Good Magic, Quip are top challengers to Justify in Preakness

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BALTIMORE (AP) Justify is the talk of Pimlico Race Course and the horse racing industry with a very real chance to win the Triple Crown.

But he’s got a few notable challengers in the Preakness. It’s not the 19 he beat in the Kentucky Derby, but the eight-horse field is no cakewalk.

Preakness Stakes: What Time, Where to Watch and More

“It’s tough,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “We have Good Magic, who I have a lot of respect for. He’s a champion. Ran second to us. He’s right there with us. … And then you’ve got Quip. He’s a really good horse. He’s fast.”

Baffert also doesn’t want to count out veteran D. Wayne Lukas’ two horses. The odds may count a few out, but here’s a look at the leading contenders:

JUSTIFY

He’s horse to beat as the 1-2 morning-line favorite for a reason after winning his first four races by a combined 21 1/2 lengths, including the Kentucky Derby in the same slop that could await Saturday. Baffert is 4-0 with Derby winners in the Preakness, so he knows how to handle the two-week turnaround.

“They were peaking at the right time,” Baffert said. “And that’s what the Derby winner usually is – a horse that’s peaking. And they train well. They came out of the race well. With him, think he’s doing the same.”

GOOD MAGIC

A game second to Justify in the Derby, Chad Brown’s horse was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion and has looked great in workouts since arriving at Pimlico. Good Magic is the 3-1 second choice because he has shown he can hang with Justify, and maybe this time he’ll have that one extra kick to get by him down the stretch.

QUIP

Intrigue, thy name is Quip, the Tampa Bay Derby winner who skipped the Run for the Roses to rest up for the Preakness. The best of the new horses finished second in the Arkansas Derby and is 12-1 for Rodolphe Brisset, who used to train Justify.

“He’s a slight-made horse we felt like would do better with the five weeks,” said Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, which co-owns Quip. “We feel like he could have run in the Kentucky Derby but we wanted to give him a chance to catch up to himself.”

BRAVAZO

One of Lukas’ two horses along with Sporting Chance, Bravazo is 12-1 after finishing sixth in the Derby. He’s next to Justify in the starting gates but figures to come off the pace late.

“Somebody had to be,” Lukas said. “I’d just as soon be next to him. I don’t think he’ll be next to him very long.”

LONE SAILOR

Traffic trouble in the 20-horse Derby was more of a problem for Lone Sailor than the mud, and the No. 1 post position is another considerable challenge. If the Louisiana Derby runner-up can find some room between horses, the 15-1 shot is a threat as long as Justify doesn’t save something for the stretch with a slower run in the first half-mile or so.

Second horse in 4 days dies at Santa Anita

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Santa Anita had its second horse death in four days when a gelding pulled up during a race Sunday and was euthanized a day later.

Twenty-five horses have now died in racing or training at the Southern California track since Dec. 26.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Spectacular Music was running in a six-furlong maiden claiming race when the jockey pulled the horse up on the backstretch shortly after leaving the gate.

The horse was taken off the course with a pelvis injury and the decision to euthanize him was made Monday morning.

On Friday, a 3-year-old horse broke down with a shoulder injury while galloping and was euthanized at the track.

Santa Anita is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 1-2. It’s considered the biggest two-day event in U.S. horse racing.

Preakness winner War of Will likely to run in Belmont

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BALTIMORE (AP) Owner Gary Barber called trainer Mark Casse for the fourth time in 11 hours since War of Will won the Preakness.

Only this time, Casse was in the middle of holding court with reporters the morning after his first Triple Crown victory.

“All’s good and we’re going to the Belmont?” Casse said to Barber with a Cheshire cat grin. “I was kidding. I was making that up.”

Well, not totally.

Assuming all goes well in the coming weeks, Casse said “there’s an extremely good shot” War of Will goes to the Belmont Stakes on June 8 in New York. If he wins, he’d be the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to fall short in the Kentucky Derby before capturing the Preakness and Belmont and would be the front-runner for 3-year-old horse of the year.

“It’s the third leg of the Triple Crown, who doesn’t want to win it?” Casse said Sunday. “There are only three Triple Crown races, and they’re pretty important. I think if you can do it you should do it. …

“That’s what we do. We run.”

Those watching the Preakness saw a horse run the entire race and then some after throwing off his jockey out of the starting gate, a scene that – once it was clear rider John Velazquez was OK – served as a reminder of how much thoroughbreds love to run. Bodexpress provided a memorable spectacle as War of Will fulfilled his potential at Pimlico.

The Belmont is another substantial test for the tough and talented War of Will because it’s a third race in six weeks and is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1+ miles.

There won’t be a Kentucky Derby rematch with Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, or Country House, who was placed first and since been sidelined by illness. And two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert said he probably won’t take Improbable to the Belmont after finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the favorite.

But War of Will could have to contend with Derby returners Tacitus, Master Fencer and perhaps Baffert’s Game Winner, along with Preakness surprise second-place finisher Everfast, third-place runner Owendale and ninth-place Signalman. Trainer Bill Mott ruled out Country House but is planning to take Tacitus to the Belmont and figures the gray colt will have no problem in a significantly longer race.

“He should handle it fine,” Mott said by phone Saturday. “My guess was that he’d handle the Derby distance fine, which he did. I was pleased. I think it goes the same for the Belmont. I think it’s within his grasp.”

If the Preakness had more than an extra quarter-mile, closers Everfast and Owendale might’ve put a scare into War of Will on Saturday. Everfast was a late entry by trainer Dale Romans three days before the race and opened at 50-1 but showed he might be a good long-distance runner.

“We almost had it,” Everfast jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran great. We have a great shot at the Belmont.”

Tacitus, Everfast and Owendale will be strong challengers, but this should be War of Will’s Belmont to lose. Had he not endured such a rough trip in and been interfered with at Churchill Downs on May 4, there could be another wave of Triple Crown talk going on right now about a third winner in five years.

But Casse isn’t thinking about that, still grateful War of Will avoided going down in the Derby and was able to rebound and run well in the Preakness. He’ll monitor the horse back at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, to make sure a sore foot and his energy level are good enough to run in the Belmont on a three-week turnaround.

Casse can’t predict how War of Will responds this time, but he knows what it would mean if the horse comes out on top once again.

“He’s just an athlete,” Casse said. “It would just show that he’s tough and able to overcome things.”