- JUSTIFY IS DOING ‘TERRIFIC’ FOR PREAKNESS
- TRAVEL LIKELY FOR TIJORI AFTER MAIDEN WIN
- BAZE, FREY SEEK VICTORY AT BELMONT PARK
HISTORY COULD BECKON JUSTIFY, O’NEILL SAYS
Doug O’Neill has been down the Triple Crown road before, not as often as Bob Baffert, and experience–long or short, proverbially and otherwise–is the best teacher.
A three-time Santa Anita training champion and current leader of the pack through 16 days of the Spring Meet with 12 victories, O’Neill twice won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, with I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016, but not the Belmont Stakes.
Thus the Michigan native, who turns 50 on May 24, is familiar with the frills and frailties of trying to win a trio of three-year-old classics in five weeks and certifiably qualified to address Justify’s chances after the undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner vanquished 19 rivals by 2 ½ lengths in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Now the Preakness Stakes awaits next Saturday, then hopefully the Belmont Stakes on June 9, final jewel in the Triple Crown.
“It was a very good performance from a horse that was making only the fourth start of
his life,” O’Neill said of Justify’s Kentucky Derby triumph. “He’s a pretty special horse, and if he stays injury free, there’s no telling what he might achieve. Having been through it, I can tell you there’s nothing better than being around a big-time horse.
“Justify’s exercise rider, Humberto Gomez, used to work for us, and I called him yesterday. He got on a lot of our good horses, and I think Justify is lucky to have a guy like Humberto on him every day.”
Meanwhile, all systems remain go for Justify as he prepares for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.
“He’s doing terrific,” Baffert said on a drizzly Saturday morning at Santa Anita, one day before departing to join the chestnut son of Scat Daddy up close and personal.
“He looks good,” Baffert said. “No excuses.”
Fans can enjoy Preakness Day at Santa Anita, offering live music, Michelada flavors and a Michelada Rumble in the Infield, a trackside beer festival, brunch in the FrontRunner, a two-day Preakness betting challenge, the Bud Light Lounge and the Family Fun Zone.
Tickets can be purchased at www.santaanita.com/events. Must be 21 or older.
STAKES NEXT FOR IMPRESSIVE MAIDEN WINNER TIJORI
Stakes races are in the immediate future for Tijori, impressive debut winner of Friday’s third race by 3 ¼ lengths under Flavien Prat.
Trained by Simon Callaghan for Kaleem Shah, the two-year-old chestnut daughter of Will Take Charge covered 4 ½ furlongs in 52.69 and paid $6 to win as the near-favorite to Over Emphasize in the field of eight first-time starters.
“She’d been showing us an awful lot in the mornings,” Callaghan said. “We thought she was a pretty exceptional two-year-old, so it was nice to see her do it, run a 77 Beyer.”
Asked about her next race, Callaghan said, “There’s nothing for her in California, so we’ll either go to New York for the Astoria (June 7 at Belmont Park) or Royal Ascot (Queen Mary on June 20, each race at five furlongs).”
FINISH LINES: Tyler Baze rides Santa Anita Derby third-place finisher Core Beliefs for Peter Eurton today in the Peter Pan at Belmont Park, while Kyle Frey rides Blended Citizen for Doug O’Neill in the same race . . . Eurton enjoyed back-to-back wins Friday, including $23.60 longshot Dark Vader in the seventh race that cemented a Pick Six carryover of $65,924.25 into Saturday . . . Billy Koch, founder and managing partner of Little Red Feather Racing, part owner of streaking stakes winner Fault trained by Phil D’Amato, said the four-year-old daughter of Blame could make her next start in either the Grade I Beholder Mile at Santa Anita on June 2 or the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 9 . . . Trainer David Bernstein has the $200,000 Melair Stakes for three-year-old Cal-bred fillies at 1 1/16 miles ticketed for Smiling Tigress, a promising daughter of Smiling Tiger who rallied for third in the Evening Jewel at 6 ½ furlongs on April 7 . . . Geovanni Franco, second in the jockey standings behind Flavien Prat (17-13), has been suspended four days (May 18, 19, 20 and 24) for causing interference on South Shirley Boot in Thursday’s eighth race . . . Santa Anita Handicap winner Accelerate, prepping for the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita May 26, worked five furlongs for John Sadler Saturday in 1:00.80. Despite light drizzle, it was one of 148 recorded workouts, 13 on the training track . . . Signs of old times: On an episode of The Simpsons from 2000 titled “Saddlesore Galactica” that aired Friday on Fox, former Santa Anita track announcer Trevor Denman was featured on several of the show’s race calls. “And away they go!”
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Friday, May 11)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||49||8||8||7||16%||47%||$404,293|