- SMITH ‘CONFIDENT’ ABOUT JUSTIFY’S CHANCES
- SWEEPING TRIPLE CROWN IS A COMPLEX TASK
- IMPROVING PRINCE OF ARABIA EYES GOLD CUP
- STEVENS IS ON THE MARK WITH TRAINER GLATT
SMITH OFFERS INSIGHTS INTO PREAKNESS TRIP ABOARD JUSTIFY
“Big Money” Mike Smith, who has now guided Justify to four out of his five wins, including yesterday’s Preakness Stakes, offered up a detailed analysis of his eventful trip in yesterday’s 1 3/16 miles classic in a radio interview this morning on “Thoroughbred Los Angeles,” which airs locally on AM 830.
“It takes a whole lot to do what he did yesterday in only four starts,” said Smith. “This was his fifth race, pretty incredible.”
Due to the thick fog yesterday at Pimlico, the vast majority of Preakness viewers were unable to see the horses when they turned for home. Following the race, Smith had noted that Justify “idled” when wresting the lead from Good Magic.
“If I’d have kept my foot on the gas, he’d of won by farther,” he said this morning. “But I had Good Magic beat and I wasn’t expecting anyone to come flying the way Lukas’s horse (Bravazo) did . . . I peeked under my shoulder, didn’t see anybody and I wanted to get him home safe and sound and not get after him and make him do anymore than he had to do there at the end.
“But I’ll tell you what, when (my horse) hit the wire, boy, he locked on Bravazo and he wanted to gallop out . . . He actually galloped out really well, so I’m confident that he’s fine and he’ll go on and he’ll be ready for the Belmont.”
Time will obviously tell, for now, it’s back to Churchill Downs for Justify and an appointment with destiny at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 9, in the mile and one half “Test of Champions.”
JUSTIFY EYES TRIPLE CROWN HISTORY IN BELMONT
Nobody could see Justify losing the Preakness yesterday.
Turns out, nobody could see him winning, either.
It was Erroll Garner weather at Pimlico Saturday, as The Man Upstairs stole a page from the jazz composer and piano legend’s songbook and unfurled “Misty,” festooning Old Hilltop in a fountain of fog.
But Justify did his thing anyway, winning by a half-length on a sloppy track and remaining unbeaten in five races. He is now poised to become the 13th Triple Crown winner in history. All the big red colt has to do is win the mile and a half Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Easier said than done. Take it from Stewart Elliott, who was 35 cents on the dollar to win the Belmont in 2004 aboard Smarty Jones after capturing the Kentucky Derby by nearly three lengths and the Preakness by 11 ½.
Smarty Jones was the biggest Belmont favorite since Spectacular Bid and Secretariat in the 1970s. Pressured inside and outside early on by Rock Hard Ten and Eddington, Smarty Jones failed in deep stretch, losing by a length to 36-1 outsider Birdstone. It was the second-toughest beat in Triple Crown history, behind only Real Quiet’s scant nose loss to Victory Gallop in 1998, a defeat that stings its connections to this day.
“Trying to win the Belmont and sweep the Triple Crown is a tough deal,” said Elliott, a 53-year-old native of Toronto. “We saw how good Justify was in winning the Derby, and yesterday, it was a bit of a struggle. Maybe he got a little tired, and now he’s going right back into a mile and a half. That’s a tough ask.”
No tougher on the horse than it is for the rider, however, in the opinion of Elliott, a consummate gentleman in addition to being an accomplished horseman who is enjoying a successful tour at Santa Anita with agent Carolyn Conley.
Not for the horse, but for its human affiliates, it’s the anticipation, the lull before the storm, that creates an air of restlessness.
“It gets to the point where you just want to put the horse in the gate and go,” Elliott said. “Just do it and get it over with. That’s how I felt. Eventually, I just wanted to get it done.”
But patience is a virtue, and the world will have to wait three weeks before getting its 2018 Triple Crown answer, yea or nay.
Hopefully, it will be clear and fast when “New York, New York” is rendered by Frank Sinatra before the 150th Belmont Stakes, and the classic can be viewed unfettered.
PRINCE OF ARABIA STICKS TO DIRT IN GOLD CUP
After seven straight races on turf, Prince of Arabia displayed his versatility when transferring to dirt where won an overnight race, then was second in the Grade II Californian behind 1-2 favorite Dr. Dorr, who scampered home first by 7 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/8-mile race on April 28.
That performance by the five-year-old Mineshaft horse has encouraged trainer Jim Cassidy to return to dirt with Prince of Arabia in next Saturday’s Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita at a mile and a quarter with $500,000 in prize money.
“A little more pace might help us,” Cassidy said, “but we’ll see. We don’t have many options so we’ll try the Gold Cup. The other horse I might have run, Prime Attraction, got hurt so he’s going to be out for a bit.
“Prince of Arabia is training well, and we’ll see how tough the race comes up. But his last couple races have been better. He’s shown a big improvement.”
STEVENS HAS WINNING TOUCH FOR TEAM GLATT
Picking up the mount after Tyler Baze had a mishap in the seventh race, Gary Stevens piloted Cordiality to her initial stakes win Saturday when he captured the Fran’s Valentine by nearly two lengths at odds of 9-2, but it wasn’t the first rodeo for Stevens and trainer Mark Glatt.
“Gary and I go back a long way,” said the 45-year-old Glatt of the 55-year-old Hall of Fame jockey. “He was riding when I was a kid, and he rode for my dad (Ron), so obviously we have a good relationship.
“The biggest thing is, I’ve got confidence in him and he’s got confidence in me. We’ve just been pretty lucky together, particularly in stakes.” With 209 career stakes victories at Santa Anita, Stevens ranks fourth behind Bill Shoemaker (260), Laffit Pincay Jr. (253) and Chris McCarron (242).
FINISH LINES: Under exercise rider Freddie Rodriguez, champion Unique Bella worked six furlongs in 1:14.20, breezing Sunday for the Grade I Beholder Stakes June 2. “Amazing” is how Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward termed the move. “One more work next weekend and she’ll be ready to run.” Also working Sunday for Hollendorfer was Colonist, with designs on the Grade I Shoemaker Mile Memorial Day, going five furlongs in 59.80 under Freddie’s brother, Edgar Rodriguez, There were 164 recorded workouts Sunday, 20 on the training track . . . Tyler Baze, experiencing soreness after a mishap on Fast Munny in Saturday’s sixth race, took off his scheduled seven mounts today . . . Santa Anita’s Single Ticket Pick Six Jackpot went down in flames Saturday to the life-changing tune of $714,919.60 for one lucky ticket holder. The ticket was purchased for $960 through TVG . . . Racing rarity: Gentrified, 4-1 morning line chance who drew post position four in today’s second race, had drawn the No. One hole in his four previous starts . . . Santa Anita will be dark for live racing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week, resuming live racing on Thursday, May 24, at 12:30 p.m., but will be open for simulcast racing Wednesday, with free parking and free general admission. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, May 19)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||66||12||10||8||18%||45%||$539,913|