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FERRARI ON LEGS

Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert and Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith answer questions about Justify, a 3YO son of Scat Daddy with the looks and horsepower of a fine Italian sports car. By CLAUDIA L. RUIZ

CR: What was your first impression the first time you saw Justify work? BB: He started out at Los Alamitos and every time he worked, Mike Marlow, my assistant over there, he would say, “man he acts like a good horse.” I want to say it was December 30th that he worked 5/8ths in 59 and change and Mike said, “This horse is serious.” Whenever he uses the word ‘serious’, it’s usually a really good horse, because he’s been around the really good ones. He said the same about American Pharoah and Arrogate. When I brought Justify over to Santa Anita I sent him out 5/8ths. They usually get a little tired the first time they go over our track because it’s so deep, but he galloped out really well. That’s when I knew he was special. I worked him twice out of the gate and I knew, going in the first time, he was a superior horse. He worked really fast, but he did it effortlessly. The really good ones will tip you off. CR: Is there a difference in his temperament from what he is like working in the mornings to when he is racing? BB: No, he’s a very good-feeling, happy go lucky horse; really enjoys working and always has a little bounce. CR: He is very muscular... BB: Yeah, very muscular, but he’s really light on his feet. He’s beautiful—a magnificent looking horse. Athleticism, I mean, when you look at him you just can’t pick him apart. He’s an outstanding specimen, like a statue of a racehorse in the paddock. He’s got a big hip on him, his hind end is just massive and he’s strong. He’s big, but not too big, I want to say about 16.2 hands, probably about the same size as Pharoah, but with more muscle. CR: Past the Derby, what do you see him doing? BB: We don’t need to think about that right now. We’re just focused on the Derby, one race at a time with a horse like him. He’s lightly raced. We weren’t even thinking of running in the Santa

Anita Derby after his first race, we were just taking it easy and letting him tell us how he felt. Before he broke his maiden, the condition book had come out and there was an allowance race in there. So I said (to his connections), I have a plan. If he wins his first race I’ll bring him back in the allowance and stretch him out. After that we’ll go to Arkansas and throw him in the deep end of the pool. When McKinzie got hurt, that’s when I switched it up. I thought I might as well just leave Justify here and run him in the Santa Anita Derby. CR: Mike, he seemed to be drifting around a bit during the stretch run in the Santa Anita Derby. Was it his inexperience that was causing him to do so, what did you feel? MS: No, he was getting out a little heading for home and I pulled on him and he straightened out. Really the best part of the race was the last hundred yards when he started reaching out and got back to business. He grabbed his shoe leaving the gate and twisted it, tore it sideways a little, which didn’t help. It was probably the reason he was drifting out. I felt him kind of getting out and then he wouldn’t and then he would. He was probably a bit uncomfortable with it. If you take that into consideration, you wonder, ‘man, how much better would he have run if that hadn’t happened?’ you know? Of course, I didn’t know that until after the race. CR: Can you describe Justify as an athlete? MS: There’s nothing about him that’s ordinary. He’s not just a good racehorse, he’s got extraordinary talent and when you watch him run it’s unbelievable. He seems to have a mind to go with it, not to mention a trainer that’s a genius and knows exactly what he needs to do. He is lacking experience, but given those three factors, it certainly gives me the confidence to think we can add more distance. LEGEND: CR – Claudia L. Ruiz BB – Bob Baffert MS – Mike Smith Photo: Alex Evers

Thoroughbred Today

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Thoroughbred Today Spring 2018  

Thoroughbred Today magazine's spring 2018 issue is all about the three-year-olds, featuring stories on Good Magic, Justify, Mendelssohn, Edg...

Thoroughbred Today Spring 2018  

Thoroughbred Today magazine's spring 2018 issue is all about the three-year-olds, featuring stories on Good Magic, Justify, Mendelssohn, Edg...