by Scott Shapiro
Comparing great horses to each other is something that racing fans have always loved to do. Who was better, Secretariat or Spectacular Bid? Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta? These are the some of the comparisons I hear most.
With Justify’s accomplishments over the past few months, most racing fans believe he deserves to at least be in the discussion among the best three-year-olds so far this century. From there opinions differ.
As always, some folks question who he beat or the way in which he won and want to see more, while others have been blown away with how much he has done so quickly.
I was fortunate enough to discuss a few of these things with two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert. Here’s a summary of his thoughts:
Baffert was quick to point out his top three horses. He put Justify up there with 2015 “Grand Slam” winner American Pharoah as well as 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate. He said the trio had a God-given ability that could not be taught. If they ran in a mile and an eighth race, Baffert thinks they would have taken turns beating each other.
Baffert also said Midnight Lute had the same type of brilliance, but a breathing issue did not allow him to stretch the 2007 champion sprinter out to two turns like he wish he could have. The son of Real Quiet still had a great career, winning back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Sprints in 2007 and 2008.
Point Given was a great horse and one that I loved, but Baffert said he was not on this level in large part due to his lack of speed.
I asked Baffert if it was possible to compare his top horses with any of the greats from the second half of the 20th century. He was quick to respond with Seattle Slew. It was the 1977 Triple Crown winner’s “speed and more speed,” and the way he trained, that Baffert was most impressed with.
While many consider Secretariat the best horse dating back to the 1970s, Baffert said he was a different type. Secretariat was built differently, making it tough to compare him with Baffert’s best.
Given the historical discussion, I asked Baffert how much Justify’s legacy will come into play when the connections make decisions over the next several months. He said it will not play much of a role since he is probably the best horse he has ever laid eyes on and given how fast he is. The combination of quickness and the ability to carry that speed a route of ground is what will define him long after he is finished competing on the racetrack.
When I inquired whether he had learned anything from the American Pharoah experience that he will apply over the rest of Justify’s racing career, the five-time Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner said it was to just keep training the son of Scat Daddy. If he made sure he was healthy and he was truly great, he would continue to win.
At the end of our conversation, Baffert expressed how much of a fan he was of Brisnet’s figures, especially Prime Power. He declared that when he saw the Prime Power number Justify had (160.8) compared to the rest of the field in the Belmont Stakes (Vino Rosso was second at 147.3), he knew he was in great shape. Always great to hear the praise for BRIS!
Thank you to Bob Baffert for his time. I really enjoyed our chat.