Triple Crown winner Justify is enjoying a break after his June 9 Belmont Stakes (G1) heroics, and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is in no hurry to gear his unbeaten star up again for a near-term target.
Unlike Baffert’s first Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah, who returned to the worktab at Santa Anita on June 29, 2015, Justify has yet to breeze back as of this writing (July 9). By this point three years ago, American Pharoah had already logged two moves and was on the verge of a third. He put in a solid string of works, over a month’s time, ahead of his return to action in the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park. With this year’s Haskell scheduled for July 29, Justify would need to get serious fast if he has any designs on the Jersey Shore.
But Baffert is not at all inclined to push him right now. Speaking to the Blood-Horse’s Jeremy Balan July 5, Baffert said that Justify has lost weight in the wake of the Triple Crown:
“He lightened up a bit, and we're trying to get a little weight on him. The only way to get weight back on is to back off a little. I can just tell he needs a little more time.”
The extreme heat provided further reason for caution, according to Baffert, who added that the son of Scat Daddy “still looks bright.”
Once Baffert feels comfortable asking Justify to ratchet up the training at Santa Anita, his future objectives can be mapped out. For now, though, plans are fluid.
Trainer Chad Brown is also in a holding pattern at the moment with Gronkowski, runner-up to Justify in the Belmont in his dirt debut.
The winner of the inaugural European Road to the Kentucky Derby, “Gronk” was expected to aim for the July 28 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga as a stepping stone to the August 25 Travers (G1). He got back to work with a routine half-mile in :49.24 at Belmont Park June 23, but has since met with a setback.
“Gronkowski hasn't been able to work,” Brown told NYRA publicity. “He had a minor issue we're trying to get past.
“But I'm hopeful he'll get back to breezing soon, and if he does, we'd love to make the Travers with the horse. He's missed a few breezes, but he hasn't missed much training. I just didn't feel comfortable breezing him. I'm hoping by next week.”
Brown issued a much more upbeat bulletin on Good Magic, who remains on target for the Haskell.
Second to Justify in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and most recently fourth after battling him early in the Preakness (G1), last year’s champion two-year-old colt covered five furlongs in 1:00.86 at Belmont on July 7.
“Good Magic is training well and breezed yesterday really well,” Brown said of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) hero.
Although unable to emulate sire Curlin by winning the Preakness, Good Magic would do him proud if capturing the Haskell trophy that eluded him in 2007. Curlin, making his first start since losing the duel with filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont, was third in the Haskell to Any Given Saturday and Hard Spun.