Justify, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, capturing the second event in horse racing’s Triple Crown.
Baffert has won 14 Triple Crown races, tied for most with D. Wayne Lukas. Seven of those wins are at the Preakness.
Justify was tested by Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic for most of the race. But Justify took a short lead coming down the home stretch and held off hard-charging Bravazo, who finished second, and Tenfold, who was third.
Good Magic was fourth, just a length back.
“That was a nail-biter. … I’m so happy that we got it done,” Baffert told broadcaster NBC. “He’s just a great horse, to handle all that pressure and keep on running.”
Jockey Mike Smith, 52, became the oldest jockey to win the Preakness. He admitted his horse grew fatigued by the battle with Good Magic.
“He got a little tired. This was his hardest race that he’s had,” Smith said.
At 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness is slightly shorter than the Kentucky Derby, and Bravazo and Tenfold, both of which skipped the race two weeks ago, almost caught Justify at the end.
Heavy fog made it difficult for the TV audience and the 134,487 spectators at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore to see parts of the race.
It also made it hard for Baffert and his team to watch as the horses went down the backside.
“My boys were with me, and they said, ‘I can’t see anything,’ and when I heard my boys (say), ‘He’s making his move,’ I saw the white colors turning for home, and I seen Mike was going on with it, and so he was,” Baffert said.
Elliott Walden, president of racing operations for co-owner WinStar Farms, said when the horses disappeared it seemed like an eternity. And then he could see Smith, in his white uniform.
“I was a little concerned there were three or four horses around him, a little more than I would have hoped, but it was just exciting to see those white silks out,” he said.
Justify was a 2-5 betting favorite. He won in 1:55.93, after leading at every quarter pole – three by a head, twice by a half-length.
The final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes on June 9 in Elmont, New York. With a win at the Belmont, Justify would become the 13th horse to capture the Triple Crown. American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert, is the last horse to accomplish the feat, in 2015.
Justify has won all five stakes races he has run.