JUSTIFY captured both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) over sloppy tracks, and on Sunday morning the Bob Baffert pupil faced a muddy surface at Churchill Downs while preparing for the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, the 150th edition of the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 9.
Thunderstorms in the early morning hours left a muddy track at Churchill Downs when the Scat Daddy chestnut headed out for his daily exercise. With regular exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard, Justify jogged and then, instead of backtracking like usual, went into a gallop under the Twin Spires.
“With the mud, we just jogged him straight off to begin his training,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “He then galloped about 1 1/8 miles but did everything well. We just didn’t want to do too much with him over the track condition.
“He’s very good on a dry track as well but unfortunately we’ve just been catching wet surfaces,” Barnes added in regards to the colt’s past two starts. “I’ve seen him run on a dry surface and I definitely like what I saw.”
Stablemate and Wood Memorial (G2) third-placer RESTORING HOPE also had an easy gallop over the wet surface on Sunday. The dark bay son of Giant’s Causeway is under consideration for the Belmont Stakes.
“It’s just what we do in the mud. We do less in the mud,” Barnes said.
Baffert is scheduled to arrive at Churchill on Monday to watch his two colts train.
BRAVAZO and TENFOLD, the respective second and third-place runners in the Preakness Stakes, also took to Churchill’s track during the special 7:30-7:40 a.m. training period reserved for horses pointing to the Belmont Stakes.
Bravazo and exercise rider Danielle Rosier jogged two miles while Tenfold galloped 1 3/8 miles under Angel Garcia.
FREE DROP BILLY, also based at Churchill, galloped on Sunday morning. The off-track saw the Dale Romans trainee’s scheduled Sunday breeze moved to Monday, after which his connections will decide whether or not to enter the Grade 1-winning son of Union Rags in the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
Thus far, the following 11 horses are under consideration for the Belmont Stakes: BANDUA, BLENDED CITIZEN, Bravazo, Free Drop Billy, GRONKOWSKI, HOFBURG, Justify, NOBLE INDY, Restoring Hope, Tenfold and VINO ROSSO.
Racing fans can watch Derby winner Justify and his fellow Belmont hopefuls training during the special period at Churchill from the first floor of the facility free of charge. The track will open its Paddock Gate entrance between 7-8 a.m. each morning through June 4. Guests may park free of charge in the Orange and Black Lots outside of the Paddock Gate.
Video of the exercises will be shown on the Big Board and infield video screens at Churchill, and those unable to attend can watch an online live stream of the daily exercises with commentary at KentuckyDerby.com/Works from 7:20-7:45 a.m. through June 4, thanks to TwinSpires.com.