Justify back on track

Triple Crown hopeful returns to dirt for first time since winning Preakness for 1 3/8 mile gallop.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Thursday, May 24, 2018)WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing’s undefeated Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) and Preakness Stakes (GI) winner Justify returned to the track Thursday at Churchill Downs for the first time since returning to Louisville Sunday after his half-length win in the Preakness.

During a special training period from 7:30-7:40 a.m. (all times Eastern) for horses preparing for the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, the June 9 Belmont Stakes (GI), Justify galloped 1 3/8 miles with regular exercise rider Homberto Gomez aboard.

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“We definitely saw what we needed to see,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes said. “He had a good bounce to his step and he was very happy out there. Bob told me to make sure he has a nice and easy first day back galloping. He went about 1 3/8 miles and seemed to enjoy it.”

Justify is following a similar post-Preakness training pattern that Baffert’s previous Triple Crown hopefuls – Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015) – went through. Each of Baffert’s Derby and Preakness winners trained at Churchill Downs before shipping to New York for the Belmont.

“I try not to think too much about the Triple Crown,” Barnes said. “I just try to focus on the next day of training. I’m sure I’ll start thinking about it when we ship to Belmont. My biggest job is to keep Justify happy.”

Baffert is expected to be at Churchill Downs later this weekend, according to Barnes.

Also training Thursday during the special window for Belmont horses were Preakness runner-up Bravazo, who jogged two miles with exercise rider Danielle Rosier aboard for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and Preakness third Tenfold, who galloped about 1 ½ miles with Angel Garcia for fellow Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen.

The Belmont Stakes field could possibly be comprised of the following 11 horses (with trainer): Audible (Todd Pletcher), Bandua (Dermot Weld), Blended Citizen (Doug O’Neill), Bravazo (D. Wayne Lukas), Free Drop Billy (Dale Romans), Gronkowski (Chad Brown), Hofburg (Bill Mott), Justify (Baffert), Restoring Hope (Baffert), Tenfold (Steve Asmussen) and Vino Rosso (Pletcher).

Only 12 horses have swept the Triple Crown: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).

To watch Justify’s return to the track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htzZSnoOe40.


FANS CAN WATCH JUSTIFY TRAIN IN PERSON OR ONLINE – With unbeaten Triple Crown hopeful Justify and four other possible Belmont Stakes contenders stabled on the grounds, Churchill Downs Racetrack is conducting a special 7:30-7:40 a.m. (all times Eastern) training period for those horses.

Area horse racing fans are invited to watch those colts train from the first floor of the facility free of charge. Churchill Downs Racetrack will open its Paddock Gate entrance between 7-8 a.m. each morning through Monday, June 4 so the public can watch Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify along with rivals Bravazo, Free Drop Billy, Restoring Hope and Tenfold prepare for the 1 ½-mile third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown – the 150th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (Grade I) on Saturday, June 9.

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 Downs. Those unable to attend can watch an online live stream of the daily exercises with commentary at www.KentuckyDerby.com/Works from 7:20-7:45 a.m. through Monday, June 4, thanks to TwinSpires.com, the country’s leading online and mobile betting platform and official betting partner of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Also, clips of the activity will be uploaded on the Kentucky Derby YouTube channel.

The special 7:30-7:40 a.m. training period over a freshly-harrowed and congestion-free track will follow the 7-7:30 a.m. renovation break. It will remain in place through Tuesday, June 5 – the date many of the Belmont Stakes contenders will ship to New York. Training hours at Churchill Downs are 5:30-10 a.m. daily.

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Alex Risen joined the ABC 36 News team in October of 2011 as ABC 36’s Weekend Sports Anchor/ Sports Reporter. Alex can also be seen Friday nights co-anchoring the Highschool Highlight Reel. Alex started out in the broadcast business while still in college at the University of Kentucky, heading up the school’s daily student news network as the Sports Director. He made his commercial televsion debut in May of 2011 while at WYMT in Hazard, Kentucky as co-host of a weekly, half-hour high school sports program previewing area schools’ games on Friday nights and as a morning sports anchor. Alex has also spent time as an intern at ESPN in the Statistics and Analysis department, as a production assistant for NBC Sports horse racing and Sunday Night Football productions, and as an intern for WLKY in his hometown of Louisville, KY. Alex graduated from Saint Xavier High School in 2007 and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Kentucky in 2010 where he graduated magna cum laude from the Honors Program. He’s excited to be covering his passion in his home state and make Central Kentucky his home for years to come. Alex can be reached at ARisen@wtvq.com