Bob Baffert said on Glenn Clark Radio
May 30 that he's confident his horse can improve upon his half-length Preakness Stakes victory during his run at the Belmont Stakes June 9 and is the type of thoroughbred that can win horse racing's Triple Crown.
It'll be the fifth time one of Baffert's horses has had a chance to complete the Triple Crown, though only American Pharaoh accomplished the feat (2015). Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) all fell short.
"The right horse can get it done. We've seen so many good horses come up short and the reason why is they just get tired," Baffert said. "It catches up to them, and that's what happens. Some horses can take it. Some need a little bit more time in between races. So we'll find out. To me, I don't see why he couldn't do it. I feel good about it. But … how many horses have we seen go in there and they couldn't get beat and they didn't run? You never know. Strange things happen in that mile and a half race."
War Emblem staggered out of the gate before eventually regaining the lead at the Belmont in 2002, but the horse ran out of gas down the stretch and finished eighth. American Pharaoh won the Belmont in 2015 by 5.5 lengths.
Baffert, who trained Justify at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. in preparation for his trip to Elmont, N.Y., said Justify compares favorably to American Pharaoh. War Emblem, meanwhile, was a lighter horse.
"He's just getting stronger. He's a big horse anyway, but it looks like he's getting fitter," Baffert said of Justify. "He's just cut. He's a really great horse, what he's done in such a short time. Him and American Pharaoh, they're cut from the same kind of superior type horse. He's got to go a mile and a half now and they're not going to hand it to us. I'm sure they're going to be coming after us again."
Added Baffert: "I don't see him backing up at all. I expect him to run a better race than he did at Pimlico, and he's going to need to. I feel right now, today, that he's up to task. But he still has to go a mile and a half."
Justify's opportunity for a Triple Crown almost didn't occur, as the horse had to hold off a late charge by Bravazo to win by a half-length at the Preakness May 19. Justify jockeyed for position with Good Magic for much of the race before Good Magic fell off the pace, after which Bravazo and Tenfold gave Justify a scare.
Mike Smith said on GCR
May 22 that he didn't intend to win the Preakness by as little as he did, but the fog that covered Pimlico Race Course meant he couldn't see the fast-approaching horses behind him as the race came to a close.
"I was like everyone else. I was like, 'Well, maybe all this racing's catching up to him. He came in here late.' It was exciting to win the Preakness, but I thought, 'Well, maybe this is it,'" Baffert said. "And then when I got to Mike and he was telling me about [how] he was jumping the puddles and he was doing this. The horse … was blowing a little bit. You could tell he had a race, but he said, 'No, I had a lot left in the tank.' Then I felt, 'Oh, I feel better now.' But the horse, he's had some hard races, but he's recovered really well."
Baffert also commented on the possibility that the Preakness could be on its way out of Baltimore. The Preakness will take place at Pimlico in 2019, but Stronach Group COO Tim Ritvo would prefer
the race to move to Laurel Park
at some point in the future. Stronach Group is the parent company of the Maryland Jockey Club, the owners of the Preakness, Pimlico and Laurel Park. It'd cost between
$248 million and $321 million to renovate
Baffert, who's never been to Laurel Park, suggested building smaller grandstands and emphasizing the infield as part of a renovation of Pimlico. He's long shared an affinity for Baltimore and Pimlico.
"I really love it because the stakes barn, all the horses are there. We get to see all the Preakness horses train right up close," Baffert said. "Just a very welcoming, horseman-friendly type, and after the Derby, everybody's having fun. They're relaxed. The Derby is so intense, you've been working on it, and now you've got the Derby winner. So everybody gets to see the Derby winner and you get to see him up close and the other guys are trying to beat you. It's a fun rivalry. Like in the Derby, everybody's gunning for each other. But now the Belmont … they want to take you down. I don't blame them."
For more from Baffert, listen to the full interview here: