Two classics in the books and one to go, and what a finale is in store thanks to Justify winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 14 days’ time.
Like those of us on hand for the first two jewels, Justify and his connections will be thankful for the three-week break between the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. The grind can be a long one, especially when a wet track is involved. And this year’s spring classics bring new definition to the phrase “mud season,” which we thought was restricted to people trying to bring children to sporting events or hikers looking to take advantage of the nice weather and trek up a mountain.
Big crowds turned out for the first two classics and another will no doubt be on hand come June 9 at Belmont Park. All eyes will of course be on Justify, to see if he can become the 13th Triple Crown winner and the second in four years.
Our team was on hand over the weekend at Pimlico and they finally dried out by Monday afternoon – we think – so what better way to celebrate than another edition of The Monday Special. Enjoy and see you at Belmont.
“I’d love to put a Western saddle on him and ride him in the Rose Parade if they let me.”
Trainer Bob Baffert on Justify
“We know what we have to deal with, we’ve been here before, in the big arena, we know what we have to deal with. The main thing is we listen to the horse. He’ll let us know how much it took out of him. He’s run on two tough tracks. Today it was getting slippery, drying out.”
Baffert on the rigors of the Triple Crown series
“Not on the lead.”
Chad Brown when asked where he wanted Good Magic positioned early in the Preakness
“Oh man, it’s going to be a match race from this point on.”
Mike Smith on his thoughts entering the backstretch alongside Good Magic
“Today the race is like my longest race in my life.”
China Horse Club’s Teo Ah Khing about the difficulty watching the Preakness in the fog
“I don’t think he took the heat from them, I thought he ran a great race, won the race fair and square. We took the head on the inside.”
Brown on Justify and Good Magic
“Nowadays there’s so much transparency. We live in a world of social media, so it makes it even tougher on us training these horses.”
“What I saw of it I liked a lot.”
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Preakness runner-up Bravazo
“It’s nice to be here always, no matter the weather.”
Trainer Al Stall Jr. before sending out Curly’s Rocket in the Chick Lang
“Races don’t knock him out … he’ll eat everything tonight.”
Baffert on Justify
By the Numbers
2: Loud-mouthed inebriated female patrons walking through the barn area giving horsemen a hard time while they loaded horses on a van.
4: Stakes wins over Preakness Weekend for Steve Asmussen – Saturday’s Chick Lang with Mitole, Grade 3 Maryland Sprint with Switzerland and James W. Murphy with Tap Daddy and Friday’s Skipat with Vertical Oak.
$4.67: Average win payoff for the 14-race Preakness Day card that featured 10 winning post-time favorites.
7: Preakness victories for Bob Baffert – Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Point Given, War Emblem, Lookin At Lucky, American Pharoah and Justify – and tied for most all-time with Robert Wyndham “R.W.” Walden.
$7.80: Largest win payoff of Preakness Day.
$41.04: Winning payoff for the 20-cent Preakness Day pick six.
82: Points accumulated by Steve Asmussen to earn a $50,000 bonus through the Maryland Jockey Club’s bonus program offered to trainers for participation in stakes over Preakness Weekend at Pimlico.
48,265: Attendance for Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day card at Pimlico.
90,000: Announced attendance cap by the New York Racing Association for the Belmont Stakes June 9.
134,487: Attendance for Saturday’s Preakness Day card at Pimlico, third largest behind last year’s record 140,237 and the 135,256 in 2016.
$93,655,128: Total handle for Preakness Day, third best all time.
Ricky Hendriks continued his strong spring campaign at Saturday’s 88th Radnor Hunt Races, winning the featured Grade 3 National Hunt Cup and a $25,000 ratings hurdle.
Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul provided the victory in the $50,000 National Hunt Cup, taking the lead on the final turn and powering to a 10 3/4-length win under Ross Geraghty. Off since finishing 10th in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at last year’s Far Hills Steeplechasae, the 6-year-old son of Perfect Soul improved to 4-for-11 over jumps. Surprising Soul won the Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle at the 2017 Iroquois Steeplechase meeting.
Hendriks scored his second win in the next race when Rosbrian Farm’s Cheers To Us powered to a 17-length win in the $25,000 James M. Moran Jr. ratings hurdle under Geraghty.
The two victories give Hendriks 10 on the season, one back of leader Jonathan Sheppard and the purses earned at Radnor put him at $336,650 on the season, tops among all trainers.
Jack Fisher is second on the money list and added a victory when Woodslane Farm’s Pik Em won the finale, a $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle under Willie McCarthy.
Jockey Jack Doyle leads the rider standings with 12 victories – three more than Darren Nagel – after riding Robert Kinsley’s Unsinkable to victory for trainer Elizabeth Voss in the $35,000 Thompson Memorial allowance hurdle. Nagle won the $30,000 Radnor Hunt Cup timber aboard Irv Naylor’s Top Man Michael for trainer Cyril Murphy.
The other winner on the day was Colvin Ryan’s Hoppala in the $30,000 Milfern Cup maiden hurdle for trainer Julie Gomena and jockey Shane Crimin.
One final meeting remains in the spring season – the Fair Hill Races Saturday in Maryland.
The chalk fest that was Pimlico Saturday certainly helped our handicappers’ statistics. Each of our five handicappers picked Justify and collectively came up with a winner for each of the eight stakes run Saturday.
The Saratoga Special’s John Shapazian – surprise, surprise – led the way Saturday with seven winners. John’s only miss of the day came in the first stakes, the James W. Murphy, and after that he picked Fire Away in the Dixie, Mitole in the Chick Lang, Ultra Brat in the Gallorette, Switzerland in the Maryland Sprint, Girls Know Best in The Very One, Ax Man in the Sir Barton and Justify in the Preakness.
John picked one winner Friday – Imprimis in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint – and leads our band of five with 14 wins.
Joe is second with 11 wins after picking six winners (Tap Daddy in the Murphy, Fire Away, Mitole, Switzerland, Ax Man and Justify).
John Cox moved into third with eight wins after five on the Preakness Day card (Fire Away, Mitole, Switzerland, Ax Man and Justify), while Tom is fourth with seven and Sean trails with six.