting some added pressure on us," Baffert said of the odds.
The 1 3/16th-mile Preakness figures to be a duel between Justify and Derby runner-up Good Magic. Good Magic, ridden by Jose Ortiz and trained by Chad Brown, drew the No. 5 position.
"They're two superior horses," Baffert said of his colt and Good Magic. "So you have wiggle room when you have two superior horses like that."
The two horses have different resumes.
Good Magic, who is 3-1 in the morning line for the Preakness, was the 2-year-old champion with a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. As a 3-year-old, he won the Blue Grass Stakes before finishing second in the Derby.
Justify did not run as a 2-year-old but is undefeated as a 3-year-old with four straight wins. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, he won the Santa Anita Derby.
Noting the wet forecast, Baffert said, "He's run on two wet tracks before and won on them. But we want a beautiful day [on Saturday] so people can come enjoy the spectacle of the Preakness."
Baffert has six Preakness wins, and he'll be joined this year by another six-time Preakness-winning trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.
Lukas has two entries in the eight-horse field for the Preakness, Sporting Chance (30-1) and Bravazo (20-1).
Bravazo finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
"I think he'll run better here than he did in the Derby," Lukas said. "Whether it's good enough, we'll see."
If Justify wins at Pimlico, he'll get a shot at a Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes in New York June 9.
"I get paid to spoil dreams," Lukas said. "I've surprised them here before."
Here are the Preakness post positions, morning line odds, jockeys and trainers:
1. Quip (12-1) Florent Geroux, Rodolphe Brisset
2. Lone Sailor (15-1) Irad Ortiz Jr., Tom Amoss
3. Sporting Chance (30-1) Luis Contreras, D. Wayne Lukas
4. Diamond King (30-1) Javier Castellano, John Servis
5. Good Magic (3-1) Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown
6. Tenfold (20-1) Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen
7. Justify (1-2) Mike Smith, Bob Baffert
8. Bravazo (20-1) Luis Saez, D. Wayne Lukas
Photo Credit: Bill Ordine/PressBox