Can Justify’s Triple-Crown train be stopped?

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By Shawn Rychling


One thing that was evident in watching the Kentucky Derby preps this spring was that this current crop of 3-year-olds was in desperate need of some star power.  There seemed to be very little depth among this year’s contenders except in the area of mediocrity — of which this group of sophomores had plenty.


Then along came Justify, trained by Bob Baffert. Unraced as a 2-year-old and not even debuting until Feb. 18 of this year — a 9-length rout in an MSW race at Santa Anita — he was making just his fourth career start in the Derby two weeks ago at Churchill Downs. Was it possible Justify could snap the 136-year jinx of Apollo, the last horse to win the Derby without the benefit of a race as a 2-year-old?


Well, Baffert and Justify answered that question with a resounding YES!


The star colt ran a quarter mile in 22.24 and a half in 45.77 over the sloppy Churchill track. Jockey Mike Smith nudged him into the lead at the half-mile pole and he never looked back. Good Magic tried to make a run at him, but Justify toyed with him and expanded the lead. The final time wasn’t all that fast, but that only works to preserve some energy for the Preakness.


And so that brings us to Baltimore and the second jewel of the Triple Crown.  After watching Justify’s performance in Louisville many observers think the Triple Crown is in the bag if he runs his race. In fact, many horsemen — judging by their skipping of the Preakness — seem to think the same thing. Among the close finishers in Louisville, only Good Magic, runnerup in the Derby, has made the trip to Pimlico.


Here is a look at the Preakness field:


1-Quip (12-1 morning line): Tampa Bay Derby winner skipped the Derby after running second to Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby. This horse has taken a big step forward as a 3-year-old and will make third start off a layoff here.  May be the place to go if you are trying to beat the favorite.


2-Lone Sailor (15-1): May have had some traffic troubles in 20-horse Derby stampede.  Will have room to run among only seven rivals in Baltimore and forward move off La. Derby makes this one a contender at least for minor awards.  A Derby start usually portends to success in Baltimore vs. new shooters so this one may be viable underneath in exotics.  Has 2 starts and a win over a wet track.


3-Sporting Chance (30-1): Has been training better than he has raced which is interesting. Must note reports I read that he refused to work earlier this week. Never heard of that before. Lukas may like his other entrant better.


4-Diamond King (30-1): Got automatic berth (is this the NCAA tourney?) to the Preakness with win in local prep and Servis is one of the top trainers in the country last 2 years. But the speed figures just don’t stack up to others.


5-Good Magic (3-1): Odds seem like a big underlay with Derby results in mind. Must be considered for exotics, but can you really see this one beating Justify this time around?


6-Tenfold (20-1): Speed figure went in the right direction in Arkansas Derby, but still finished behind several horses that Justify whipped in Louisville.


7-Justify (1-2): Almost impossible to bet against this horse off his performance in the Kentucky Derby. Gets same post which will allow him to stay in 2 or 3-path and avoid mud in his face and after a quick pace he has to run 1/16th less in distance this time.  There may be trouble waiting for him at Belmont Park in three weeks, but we don’t see much this time. However, odds-on in this race after just four career starts invites us to take a shot to beat him just for the sake of it.  But figure this one is no worse than second.


8-Bravazo (20-1): The better half of the Lukas contingent, and he didn’t run all that badly in the Derby. It’s always interesting to see what a horse can do running back in a smaller field.  That said, he will need a big improvement over his career best to get better than third.


As for a betting strategy, do I think Justify is going to win?  YES.  Maybe easily. But how do we play a 1-2 favorite to get the second jewel of the Triple Crown in just his fifth career race.


If Justify is going to get beat, we are going to put our faith in Quip who gets the good post for his style and should be able to send from the gate and get good inside position either on the lead or just behind Justify. Quip figures to fire his best shot in third race off a layoff and in this case the extra two weeks since the Arkansas Derby likely helps this one.


The key is to play trifectas and superfectas with Quip on top and Justify mainly for second.  Our tickets will look like this.


$5 trifecta  1/5-7/7-5  (this give us the two favorites in 2nd or 3rd and we press the tri:


$1 trifecta  1/7/ALL


$1 tri box 1/5/7


50-cent trifecta 1/ALL/7


10-cent super 1/5-7/5-7/ALL   and  1/5-7/ALL/5-7


Good luck and then on to Belmont.


Hot List picks and analysis for Belmont Park are available on the MyWinners site.