Justify, the undefeated Kentucky Derby winner, will run out of the No7 post in Saturday’s 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes and is a better than even money favourite to win the middle jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
The chestnut colt trained by Bob Baffert was installed as the 1-2 morning-line favorite at Wednesday’s draw at Pimlico Race Course, a short price that elicited a nervous smile from the Hall of Fame trainer.
“You’re putting some added pressure on all of us,” Baffert said.
The eight-horse field matches the 2015 race, when American Pharoah memorably romped to a seven-length win in the slop, as the smallest since 2000. The last time fewer than eight ran in the Preakness was Show Chief’s win in 1986.
Only three of the seven challengers to Justify in Saturday’s race also ran a week and a half ago at Churchill Downs. The most likely spoiler is second choice Good Magic, the Kentucky Derby runner-up who opens at 3-1.
Justify ended a 136-year-old hoodoo at the Kentucky Derby with his fourth victory in four starts, becoming the first horse to win the Run for the Roses having not raced as a two-year-old since 1882. He is aiming to become the only undefeated Triple Crown winner after Seattle Slew in 1977.
Weather forecasts call for rain in the Baltimore area every day from Wednesday through Saturday, increasing the likelihood of a sloppy track not unlike the conditions at the Derby. That didn’t appear to concern the trainer.
“He’s run on two wet tracks and he’s won on them,” Baffert said. “Ideally we want a beautiful day so everyone can enjoy what a great spectacle the Preakness is.”
Two of Baffert’s six career Preakness winners also started from the seven post: Silver Charm in 1997 and Lookin at Lucky in 2010. The Hall of Fame trainer has never lost the Triple Crown’s middle leg after winning the Derby, going a perfect four-for-four with Silver Charm, Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015).
Earlier Wednesday, Justify arrived at Pimlico Race Course after flying into Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport from Louisville.
“It went really smooth, no hiccups,” Baffert said. “We were a little bit worried last night because the plane was delayed, but the horse shipped well. He was full of himself when he got off the van.”
The full slate of post positions and morning-line odds was revealed on Wednesday afternoon: No1 Quip (12-1), No2 Lone Sailor (15-1), No3 Sporting Chance (30-1), No4 Diamond King (30-1), No5 Good Magic (3-1), No6 Tenfold (20-1), No7 Justify (1-2) and No8 Bravazo (20-1).
The post time for the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes is 11.20pm.