BALTIMORE — Pimlico’s main track looked like waterlogged peanut butter as exercise rider Humberto Gomez galloped the undefeated Kentucky Derby winner Thursday morning. Justify glided over the slop as easily as he did May 5 at Churchill Downs.
“He got around there very easily,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s so light on his feet. He was just getting warmed up and wanted to do more, but we wouldn’t let him. We’re saving that for Saturday.”
The rain that had fallen relentlessly for two days stopped just before the chestnut colt left the stakes barn. An hour later, it was pouring again. There’s a 100-percent chance of rain Friday and 90-percent likelihood of thunderstorms Saturday morning.
Not only is Justify a 1-2 favorite, he’s 2-for-2 on wet tracks. Of his seven rivals, only Lone Sailor and Sporting Chance have a win on off going, with each at only 7 furlongs last year. I can’t see either one doing it at 1 3/16 miles.
I hate touting odds-on horses, but logic dictates Justify. I can’t make a case for anybody else, not even the 3-1 second choice, Good Magic, the only one to make a move on Justify in the Derby. For a few strides in upper stretch it looked as if he might threaten, but Justify found another gear.
Baffert said Pimlico “probably can take more water than any track I’ve ever seen” and that if the rain stopped early enough Saturday, “a little wind would dry it out quickly.”
No matter what the conditions, Justify is the man.
If Good Magic and Justify ran 1-2 again, the exacta would pay about $8. There’s no fun or glory there. I’ll try to manufacture value by playing Justify on top of 20-1 Tenfold in a $20 exacta. Tenfold is lightly raced, has room to improve for master trainer Steve Asmussen and is a son of Curlin, whose offspring like wet tracks. I’m picking Good Magic third but not betting him, and Lone Sailor for fourth. If the track is giving closers a chance, I’ll play a straight $10 Justify-Lone Sailor exacta.