Half the horses in Preakness field get first shot at Justify

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BALTIMORE — Half the participants in the eight-horse Preakness field have yet to experience the sensation of chasing Justify to the finish line.

Perhaps one of the new shooters in Saturday’s race can find a way to leave the Kentucky Derby winner in his wake.

Preakness Stakes: What Time, Where to Watch and More

Quip, Sporting Chance, Diamond King and Tenfold skipped the Derby to focus on earning a chunk of the $1.5 million Preakness purse.

History just might be on their side.

A new shooter – a horse which runs in one of the two remaining Triple Crown races after passing up the Derby – has won the Preakness four times since 2000. Just last year, Cloud Computing paid $13.40 in an upset over Derby winner Always Dreaming.

Then again…

“Derby runners have done well over the course of time,” insisted W. Elliott Walden, president and CEO of racing operations for WinStar Farm, which owns Justify and Quip. “Now is it because they’re the better horses? Quite possibly that’s the case. They’re just the best horses of the crop and that’s why they run in the Kentucky Derby.”

The finest of the newcomers this year appears to be Quip, who has three wins and a second-place showing in five career races.

“He’s a really good horse. He’s fast,” Justify trainer Bob Baffert said of Quip.

Trained by Rodolphe Brisset and ridden by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Florent Geroux, Quip captured the Tampa Derby in March before finishing second in the Arkansas Derby.

While unbeaten Justify comes in with just two weeks’ rest – the quickest turnaround of his career – Quip enters the Preakness coming off an extended break.

“Quip is a horse that has shown quality at the highest level,” Walden said. “We feel like he could have run in the Kentucky Derby, but we wanted to give him a chance to catch up to himself. He’s a slight-made horse we felt like would do better with the five weeks rest.”

Quip had a pair of wins last year before staggering to a seventh-place showing in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November.

In retrospect, that might have been a turning point.

“He’s changed a lot,” Brisset said. “After the Kentucky Jockey Club, we gave him a couple of weeks off and you could see the maturation. You still have to be a little careful when he’s around too many horses, but he’s way more professional.”

Well, Quip -the third choice at 12-1 – will have only seven other horses to contend with on Saturday. Two of them will be saddled by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Lukas brings back Bravazo, who finished sixth in the Derby, along with Sporting Chance.

Unlike the rest of the first-time Triple Crown participants, Sporting Chance is no fresher than the Derby horses. Sporting Chance (30-1) also ran at Churchill Downs on May 5, taking fourth in the Pat Day Mile.

Asked to assess the chances of both his entrants Saturday, Lukas shrugged his shoulders and saluted Justify’s impressive performance at the Derby.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence if he runs that same race. Let’s be honest, at 82 you get more realistic,” Lukas said. “If he’s the best horse, so be it. We’ll throw the bouquets his way and salute him as a second-leg winner and go on to the Belmont. But we’ll try to get the best piece of this we can.”

Tenfold (20-1) began racing this year. Sired by 2007 Preakness winner Curlin, the dark brown colt won his first two races before fading to third in the Arkansas Derby last month.

“We have a fresh horse; he’s put on weight since the Arkansas Derby and he’s trained really well at Churchill Downs,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “The timing is good for us for this race.”

If the track is soggy, that would be even better. Curlin earned 2007 Horse of the Year honors after slogging to victory in the muddy Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“With all this wet weather, him being a Curlin, he steps up with the sloppy track and moves forward,” Blasi said.

Trained by John Servis, Diamond King (30-1) won the Federico Tesio Stakes at nearby Laurel Park in April. While Diamond King probably doesn’t have the speed and stamina of Justify, he does trainer who won the Kentucky Derby and jockey Javier Castellano, who guided Cloud Computing to victory at last year’s Preakness.

“We’ve got a top jockey and the horse is doing really well,” co-owner Chuck Zacney said.

Baffert has already beaten three of the horses in the field. Though he’s never faced the others, they certainly have grabbed his attention.

“You’ve got new shooters,” Baffert said. “John Servis didn’t come for the crab cakes. Then you’ve got Quip. And Wayne? You can’t count Wayne Lukas out. That’s when he does the most damage, when nobody’s talking about him, he’s under the radar. He still knows his horses and he’s up here for a reason.”

Code of Honor wins Travers Stakes

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) Trainer Shug McGaughey walked into Saratoga Race Course stoked for the 150th running of the Travers Stakes. Code of Honor validated those feelings.

Code of Honor won a stretch duel with Tacitus and Mucho Gusto, holding off hard-luck Tacitus by three lengths to win the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Saturday.

“I’ve been really excited all week, I’ve been excited about the way the horse was doing,” McGaughey said after his fourth win in the race and first in 21 years. “When he worked here on Monday, it was something to see. I wasn’t nervous. I was ready to get it on. Today, he put it all together.”

With jockey John Velazquez aboard, the chestnut son of Noble Mission covered the 1\ miles in 2 minutes, 1.05 seconds and paid $10.80, $5.20 and $3.80 on a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s. The colt now has four wins, two seconds and a third in eight starts and nearly $2 million in earnings.

Tacitus paid $3.70 and $2.80, and Mucho Gusto returned $3.80.

Code of Honor won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream in February and was third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby to set up a strong run in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished third before being moved to second when winner Maximum Security was disqualified for interference.

“I never had any doubts about distance as a problem, just him putting his mind to running,” Velazquez said. “When I got him out in the clear, he responded right away.”

Code of Honor was the second choice in the Travers at 4-1 after an impressive victory in the Dwyer at Belmont Park in his previous start in early July. Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus was the 5-2 morning line favorite.

Tacitus, wearing blinkers for the first time, had the lead in the back stretch before Mucho Gusto moved alongside at the half-mile pole and edged in front. At the top of the stretch they were challenged by Code of Honor, Owendale and Tax before Code of Honor slid past on the outside for the win.

Endorsed was fourth, followed by Owendale in fifth.

Tacitus trainer Bill Mott was looking for a breakout race for his gray colt, which stumbled out of the gate and nearly fell in finishing second to Tax in the Jim Dandy Stakes in July, a traditional prep race at Saratoga for the Travers. Instead, he finished second for the third straight time.

“Our horse was just there,” Mott said. “I had one eye on the winner and one eye on mine. It looked like there was a good chance we were going to outduel Mucho Gusto, but the winner, he rolled by pretty fast.”

The race was delayed for about five minutes while crews took down signs on the inner turf course after jockeys raised concerns the billboards might distract the horses.

“That was one thing I didn’t have to worry about,” McGaughey said with a chuckle.

McGaughey’s other wins in the Travers came with Coronado’s Quest in 1998, Rhythm in 1990, and Easy Goer in 1989. He said he wasn’t sure where Code of Honor would race next, as the Pennsylvania Derby looms in a month.

The 13-race card also featured five other Grade 1 stakes: Favored Mitole won the 40th running of the $600,000 Forego, taking the lead from pace-setting Promises Fulfilled and pulling away down the stretch from Firenze Fire by 3 + lengths for his fifth win in six starts this year and ninth overall in 12 starts for trainer Steve Asmussen; Come Dancing rallied from a slow start and powered to the front from the outside entering the stretch and captured the 41st running of the $500,000 Ballerina by 3 + lengths over Dawn the Destroyer; Mind Control, with Velazquez aboard, took the 35th running of the $500,000 Allen Jerkens, winning a stirring duel by a nose over Hog Creek Hustle and favored Shancelot, who was overtaken at the wire after gaining a two-length lead down the stretch; Midnight Bisou used a late charge to edge Elate by a nose at the wire and win the 72nd running of the $700,000 Personal Ensign; and Annals of Time, trained by Chad Brown, barely held off Sadler’s Joy to take the 45th running of the $850,000 Sword Dancer, a 1 +-mile test on the turf.

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Higher Power wins $1M Pacific Classic

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DEL MAR, Calif. — With his top two horses elsewhere, John Sadler took a chance with a couple others in his barn.

Higher Power paid off.

The 4-year-old colt took command turning into the stretch and won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 5 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Saturday, making Sadler the first trainer to win the Grade 1 race in consecutive years with different horses.

“The second time is just as sweet,” Sadler said.

In 2018, Accelerate ended Sadler’s 0-for-11 skid with a record 12 1/2-length victory in the West’s biggest race of the summer. Owner-brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis joined Sadler with consecutive victories.

“Winning it back to back is a tribute to John Sadler,” Kosta Hronis said.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Higher Power ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.43 at the seaside track north of San Diego. Sent off at 9-1 odds, the colt paid $21.20, $9.40 and $7.40.

“When we entered the backside he really grabbed the bit and I was travelling really well,” Prat said. “Once the leader fell apart he really jumped into the bridle and did everything on his own, so I thought that was the right move.”

Draft Pick returned $17.40 and $10 at 13-1 odds. Mongolian Groom was another neck back in third and paid $7.20 to show at 18-1 odds.

Higher Power earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita this fall.

Seeking the Soul, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh.

“He didn’t try at all,” jockey John Velazquez said. “No effort. I don’t get it.”

Sadler’s top two handicap horses, Gift Box and Catalina Cruiser, weren’t in the picture. Gift Box won’t run again until this fall and Catalina Cruiser is tabbed to run next in a sprint race.

Not seeing a dominant horse in the race, Sadler entered Higher Power. The colt responded with the first stakes win of his career.

“It developed pretty much the way we thought,” he said. “We thought there would be some speed on the inside and the plan was to stalk. It came out the way we thought it would.”

Sadler’s other entry, Campaign, finished fifth.

The victory, worth $600,000, increased Higher Power’s career earnings to $800,648, with five wins in 13 starts.

Sadler didn’t get Higher Power in his barn until spring. The colt was with another trainer for the first six starts of his career and then transferred to a different trainer.

In other stakes:

– Acclimate won the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by a length under Florent Geroux. The 5-year-old brown gelding earned an automatic berth in the BC Turf.

Trained by Phil D’Amato, Acclimate ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.71 and paid $16.60 to win at 7-1 odds.

– Cambier Parc shipped in from New York and won the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

Ridden by Velazquez, the 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46.75. She paid $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite.

– Fighting Mad cruised to an eight-length victory in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, the 3-year-old filly ran one mile in 1:38.61. Fighting Mad paid $6.60 as the 2-1 favorite trained by Bob Baffert. She’s owned by Gary and Mary West, owners of Maximum Security, disqualified after finishing first in the Kentucky Derby.

– Mr Vargas won the $100,000 Green Flash Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths.

The 5-year-old gelding ran five furlongs on turf in 56.15 seconds under Talamo. Mr Vargas paid $8.40 to win for trainer Brian Koriner.