(Justify galloping before this year’s Kentucky Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
He may be number one in your hearts, after scintillating victories in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Now, Justify will be number one in your program.
On Tuesday night, at Citi Park Field, the Belmont Stakes held its Post Position Draw. A field of 10 horses were entered. And, the 3-year-old colt who will be going after the Triple Crown drew the rail for the 150th running of the 11/2-mile Belmont Stakes, to be held this Saturday at Belmont Park.
“I never do like drawing the rail,” said Bob Baffert, the affable and world-renown trainer of Justify, and the same man who captured the Triple Crown just four years ago with the brilliant American Pharoah. “But my horses seem to live in it (the #1 post). There’s nothing you can do about it. We have it. We can’t change it. So we will just have to deal with it.
“The most important thing, in my mind, is that the horse (Justify) is doing well.”
From the rail out, here is the full field for this year’s Belmont Stakes:
|1||Justify||Bob Baffert||Mike Smith||4-5 odds|
|2||Free Drop Billy||Dale Romans||Robby Albarado||30-1 odds|
|3||Bravazo||D. Wayne Lukas||Luis Saez||8-1 odds|
|4||Hofburg||Bill Mott||Irad Ortiz, Jr||9-2 odds|
|5||Restoring Hope||Bob Baffert||Florent Geroux||30-1 odds|
|6||Gronkowski||Chad Brown||Jose Ortiz||12-1 odds|
|7||Tenfold||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr||12-1 odds|
|8||Vino Rosso||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||8-1 odds|
|9||Noble Indy||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||30-1 odds|
|10||Blended Citizen||Doug O’Neill||Kyle Frey||15-1 odds|
When asked if he was nervous about drawing the rail, a couple of other adversaries on Saturday — trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Dale Romans — immediately chimed in for the viewing audience.
“Bob is never nervous,” said Lukas, the Hall of Fame trainer who will saddle Bravazo, the Preakness runner-up, on Saturday.
But it didn’t take Romans, who will lead over Free Drop Billy for the Belmont Stakes, to pile on.
“He should be. I’m in the 2-hole, and he hasn’t been very nice to me lately,” said Romans.
Going into Saturday, Baffert has already won two Belmont Stakes in the past. He did so with Point Given, and later with American Pharoah, who did capture the Triple Crown. Baffert has gone into four Belmont Stakes needing just the final leg to get the elusive Triple Crown title.
“Bob Baffert has only got a .25% winning percentage going for the Triple Crown,” Romans cracked.
The other two trainers invited to attend the Post Position draw and participate in the Post-Draw Press Conference, Lukas and Todd Pletcher, have actually won more than Baffert. Lukas has won 4 Belmont Stakes titles, and Pletcher has 3 to his credit — including the 2017 Belmont champ Tapwrit.
“I am just trying to win that fifth,” said Lukas. “Woody Stephens (the late, great, Hall of Fame Trainer, who won 5 Belmont Stakes in a row at one time) used to say, ‘Lukas will never win 5.’ Well, I don’t know if I can win it this year with that horse of Baffert’s (Justify), but I am just trying to hang around long enough to maybe win that fifth and tie Woody.”
Justify and Free Drop Billy will be flown by private jet to New York on Wednesday. When they arrive from Louisville, all 10 horses will be on the grounds and will gallop up to the big race at “The Big Sandy,” as Belmont Park is affectionately referred to.