With Humberto Gomez aboard, Kentucky Derby victor Justify returned to the track Thursday morning for the first time since his 2 ½-length triumph Saturday in the 144th Run for the Roses.
Owned by the partnership of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners, the Bob Baffert trainee was the first horse on the track at 7:30 following the first track maintenance renovation break.
Sporting his Kentucky Derby training saddle towel, Justify backtracked to the finish line accompanied by a pony with Baffert assistant Jim Barnes aboard. Justify then proceeded to gallop about 1 ½ miles before returning to the barn.
“I was very happy with him,” Barnes said. “He went to the track perfect and galloped perfect. I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Justify came out of the Derby with a bruised left hind heel.
“Each day he was getting better,” Barnes said. “He is 100 percent. He was ready to go (today). He was getting a little pushy in his stall.”
Among those looking on Thursday morning was Elliott Walden, President/CEO and Racing Manager of WinStar.
“I thought he went great,” Walden said. “The last couple of days he has looked good in the shed, but you never know until you get them out there.
“He has dealt with a cracked heel off and on and that is typical of horses. The track was rough Saturday with all the rain. The first time we saw it (the heel) was when he came out for you guys (the media) Sunday. We had to figure out what it was and work on it.”
Barnes said Justify most likely would remain on a 7:30 schedule until he leaves for Baltimore next week and the Preakness (GI) on May 19.
“We will stick to the same plan and go a little light into Baltimore,” said Barnes of the post-Derby routine that has served Baffert well with all four of his previous Derby winners coming back in two weeks to win the Preakness. “Just keep him happy and healthy.”
Other horses based at Churchill Downs that are possible for the Preakness are: Kentucky Derby sixth-place finisher Bravazo (trainer D. Wayne Lukas), Pat Day Mile (GII) third Givemeaminit (Dallas Stewart), Kentucky Derby eighth Lone Sailor (Tom Amoss), Pat Day fourth Sporting Chance (Lukas) and Arkansas Derby (GI) fifth-place finisher Tenfold (Steve Asmussen).
(from Churchill Downs news release)