Baffert to Lo Duca: ‘Justify Is Ready to Go’
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
- Rumors have been swirling that Justify is dealing with an injury heading into the Preakness.
- To get to the bottom of the issue, Paul Lo Duca gave Bob Baffert, Justify’s trainer, a call.
- Baffert told it to him straight: Justify is ready to roll.
At 2:05 p.m. ET on Thursday, my phone rang. It happened to be the white-haired wizard himself, Bob Baffert.
I called Bob earlier in the week to ask about a couple things, but initially wanted to talk to him for my article about winning $40,000 on Point Given at the 2001 Preakness.
I felt so honored when he apologized for not calling me back immediately. We spoke about my piece and then he told me, “I should have two, maybe three, Triple Crowns.”
But before we go down memory lane, we’ve got some news to cover …
‘I’ll See You in New York’
For the past 24 hours, stories have been circulating about the Kentucky Derby winner’s foot. I nonchalantly asked Bob about it, and he was straight up with me. Honestly, he shut me up. He told me it was all gibberish. The horse suffered a bruise and a scratch in the Derby, but Baffert said he’s fine.
I’m not worried at all about Justify. Baffert already admitted the horse was off a little after the Derby, so he put a three-quarter shoe on him so the bruise could heal. This is nothing new for Justify, who has trained in that shoe before; but even so, he’s now working in a full shoe.
If you’re still skeptical, here were Baffert’s closing remarks to me on Thursday: “When I tell you the horse is ready to go, he’s ready to go. I’ll see you in New York.”
Baffert’s biggest concern going into Churchill Downs was the wet track, but now we know Justify does fine in the slop — which is good, because it’s supposed to rain on Saturday at Pimlico. They didn’t do much training on Thursday, but Baffert said the exercise rider reported that the undefeated charger took to the track well and loved the surface.
Back in 1998, Baffert’s horse, Real Quiet, experienced one of the toughest beats in horse racing history when he was run down by Victory Gallop, who was trained by Elliott Walden.
“Isn’t it crazy that he beat me with Victory Gallop and now I’m training horses for him?” Baffert said.
A decorated trainer, Walden decided to hang up his training hat in 2005 to pursue another career. He is now the President and CEO of racing operations for WinStar Farm near Versailles, Kentucky. Guess whose colors crossed the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby? WinStar Farm.
After talking for a little while, it became clear to me that Baffert still has a soft spot in his heart for Point Given. “I still can’t believe he lost the Derby before dominating the Preakness and Belmont like he did. He was the man, and the other horses knew it.”
Which brings me to Justify, another horse in the same vein and the real reason for my call.