Justify arrives at Pimlico to continue Triple Crown quest

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BALTIMORE — Within minutes of their arrival at Pimlico Race Course, Kentucky Derby winner Justify and his trainer circled the stakes barn at a rapid clip.

“He’s going to wear me out!” said Bob Baffert, straining to keep a grip on the strap that kept Justify in check.

Baffert then led Justify to Stall 28, where the chestnut colt finally settled down on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

Preakness Stakes: What Time, Where to Watch and More.

Stall 40, located in the front corner of the stakes barn, is usually reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner. It was there for Baffert if he wanted it, but the white-haired Hall of Fame trainer opted for a cubicle that was far less obtrusive.

“We took it a few” times before, Baffert said. “But it seems to be that the horse isn’t able to relax because it’s right on the corner and you have lookie-loos all day long and they’re snapping the click of the cameras.”

Thus, Stall 28, located midway down shed row.

“It’s quieter, and we want it as quiet as it can be,” Baffert said.

Being at the Preakness is like coming home to Baffert, who won’t shy away from the attention at Churchill Downs but really prefers less of a circus.

“I love this place. It’s my favorite leg of the Triple Crown because it’s a relaxed atmosphere,” Baffert said. “We’re all in here together in the same barn so we get to hang out together. The tension of the Derby is over. We have a Derby winner. It’s a way to celebrate the Derby winner and see who gets the next leg.”

Undefeated in four races, Justify may not have a lot of experience. But he’s got the most important element of a great horse.

“Like that guy we heard on the newsreel about Man o’ War, the essential of a good horse is speed,” Baffert said. “And the main ingredient is more speed, and that’s what he has. We saw that.”

After spending a relaxing week-and-a-half in Louisville following his 2 +-length win over Good Magic in the Derby, Justify was accompanied by Preakness contenders Lone Sailor and Quip on the flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Baffert and the horses then traveled to Pimlico by van with a police escort.

“He shipped really well,” Baffert said. “We just walked the shed row this morning because I didn’t want to do too much with him. It looks like he came off the van in great shape and he’s really full of himself. So I could tell, by the way he was dragging me around there, he’s on his game. That’s what you want to see a few days out.”

Justify will face seven challengers in his bid to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has two entrants, Sporting Chance and Bravazo. He knows Baffert has the horse to beat, but he also knows that doesn’t necessary guarantee victory.

“Bob Baffert and I are very close friends, but I’m going to try every way I can to beat him,” Lukas said. “The only thing that worries me is he’s got the best horse.”

Accelerate early favorite to win Pegasus World Cup

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Accelerate’s big week is here, and it’s off to a start his connections wanted.

Accelerate is the 9-5 early favorite to win Saturday’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup, drawing the No. 5 post in a field of 12 for the race to be run over 1 1/8 miles of dirt at Gulfstream Park. It’ll be the final race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion, who is a mere 1 1/8 miles of Gulfstream Park dirt away from beginning his stud career.

“It’s a good post,” Accelerate trainer John Sadler said. “We didn’t want to be on the outside and we didn’t want to be on the inside. We were hoping for 5 or 6, so we’re very happy with the draw.”

Accelerate was almost certainly going to be the pre-race favorite regardless of what spot in the starting gate he drew. He’s also a finalist for Horse of the Year, the top prize that will be given out when the Eclipse Awards are unveiled at Gulfstream on Thursday night. That trophy figures to come down to either Accelerate or Justify, the now-retired winner of the Triple Crown last year.

“I have nothing but respect for the other horse, obviously,” Sadler said. “He’s an undefeated Triple Crown winner, and I saw him breeze all winter at Santa Anita, my home base, so I’m pretty familiar with him. He’s a great horse. That being said, my horse was a great horse last year.”

And a win on Saturday would only cement Accelerate as an all-time great: If he prevails, Accelerate’s career earnings would place him in the top 10 among all North American thoroughbreds. That’s the perk of the Pegasus, which offered purses of $12 million and $16 million in its first two runnings – and will pay out $16 million again this year, with $7 million of that earmarked for a newly added turf race to the program.

The Pegasus dirt is the richest purse in North America; the Pegasus turf has the richest purse for a grass race in North America.

“It’s good for racing,” said owner Ron Paolucci, who has Imperative in the Pegasus dirt race and Dubby Dubbie in the Pegasus turf. “That’s what I got into it for. And truthfully, it’s very selfish on my part. You win one of these races, it changes your life forever – not only in the racing community but in your financial situation.”

City of Light is the second choice behind Accelerate at 5-2, and Gunnevera – who was second to Accelerate at the Breeders’ Cup Classic – is 8-1 in the morning line. Gunnevera was third in the Pegasus World Cup last year.

Yoshida – a Grade 1 winner in both dirt and turf races – is the morning-line favorite for the Pegasus turf race at 5-2, just ahead of Catapult at 7-2. Yoshida finished last year on dirt, and was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“He’s got a pedigree for both and he’s one of the odd horses that has transitioned from one to the other,” said Bill Mott, who trains Yoshida. “It’s probably debatable whether his dirt races are better than his turf races, and they may well be, but he’s a horse that won very nicely for us in the spring last year on the turf. He’s run with good company, and we weighed our options here and thought that maybe the turf was the spot to go this time.”

Santa Anita cancels racing after heavy rain inundates track

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Santa Anita has canceled its eight-race card because of wet weather after 3+ inches of rain dropped on the Southern California racetrack in three days.

Officials at the track in Arcadia say heavy overnight rains and more rain throughout the day Thursday made it necessary to cancel. They say the track will make every effort to reschedule the races in the immediate future.

Track superintendent Andy LaRocco says an additional 2 inches of rain was forecast for Thursday.

Live racing will resume on Friday with eight races.