Bettors seem to think so. Justify is the hot odds-on favorite to take the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 9 and complete his claim for Triple Crown glory. He may well succeed but this stunning, unbeaten chestnut colt is not ideally bred to benefit from an additional two furlongs.
Trained by Bob Baffert, his sire Scat Daddy was unsuccessful on his one attempt at a mile and a quarter and is known for imparting plenty of speed rather than stamina to his progeny. Fortunately Justify is out of a Ghostzapper dam and his offspring thrive over slightly further.
The limitations of Scat Daddy did not prevent Justify from rising to the challenge of his first experience of a mile and a quarter on May 5. He started 3/1 favorite and won the Kentucky Derby with ease after being ridden close to the pace by Mike Smith.
Justify was one of many runners on the sloppy track at Churchill Downs who were accustomed to setting the pace but he happily settled in the second spot on the outside of the leader, Promises Fulfilled. Half a mile from home Justify took the lead and was never eye-balled by another rival, beating Chad Brown’s Good Magic, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, two and a half lengths.
That victory made Justify the first horse since the appropriately named Curse Of Apollo in 1882 to win the Run for the Roses without hitting the track as a juvenile. It was quite some achievement on just his fourth start too. His career on the race track only began this February. Just two other colts have succeeded with his lack of experience, Big Brown 10 years ago and Regret in 1915.
Justify subsequently started 2/5 favorite in the Preakness on May 19 at Pimlico. The track was sloppy and he was once again at the front of the pack disputing the lead but this time with Good Magic. Good Magic dropped two places when it mattered finishing fourth whilst Wayne Lucas’ Bravazo, a 15/1 long shot, stayed on well to finish second beaten half a length.
Good Magic finished a length behind the winner in fourth, a neck behind Steve Asmussen’s Tenfold, a 26/1 long shot. It was not a spectacular win for Justify but he got the job done.
The vibes from Baffert’s barn have been positive since Justify’s Preakness win but the relatively short time between having a hard race and being asked to run a quarter mile further than ever before make Justify’s current odds seem ungenerous.
Mike Smith is predictably positive about Justify’s chances believing that he has not only the necessary physical attributes but the relaxed temperament required. Smith admits that some of his rivals might be better suited to this distance of a mile and a half, a quarter mile further than the Kentucky Derby.
This colt has already achieved extraordinary success, defying all the statistics by winning the Kentucky Derby. Justify had to fight to win the Preakness but if that battle has not left too large a mark it would be no surprise to see him take the Belmont and the Triple Crown.