Justify, with Hall of Famer Mike Smith on his back, emerged from the fog and sloshed his way to another victory, holding off several hard-charging challengers to win the Preakness on Saturday and keep alive the chance for trainer Bob Baffert’s second Triple Crown champion in four years. On a sloppy track similar to the conditions in the Kentucky Derby, Justify improved to 5-0 and will go to the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 9 looking to do the same thing American Pharoah did for Baffert in 2015.
Smith said afterward it was a “dream come true” to race for Triple Crown.
Justify showed no ill effects from a bruised heel on his left hind foot that was discovered in the aftermath of the Derby, an injury Baffert insisted would not be a problem. Justify completed the mile and three-sixteenths in 1 minute 55.93 seconds and rewarded his mud-caked backers with $2.80 on a $2 bet to win.
Baffert said Justify’s exhilarating victory had probably taken more out of him than it did out of the horse. “It’s a lot of pressure,” Baffert said, “and we might not show it because we’ve been through this, but we hide it pretty well.”
Smith, who on Saturday got his sixth win in a Triple Crown race on the same grounds where he captured his first 25 years ago, acknowledged afterward that Justify, the colt with a perfect record in often imperfect conditions, was a little tired.
“A good kind of tired,” he said.
Smith was a good kind of tired, too, but he said he had more left to accomplish. “At my age, man, what a way to ride off into the sunset,” he said, “although I don’t plan to retire anytime soon.”
The 52-year-old jockey garnered extra attention after the Derby when he thanked Jesus during his first interview after crossing the finish line.
Smith told reporters, “I just want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing us on this afternoon, and blessing us with this amazing horse.”
“I just couldn’t keep it inside of me,” Smith told CBN News. “I truly give God all the glory and I had to say it. Without Him I wouldn’t have all the success I do.”
Smith said that when he’s mounted on his horse, he follows God just as he normally would.
“I believe there’s just a flow that guides me and when I follow it, amazing things happen,” he said. “And that’s with everyday life too. When God’s leading you, you follow it.”
Superstitions run deep in the racing world, but Smith says he doesn’t pay attention to them, he relies on God.
“People always ask me if I’m superstitious and I say, ‘If you consider praying superstitious because all I do is pray,'” Smith said.
Beyond that, Smith says he’ll continue to follow God’s plan.
“As long as I continue to stay healthy, I’m going to keep riding until God shows me what’s next. God has a plan for me, and right now he’s keeping me in the saddle,” Smith said.
- Sources: Cbn.com and other wire services