Although much can change in the build-up to the May 19 Preakness Stakes (G1), not too many are eager to confront Kentucky Derby (G1) star Justify in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

According to the Preakness publicity team, only three Derby rivals – runner-up Good Magic, Bravazo, and Lone Sailor – are under consideration for a rematch at Pimlico. Four newcomers to the Triple Crown are likely – Quip, Tenfold, Sporting Chance, and Diamond King – making for a total of seven possible rivals for Justify.

Good Magic would be his most accomplished challenger, but trainer Chad Brown is not committing his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)-winning champion at this early stage. His sire, Curlin, may give reason to try. Third in the 2007 Derby to Street Sense, Curlin gained revenge in the Preakness. Now a top stallion, Curlin has sired a Preakness winner in Exaggerator (2016), and he may have two sons in here if both Good Magic and Tenfold line up.

The Tom Amoss-trained Lone Sailor, who was eighth behind Justify at Churchill Downs, is taking a similar wait-and-see approach. Two starts back, the G M B Racing colorbearer just missed in the March 24 Louisiana Derby (G2).

Hall of Fame horseman D. Wayne Lukas was typically more categorical about sending Risen Star (G2) winner Bravazo, sixth at odds of 66-1 in the Derby, on to Baltimore. Lukas also plans to run Sporting Chance, winless since last year’s Hopeful (G1). In his last pair, Sporting Chance was demoted from third to fourth behind Good Magic in the April 7 Blue Grass (G2) and crossed the wire fourth in last Saturday’s Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Derby undercard.

Quip qualified for the Kentucky Derby by capturing the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and finishing second in the Arkansas Derby. But his connections opted to give him the extra time and arrive with a fresh horse for the Preakness.

Two of Quip’s co-owners, WinStar Farm and China Horse Club, are also partners in Justify. WinStar President/CEO Elliott Walden commented on whether that might affect Quip’s Preakness status.

“My first inclination is to go ahead and run him,” Walden said, “but we need to talk to our partners and see. But we’d set the horse up to run in the Preakness and he worked very well (half-mile in :48.00 at Keeneland) on Thursday.

“If Justify is supposed to win the Triple Crown, he’ll beat Quip. I just think you try to manage your horses the best you can, and that it’s the right thing for Quip.”

“We got the horse set up to run in the Preakness,” trainer Rodolphe Brisset said. “Like Elliott said, they like to do the right thing by the horse. We all agreed the Preakness was the best shot for Quip. We did talk that it didn’t matter who won the Derby that we would be pointing him to the Preakness.”

Tenfold was also last seen in the Arkansas Derby, finishing fifth but only beaten two necks and a head for second in his stakes debut. The Steve Asmussen trainee had won his first two starts at Oaklawn Park.

“He’s a very nice horse that is getting better,” said Asmussen, who conditioned sire Curlin. “I liked his work a lot today (five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Churchill Downs).

“We’re expecting big things from him. I was a touch disappointed (with his Arkansas Derby fifth). He’s better than that.”

Rounding out the potential cast (as of May 7) is Diamond King, who earned a Preakness berth by scoring in the “Win and You’re In” Federico Tesio at Laurel. This Saturday’s Peter Pan (G3) at Belmont Park was another option, according to the New York Racing Association.

The early Preakness picture didn’t generate as much buzz, however, as social media-inspired questions about Justify. Seeing him favoring his left hind hoof when parading before the media Sunday morning, some observers feared he may have picked up an injury.

But his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert doused the speculation, explaining that Justify had a minor and superficial skin irritation from the sloppy track. While stepping on the gravel outside the barn made him feel it, he was striding out well around the shedrow.

“It’s not an issue,” Baffert said. “It was sensitive there. It’s like a diaper rash, what he’s got. He looked great today.

“He did not run down. They call them scratches or whatever. He’s had it before. You get it from wet (tracks) and you have to soften it up. It can be irritating. When he stepped on those rocks (outside the barn), it bit him. That’s why he did that. Because he was fine in the morning and today he was fine.

“He will be going back to the track in a couple of days and everything will be good. He’s responding to the treatment. So we’re good.”

Baffert is tied with Lukas at six wins apiece in the Preakness. Aside from his four Kentucky Derby winners who turned the double – Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), and Triple Crown champion American Pharoah (2015), Baffert trained Point Given (2001) and Lookin at Lucky (2010).

 Photos courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography