Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner JUSTIFY took another day off on Wednesday, his fourth since capturing the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico on May 19, before he begins gearing up for the 150th Belmont Stakes (G1) and a shot at Triple Crown glory.
“We came out of the race in great shape, head back to the track tomorrow,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “With the ship, we gave him an extra day, the four days and look forward to going back to the track (Thursday).”
Only one day after his Preakness score, Justify was already bedded back down at Churchill Downs, where he will train up to the Belmont Stakes. Churchill has designated a special 7:30-7:40 a.m. (ET) training period restricted to horses pointing for the third jewel of the Triple Crown. Also stabled at the track to ready for the Belmont are Preakness third-placer Tenfold and Grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy.
According to Barnes, Justify hasn’t lost a step, or his appetite, through the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
“He’s a chowhound, he eats up everything,” Barnes said. “Couldn’t be happier with his weight, his flesh, his color. Everything is great on him.”
Justify is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners. The Bob Baffert trainee sported the WinStar Farm silks during the Derby and Preakness but jockey Mike Smith will wear the China Horse Club’s red silks with yellow stars and sleeves in the Belmont.
Once Justify arrives at Belmont Park, he’ll take up residence in trainer John Terranova’s shedrow the same way American Pharoah did before his successful Triple Crown sweep in 2015. Terranova and his wife, Tonja, often house Baffert’s top horses when they compete on the New York Racing Association (NYRA) circuit.
“We’re ready to roll,” said Tonja Terranova, who served as an assistant to Baffert in California before moving east. “Jimmy said (Justify’s) doing good, got to Churchill in good shape, so now we just sit and wait.
“It’s not (stressful). They come in and we all work together. We help them whenever they need it. No one bats an eye.”
“It’s nice to get to be around those kinds of horses,” John Terranova added. “They’re so rare. It would be great to do it again.”
The couple plan on following the same protocol as they did in 2015 with American Pharoah, stabling Justify on the northern end of the barn, but whether he resides in Stall 30 like the recent Triple Crown winner is yet to be determined.
“It’s a quiet corner back there,” Tonja Terranova said. “You can rope it off and people can’t get to him. No one’s peering through the windows. More than likely, that’s where he’s going to go. I don’t know which stall. I haven’t talked to Jimmy about it yet. Once we talk to him, we’ll figure where we’re going to put him and stuff. It’ll be fun. We can’t wait.”
Grade 2 scorer BRAVAZO, a half-length second in the Preakness, is following a similar schedule as Justify, walking the Churchill shedrow on Wednesday with plans to return to the track on Thursday during the special training period.
The colt’s Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, expects the Belmont Stakes to be better than this year’s Kentucky Derby.
“Here’s why: It’s got a smaller field, bigger racetrack and it’s got all the major players,” Lukas said. “Why would you not call it a better race? It’s going to be more fair, more honest, more demanding. It’s got all the Hall of Fame trainers. All the quality is there. The racetrack. The three-week break. What’s not to like? It’s a better race. Twenty head over here (in the Kentucky Derby), some don’t belong, stopping, starting. (The Belmont) is the best race. Whoever wins that should go to the top of the class, the leaderboard.”
Bravazo exited the Preakness in good order and “was all over the barn” while walking, according to Lukas. “I should have taken him” to the track. I watched him here for about five minutes and said (to the hotwalker) ‘be careful.’ He’s on his game.”
TENFOLD just missed second in the Preakness by a neck while third by that same margin over champion Good Magic. While that latter runner is not returning for the Belmont, Tenfold will line up for another shot at Justify and Bravazo.
Tenfold jogged at Churchill Downs Wednesday and will gallop during the special training period on Thursday, according to trainer Steven Asmussen.
“I think we’re just getting to where we’re wanting to be with him,” Asmussen said. “He came out of it well physically, gave him a little jog this morning and he was as comfortable as he always is.
“We expect to run,” he said of the Belmont. “All indications here are go. I was very anxious to be here this morning when he went back to the track and I loved how he looked. It’s going to be a very exciting 2 1/2 weeks, and it sure feels like we’re going to get to play.”
FREE DROP BILLY skipped the Preakness after running 16th in the Kentucky Derby, but is back for a possible shot at the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Dale Romans indicated his charge is “possible” for the third jewel of the Triple Crown with the $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) going 1 1/4 miles on the turf July 7 another option.
“His brother is one of the best turf horses in the world,” said Romans, adding that the race decision will be “gut instinct” and how Free Drop Billy is doing.