BALTIMORE — The day regarded a lot the identical. There have been wastebaskets catching rainwater seeping by the ceiling, cardboard and wooden chips and carpets meant to absorb days of dampness at Pimlico Race Course. The monitor resembled peanut butter, not filth, and the fog rolled in as if on cue, producing a thick white curtain because the horses loaded the gate, leaving the race caller to depend on tv displays, relatively than what he might see along with his personal eyes.
The followers, in rain boots and parkas, weren’t deterred by the dreadful circumstances: They needed to witness the second act of what they hoped would quickly grow to be horse racing lore.
This was not 2015, when the Bob Baffert-trained American Pharoah went to the lead of the Preakness Stakes and stayed there, profitable by seven lengths to seize the second jewel of the Triple Crown in a storybook run that culminated in his changing into the primary winner in 37 years.
On Saturday, it was Justify, additionally educated by Baffert, who went to the lead, however he was quickly challenged by Good Magic, a lot in order that their battle resembled a match race going into the stretch. However Justify shook free, then held on to defeat Bravazo by a half-length within the 143rd Preakness and arrange a shot on the Triple Crown on the Belmont Stakes in New York in three weeks.
“Not even the fog might cease him,” the race caller, Larry Collmus, exclaimed as Justify crossed the end line for his fifth victory in 5 tries and his third on a moist monitor.
With Mike Smith aboard, Justify accomplished the mile and three-sixteenths in 1 minute 55.93 seconds and rewarded his mud-caked backers with $2.80 on a $2 guess to win. Tenfold completed third, whereas Good Magic pale to fourth.
“It was like we had our personal non-public match race and somebody needed to give — I’m simply glad it wasn’t us,” mentioned Baffert, who added that the exhilarating victory took extra out of him than it in all probability did out of Justify. “I’m simply glad that everybody received to see an ideal horse race.”
Afterward, Smith acknowledged that Justify, the colt with the right document in typically imperfect circumstances, was a bit of drained. “A great type of drained,” he mentioned.
In 5 tries, Baffert has by no means misplaced the Preakness with a Derby winner. In truth, Justify’s victory tied him with R. Wyndham Walden, who gained seven editions within the 1800s, together with 5 straight, for probably the most Preakness wins. He additionally earned a document 14th victory in a Triple Crown race. A race earlier, a Baffert-trained horse ridden by Smith, Ax Man, gained by six and three-quarter lengths, maybe foretelling what was about to occur subsequent.
There was no query that Justify might deal with the slop — he made it look straightforward amid a gradual and driving rain on the primary Saturday in Might, when he grew to become the primary horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby with out having competed as a 2-year-old.
And Saturday’s circumstances appeared excellent for a repeat efficiency. “We in all probability cleaned out, I believe, your entire state when it comes to rain boots and ponchos,” mentioned Belinda Stronach, the chairwoman and president of the Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico.
Nonetheless, Justify was no certain factor. That is horse racing, which has a method of spoiling even the rowdiest of events.
The morning after the Derby, Baffert introduced Justify out of his barn for a victory lap, however the horse appeared agitated and unable to place a lot weight on his left hind leg. Baffert didn’t discover something improper on the time, however when movies of the looks have been posted on social media, hypothesis swirled that Justify may be lame.
Baffert later mentioned that Justify was coping with “scratches,” a pores and skin irritation that’s widespread amongst horses who’ve encountered moist surfaces. However when Kentucky Horse Racing Fee veterinarians examined Justify two days later, they discovered no signal of a rash, as an alternative saying he had a bruised heel.
After a couple of extra days of relaxation and leisure, Justify returned to the monitor trying like his previous self. Earlier than he left Kentucky for Baltimore, he was re-shod and an adhesive reinforcement was positioned on his left hind hoof. Baffert mentioned he was assured that Justify was prepared.
Baffert made good on his promise Saturday as Justify regarded no worse for put on whereas warding off his competitors in entrance of an introduced crowd of 134,487, greater than the 131,680 who watched American Pharoah.
Justify breathes the identical air as American Pharoah, Baffert boasted all week. Afterward, he felt the identical. “Unbelievable,” Baffert stored repeating.
On a day that started with a royal wedding ceremony, Justify certain appeared worthy of a Triple Crown coronation in three weeks’ time. All that’s left is another race and another victory to land him among the many titans of the game of kings.