Justify gallops for Baffert in training for Belmont Stakes

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify has galloped at Churchill Downs in front of trainer Bob Baffert as the Triple Crown hopeful trains for the Belmont Stakes.

Baffert arrived from Southern California to watch Justify gallop 1-plus miles on Monday. The trainer says the 3-year-old colt could breeze Tuesday. That’s a workout when Justify would easily run under a hold without encouragement from his exercise rider.

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Baffert says everything is going smoothly with Justify’s training for the June 9 Belmont and the colt is holding his weight despite his condensed racing schedule this spring.

Other possible Belmont contenders are training at Churchill, including Restoring Hope, which could be Baffert’s other entry in the 1-plus-mile race. Also in Louisville is Preakness runner-up Bravazo, Tenfold, who was third in the Preakness, and Free Drop Billy.

Injured jockey Victor Espinoza plans return to riding

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza is planning a comeback after fracturing a vertebra in his neck during a training accident at Del Mar.

That’s according to his agent Brian Beach, who says Thursday that Espinoza is expected to see a doctor the first week in October to find out how he is progressing in his recovery from the July 22 accident.

Beach says Espinoza has remained in San Diego, where he goes to rehab sessions three days a week and goes walking three times a day. The 46-year-old Hall of Fame jockey only wears a neck brace when he rides in a car. He isn’t allowed to drive himself yet.

Beach says Espinoza has a “bright outlook” but is frustrated at times because he has been nearly injury-free his entire career and never faced anything this serious.

Espinoza rode American Pharoah to a Triple Crown sweep in 2015.

Churchill Downs’ next project to offer rooftop views of Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs is adding rooftop views to its lineup of high-dollar seating for the Kentucky Derby.

The track’s parent company said Friday that a new rooftop garden offering prime spots overlooking the start of America’s most famous horse race will be ready in time for next year’s Derby in early May.

The rooftop lounge, to be situated atop the Starting Gate Suites on the north end of the famed track, will provide covered reserved seating for more than 250 fans and standing-room-only access for about 250 more ticketholders, Churchill Downs Inc. said.

The new space will feature upscale bars and food in a “cozy” and “party-like atmosphere,” Churchill said.

“Rooftop bars are a hot trend in the hospitality industry, and the addition of this sensational new space … will be a great benefit to our facility and deliver another unique guest experience at Churchill Downs,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs racetrack.

Churchill did not disclose Derby ticket prices for the addition, saying ticketing information will be available later this year.

The lounge will include a tiered balcony overlooking the section of track where Derby horses break from the starting gate and, after looping the track, jockey for position at the top of the homestretch on their way to the finish. It also will offer panoramic views of Louisville, the track said.

Construction will begin after Churchill hosts the Breeders’ Cup in early November.

The $5 million rooftop project is the latest in a series of upgrades at the track in the past two decades, meant to maximize revenue from the Derby and Kentucky Oaks, a race for 3-year-old fillies the day before the Derby. The venerable track seems to burst at the seams on Derby Day, when about 160,000 people pack into the track and infield.

Many of the additions have been geared toward well-heeled racing fans.

The Starting Gate Suites debuted for this year’s Derby. The $37 million project provided more than 1,800 new seats through the addition of 32 luxury seats and third-floor grandstand seats. Other projects included renovating the clubhouse and grandstand, putting in permanent lights, creating a new VIP section known as The Mansion and installing of a gigantic video board.