SNIDER: It's hard to Justify beating him in Preakness

Rick Snider
May 07, 2018 - 11:40 am
Justify_Kentucky_Derby

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Justify may be the next wonder horse. After his impressive Kentucky Derby victory that brought comparisons to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, it seems Justify has scared away competitors in the Preakness Stakes.

Only one Derby loser – sixth-place finisher Bravazo – is committed to the Baltimore race on May 19. That’s the list. Of course, there are a few small stakes winners who will also enter, but the starting gate of 14 will be pressed to be half filled.

Not that Justify can't be beaten. Several Derby losers will freshen up for the Belmont Stakes on June 9, but by then Justify may already be a double crown winner.

Pimlico Race Course is built for early speed. The 1 3/16-mile Preakness is 1/16-mile shorter than the Derby and rewards front-runners. Trainer Bob Baffert goes for his record-tying seventh Preakness victory. He knows the roadmap to victory – have jockey Mike Smith send Justify to the front and not look back.

On the wettest Derby day ever with three inches of rain soaking the course, Justify ran mind-boggling early fractions, covering the opening half-mile in 45.77 seconds. Traditionally, that would leave him with nothing for the stretch run and fade away. Instead, Justify maintained his 2 ½-length lead at the top of the stretch while never challenged. While the other horses were covered in mud, Justify was clean.

It was a legitimate win as the favorite. Justify is now 4-0 lifetime and has rarely not been first in any part of his races. That trend will surely continue in the Preakness, barring a physical setback, and racing will once more reach the final leg hoping Justify can earn the Triple Crown.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks