NEW YORK (AP) Justify turned in another strong gallop Friday in his final preparation for a Triple Crown bid in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
The chestnut colt will be the odds-on favorite Saturday to become the 13th horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Similar to Thursday, Justify went 1 3-8 miles in what Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert calls “another smooth, good day.” He says Justify has been “moving over the track really well,” adding “this is what a trainer hopes to see the day before his horse runs.”
Baffert will be looking to saddle a second Triple Crown champion following American Pharoah in 2015.
Ron Turcotte was among those watching Justify’s final Belmont drill. Turcotte rode Secretariat to the Triple Crown in 1973 and now needs a wheelchair since a racing spill in 1978.
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.
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.