Undefeated Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Justify continued his preparations for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the May 19 Preakness Stakes, when he galloped 1 1/2 miles Friday at Churchill Downs.
“He’s back to his normal self,” Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, said of the colt, who was treated for a foot bruise in his left hind leg following his Kentucky Derby score. “He’s feeling good and has a good bounce in his step.”
Among those watching Justify gallop was veterinarian Kevin Dunlavy, who is overseeing Baffert’s veterinary care at Churchill.
“One of the most remarkable things about him is his capacity for recovery respiratory-wise,” Dunlavy said. “He’ll go out and train, it could be a strong gallop, and within minutes he’s completely caught his breath. His recovery seems maybe superior to the average horse.
“I think it was Jimmy who remarked that even in the winner’s circle after the Derby, the horse wasn’t out of breath. He’d run a mile and a quarter like that, and to really catch his breath that quickly, it’s unique. That’s for sure. What makes him maybe a little more elite than another horse ... you have to wonder that, cardiovascular-wise, if he’s not a little superior.”
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, and Head of Plains Partners, Justify was the first horse on the track at 7:30 a.m. ET following the first track maintenance renovation break and had exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard.
“High energy level, feeling very good, had a good bounce in his step, going over the track perfect,” was how Barnes described Justify’s Friday action. “Couldn’t fault anything he’s doing right now. Everything looks great.
“He’s come out of all his races quick. He’s one that on that third day [off], he’s wanting to go back to the track. He tells me in the barn and stall; he gets real pushy and that it’s time to go. He got four days this time, but he’s full of himself out there. He’s happy.”
Baffert is expected to fly into Louisville Sunday night and watch the colt train Monday and Tuesday before Justify ships to Maryland Wednesday.
Justify is joined by four Churchill-based horses under consideration for the Preakness: Kentucky Derby sixth-place finisher Bravazo and Grade 3 Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by LG and E and KU fourth-place finisher Sporting Chance, both trained by D. Wayne Lukas; Derby eighth-place finisher Lone Sailor (Tom Amoss); and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby fifth-place finisher Tenfold (Steve Asmussen).
Bravazo and Sporting Chance went out for a gallop as soon as the track opened at 5:30 a.m. ET Friday. Calumet Farm’s Bravazo and Robert Baker's and William Mack’s Sporting Chance are slated to van to Baltimore Monday, with Lukas estimating an arrival time at Pimlico of 5 p.m. ET.
Lone Soldier and Tenfold also had routine gallops at Churchill Downs.
Quip had enough points to get into the Derby but was withheld in order to give him extra time before the Preakness. WinStar Farm and China Horse Club share ownership in both Quip and Justify. The colt is scheduled to work early Sunday morning at Keeneland with Brisset aboard. Florent Geroux has the Preakness mount.
Trainer Dallas Stewart reported Friday morning that Pat Day Mile third-place finisher Givemeaminit will bypass the Preakness and target the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes on the June 9 Belmont Stakes undercard at Belmont Park. Trainer Chad Brown said he plans to make a decision Monday on whether Derby runner-up Good Magic will contest the Preakness.
Should Good Magic run in the Preakness, he could become the eighth champion 2-year-old male to win the race since the advent of the Eclipse Awards in 1971. 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah is the most recent juvenile champ to win the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.