Belmont distance, fatigue test Justify in Triple Crown bid

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BALTIMORE (AP) Justify keeps showing something new each time he races.

In the Kentucky Derby, he showed he could run in the mud in a crowded, 20-horse field. In the Preakness, he showed he could withstand the challenge of a top rival pressing him early and hold off others before the finish line – also in the mud.

For his next trick, he’ll need to show he can endure the grueling 1+-mile Belmont in New York on June 9. And it he does that, Justify will become horse racing the second Triple Crown winner in four years.

Belmont Stakes: What Time, Where To Watch and More

“If you’re a superior horse, you can do it,” trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday. “I’ve seen horses go a mile and a half and they never won again. It’s a weird, quirky race, but I don’t see why though he wouldn’t handle it.”

Had the Preakness been another tenth of a mile, a hard-charging Bravazo might’ve passed Justify and ended the Triple Crown bid on Saturday. Bravazo will go to the Belmont where Justify will have plenty of familiar challenges – and a fresh ones – standing in the way of becoming the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown.

In addition to Bravazo, Kentucky Derby horses Hofburg, Vino Rosso and Free Drop Billy and Preakness horse Tenfold are among those likely to challenge Justify in what’s considered the most difficult race on the Triple Crown trail.

Bravazo is “a tough little horse, and I think his pedigree will let him run that far,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “So, we’ll take him on and see what happens.”

Justify’s run in the Kentucky Derby was convincing enough to scare off a few opposing owners and trainers from the Preakness. Given the fatigue of difficult races two weeks apart, they could see Justify as beatable at the Belmont.

Baffert, who had three near-misses with Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem before American Pharoah broke the 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015, said Justify is built to power through the fatigue caused by running on the slop twice against high-caliber competition.

“You do hate to keep running on these wet tracks because it does take a little bit out of them,” Baffert said before Justify flew back to Louisville, Kentucky, for some rest and more training. “It can be tough. It’s not as tough on him because he’s a big horse. He can handle it. He was blowing pretty good, he got a good blow out of (the Preakness), but he wasn’t as tired as we thought he was.”

As gassed as Justify looked at the wire in the Preakness , jockey Mike Smith is convinced the undefeated colt could have run longer and picked up the pace if asked. Finishing a half-length ahead of Bravazo made it by far Justify’s closest victory of his five, but it counts just the same.

“Although he got tired (Saturday), he was also looking around a bit at the end,” Smith said. “I certainly could have got after him a whole lot more a lot earlier and made him do a little more, as well.”

Justify has already done more than expected, a bit of a late bloomer who doesn’t have the pedigree of someone like American Pharoah. Baffert went into the year thinking McKinzie gave him a better chance and on Friday recalled thinking of Justify, “The backup horse is pretty good, too.”

Now all eyes are on Justify, who might have one major factor in his favor. His owners and Baffert have connections to Audible, My Boy Jack and Solomini, who ultimately might not be entered in the Belmont because they could threaten Justify’s chances of finishing off the Triple Crown.

Baffert is unsure whether to bring Solomini back from the Derby, though it wouldn’t make much sense to put him in Justify’s way. Baffert is sure about Justify, who looked healthy and that a bruised heel was not an issue in an impressive showing in the mud and fog at the Preakness.

“I’m feeling pretty in awe of the horse,” Baffert said. “I don’t see why not go to the Belmont, as long as he stays like this. He looks good.”

Twelve out of the last 13 times the horse who won the Derby and Preakness lost the Belmont. It’s certainly the test of a champion for a reason, and co-owner Elliott Walden is hoping for the best with three weeks of hype ahead.

“Those things tend to happen the way they’re supposed to happen,” Walden said. “If Justify is meant to do it, it’ll happen. And if not, it just won’t.”

NBC to broadcast the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January 2019

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The Stronach Group Adds $7 Million Grade 1 Turf Stakes to Race Day Festivities

2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner Accelerate to Run in 2019 Pegasus World Cup Invitational

NBC’s Live Coverage of the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series will be streamed on NBCSports.com & the NBC Sports app

STAMFORD, Conn. – Nov. 8, 2018 – NBC Sports Group has reached an agreement with The Stronach Group for exclusive United States media rights to the third annual running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on January 26, 2019 from The Stronach Group’s Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Among the entries for the 2019 running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational is 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate.

Building on the success of 2017 and 2018, The Stronach Group has expanded the 2019 event for both horse owners and fans by turning the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational into a championship series.  The Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series will include the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), to be contested on the dirt at 1 1/8 miles offering $4 million for the winner of the 12-horse field and the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), to be run on the turf at 1 3/16 mile. The Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational will replace the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and aims to attract and showcase 12 of the best turf horses from around the world as they compete for a $3 million first place prize.

NBC will air a live 90-minute program featuring both the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. The broadcast will also showcase the Pegasus “blue” carpet, celebrity and live entertainment event elements from Gulfstream Park at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 26, 2019. All coverage will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs.

“The Stronach Group is thrilled to once again partner with NBC Sports to bring the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series to life,” said Belinda Stronach, Chairman and President, The Stronach Group. “Our live broadcast and streaming partnership with NBC Sports reflects our company’s commitment to collaborating with top tier partners to showcase the entertainment and excitement of this world-class Thoroughbred horse racing event.”

“We are excited to partner with The Stronach Group to kick off our 2019 horse racing coverage with North America’s richest race,” said Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports Group. “For the past two years, the Pegasus World Cup has thrilled viewers, and we’re honored to continue to present it to horse racing fans nationwide.”

Past winners of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational include Arrogate, the 2016 Eclipse Award Winning Champion Three Year Old Male and the top earning Thoroughbred of all time, and 2017 Horse of the Year, Gun Runner.  On the heels of an exciting Breeders’ Cup Classic win with Accelerate, trainer John Sadler’s next stop will be the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series where he has committed to spots on the dirt, with Accelerate, and on the turf.

In addition, The Stronach Group will offer a $1 million bonus to the owner who wins both the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and will be introducing a new race day wager, the Pegasus Pick 24.  The Pegasus Pick 24 will provide fans with the chance to bet on the exact finish order for both the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. A $5 million bonus awaits the lucky fan that hits on the Pegasus Pick 24.

Follow all of the excitement of the 2019 Pegasus World Cup on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @PegasusWorldCup #PegasusWorldCup #RunWithUs.

NBC SPORTS GROUP AND HORSE RACING: In addition to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, NBC Sports Group is the exclusive home to the most important and prestigious events in horse racing, including the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. Also in 2018, NBC Sports Group televised the Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby. NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001, and the Belmont Stakes since 2011, when NBC Sports Group reassembled the Triple Crown.

 

THE STRONACH GROUP: The Stronach Group (TSG) is a world-class technology, entertainment and real estate development company with Thoroughbred racing and pari-mutuel wagering at the core. TSG encompasses five distinct business areas that are inter-related and supportive of each other, enabling TSG to be the most dominant player in the Thoroughbred horse racing industry in the United States, with business relations around the globe. TSG business areas include Technology, Entertainment, Racing, Real Estate Development and Agriculture. TSG is dedicated to delivering the best in class Thoroughbred racing content and operations. The company holds some of the greatest brands in the industry, including Southern California’s Santa Anita Park, “The Great Race Place”; South Florida’s Gulfstream Park, home to the US $16 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series and retail destination, The Village at Gulfstream Park; Pimlico Race Course, home of the legendary Preakness Stakes, Laurel Park and Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland; Oregon’s Portland Meadows; and the San Francisco Bay Area’s, Golden Gate Fields. TSG is a leader in digital and mobile wagering technology through its subsidiaries AmTote and Xpressbet and is a major distributor of horse racing content to a global audience through Monarch Content Management. Please visit www.stronachgroup.com for more information

–NBC SPORTS GROUP–

 

For more on NBC Sports Group please contact:

Dan Masonson

Dan.Masonson@NBCUni.com

 

For more information on The Pegasus World Cup Invitational or The Stronach Group please contact:

Tiffani Steer, Vice President, Communications and Events, The Stronach Group

tiffani.steer@stronachgroup.com

NBC Sports & Churchill Downs to debut Road to the Kentucky Derby magazine series in Spring 2019

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NBC Sports, The Home of Horse Racing in U.S., Adds Two 2019 Triple Crown Prep Races with Live Coverage of Louisiana Derby & Arkansas Derby on NBCSN

 

STAMFORD, Conn. and LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – November 8, 2018 – As the home of horse racing in the United States, NBC Sports will expand its programming in 2019, collaborating with Churchill Downs on a new magazine-style series, and adding a pair of crucial prep races.

In partnership with Churchill Downs, NBC Sports will debut a new Road to the Kentucky Derby series this spring, leading up to NBC’s coverage of the 145th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve on Saturday, May 4. In March, NBCSN will debut the first of the four 30-minute Road to the Kentucky Derby episodes, which will showcase the stars of the sport, telling the stories behind the horses and the legendary race. Produced by Churchill Downs, the episodes will provide viewers with an inside look of the extensive preparations for the first leg of the Triple Crown. Keith Wetzler, Executive Producer of Broadcast at Churchill Downs, will produce the series.

In addition, NBC Sports will add the $1 million Louisiana Derby and the $1 million Arkansas Derby to its lineup of 2019 Triple Crown prep races on NBCSN next spring. The first episode of the new Road to the Kentucky Derby series will debut following the Louisiana Derby on March 23.

NBCSN is now home to the six biggest prep races in 2019, leading up to NBC Sports’ coverage of the “Run for the Roses” at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. A month of key prep race coverage on NBCSN begins with the Louisiana Derby on Saturday, March 23, followed one week later by the Florida Derby on Saturday, March 30. Coverage continues on NBCSN with “triplecast” coverage of the Wood Memorial, the Bluegrass Stakes, and the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, April 6, before the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 13.

On Saturday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will televise the $1 million Louisiana Derby from Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. Last year’s victor, Noble Indy, won by a head over Lone Sailor in a wild finish, and went on to run in both the 2018 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Coverage of the $1 million Arkansas Derby, the final prep race before the Kentucky Derby, will begin on Saturday, April 13 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The most celebrated champion of the Arkansas Derby, American Pharaoh in 2015, went on to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 horse racing season begins with the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

Below is NBC Sports Group’s 2019 prep race schedule leading up to the 2019 Kentucky Derby (All Times ET):

Sat., March 23 5:30 p.m. Louisiana Derby NBCSN
Sat., March 30 6 p.m. Florida Derby NBCSN
Sat., April 6 5:30 p.m. Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes & Santa Anita Derby NBCSN
Sat., April 13 7 p.m. Arkansas Derby NBCSN
Sat., May 4 4 p.m. Kentucky Derby NBC

 

NBC Sports Group and Horse Racing: NBC Sports Group is the exclusive home to the most important and prestigious events in horse racing, including the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001, and the Belmont Stakes since 2011, when NBC Sports Group reassembled the Triple Crown.

 

About Churchill Downs Racetrack: Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4, 2019. Information is available at www.ChurchillDowns.com.

 

Contacts:

Dan Masonson, NBC Sports Group

203/356-2790

Dan.Masonson@NBCUni.com

 

Darren Rogers, Churchill Downs

502/636-4461

Darren.Rogers@KyDerby.com