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Bob Baffert likes Justify for Preakness, while others shy away

Justify, led by trainer Bob Baffert, emerges from

Justify, led by trainer Bob Baffert, emerges from Barn 33 to meet the public the morning after winning the 144th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Sunday. Credit: AP / Garry Jones

LOUISVILLE — Pimlico president Sal Sinatra called Bob Baffert early Sunday morning and invited Kentucky Derby winner Justify to the 143rd Preakness Stakes on May 19.

Did Baffert accept? Will Queen Elizabeth have a front-row seat at that day’s royal wedding?

“I didn’t tell them ‘I’ll think about it,’ ” Baffert said. “We’ll take it day by day, but today there’s no reason to say no.”

Baffert said Justify was energetic Saturday night and even friskier the morning after his fourth impressive victory since his career debut Feb. 18.

“He’s pretty wild,” Baffert said. “He came out of it really well. He’s really full of himself. He came back and really wasn’t that tired and ate up last night. Today he’s been a handful.”

Baffert has won six Preaknesses, one off the record of 19th century trainer R.W. Walden. Baffert’s four previous Derby winners — Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015) — repeated at Pimlico. Point Given (2001) and Lookin At Lucky (2010) also earned the Woodlawn Vase.

All but two trainers said no Sunday to taking on Justify again with a Derby also-ran. D. Wayne Lukas said “probably,” and Chad Brown will think about it.

Brown doesn’t think the Belmont Stakes’ 1½ miles would suit Good Magic, and he’s considering the Preakness for him. Brown said it’s unlikely, but he would talk to the owners and probably decide Monday.

“I think to rule it out this morning would be foolish,” said Brown, who upset last year’s Preakness with Cloud Computing. “I don’t want to get into a situation where I commit one way or another and I change my mind. I want to give myself a little room to really observe the horse. The horse will tell us.’’

Lukas, 82, never likes to skip a race if he doesn’t have to. He said sixth-place Derby finisher Bravazo “probably” would run in the Preakness. Lukas also has won it six times, most recently with Oxbow in 2013.

“The way he ran exceeded our expectations,” Lukas said, but that’s hardly a reason to think Bravazo could seriously challenge the undefeated prince of the 3-year-olds. Even after dueling with longshot Promises Fulfilled, Justify had plenty left to hold off last year’s 2-year-old champion, Good Magic, by 2½ lengths.

Trainer Todd Pletcher won’t bring any of his four Derby colts — Audible (third), Vino Rosso (ninth), Noble Indy (17th) and Magnum Moon (19th) — to the Triple Crown’s second leg. Vino Rosso will be pointed for the Belmont. There are no plans for the other three.

“We’ll almost assuredly go for the Belmont Stakes with Vino Rosso,’’ Pletcher said. “The owners [Vinny Viola and Long Islander Mike Repole] are New York guys, and winning the Belmont is something they want to do. The horse is bred for it.”

Even though Justify appears to have scared off almost all of his Derby rivals, plenty of “new shooters” will sign up. Pimlico spokesman David Joseph said that among the Preakness probables are Sporting Chance, also trained by Lukas; Diamond King, winner of Laurel’s Tesio Stakes; and Quip, the Arkansas Derby runner-up.

Quip is the most interesting, because WinStar Farm and China Horse Club co-own him and also are among Justify’s connections. Quip could have run in the Derby but passed it to prep for the Preakness.

“My first inclination is to run him,” WinStar CEO Elliott Walden said. “We’ll see how the week plays out. We’d set him up for the Preakness and he worked well Thursday. If Justify is supposed to win a Triple Crown, he’ll beat Quip.”

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