Justify works out at Churchill ahead of Triple Crown pursuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Justify has finished a five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Belmont Stakes and pursuit of a Triple Crown.

Trainer Bob Baffert watched the colt cover the distance in 1 minute, 1.40 seconds on Monday morning with jockey Martin Garcia aboard. Justify galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven in 1:27.20 with about 100 spectators watching on the front stretch and just as many on the backside.

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Justify’s workout comes nearly a week after running a half mile in 46.80 seconds in preparation for Saturday’s 1+-mile race. Baffert says the horse is relaxed, the workout went smooth and “all seems good.”

Justify aims to follow American Pharoah’s 2015 Triple Crown triumph with Baffert and become the 13th horse to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. The colt will leave Wednesday for New York.

Baffert sweeps Grade 1 two-year-old races at Los Alamitos

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert swept the CashCall Futurity and Starlet for 2-year-olds, winning the Grade 1 races for the second straight year at Los Alamitos.

Improbable won the $300,345 Futurity by five lengths as the 1-5 favorite and 3-2 favorite Chasing Yesterday won the $300,345 Starlet by a head on Saturday. Drayden Van Dyke became the second jockey to win both races in the same year.

Baffert earned his fifth straight victory in the Futurity and his 11th overall, having won it six times at old Hollywood Park.

Improbable ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.18 and paid $2.40 to win. The colt’s ownership includes most of the group that owned Triple Crown winner Justify.

In the Starlet, Chasing Yesterday ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.59 and paid $5 to win. She is a half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert.

Victor Espinoza aims for January comeback

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza is aiming to return to riding in January, six months after he was seriously injured in a training accident.

The 46-year-old rider says he had an MRI recently and “it came out perfect.” Espinoza says he doesn’t need surgery and his spinal cord has healed “perfectly,” which was his main concern.

He fractured a vertebra in his neck at Del Mar last July when the horse he was exercising fell.

Espinoza was back at Del Mar on Saturday for the first time since the accident. He presented the trophy to the winning connections in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He has been recuperating at his Del Mar home.

Espinoza says he hopes to return sometime in January at Santa Anita. The track opens its winter meet on Dec. 26.

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