Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Bob Baffert misses the simple pleasure of watching American Pharoah breeze.
On the verge of his second Triple Crown with Justify, the Hall of Fame trainer is quick to recall his admiration for his first history-making superhorse.
“I’ve never had a horse work like him,” Baffert said. “His mechanics, his motion, just the way he did it. ... This horse is starting to act like Pharoah.”
Justify isn’t American Pharoah. He wasn’t a 2-year-old champion and never seemed destined to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. American Pharoah looked bred and built for that.
Though Justify’s path to this point has differed wildly from American Pharoah’s run to the 2015 Triple Crown, Baffert sees similarities in his stride, his growth and his potential. That’s why he thinks Justify could be just the second Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“They’re two different type of horses, Pharoah and this guy,” Baffert said after Justify won the Preakness. “I think I see a lot of resemblance in these two, the way they move. ... When I worked him after the Preakness, American Pharoah, when he would breathe, he was like he was a machine. And this horse is getting there.”
Justify’s recent works have brought some similarities into focus. American Pharoah didn’t have his best in the Kentucky Derby before rolling in the pouring rain in the Preakness. Three years later, Justify has rebounded from an imperfect Preakness to appear on top of his game with the mile-and-a-half Belmont coming up Saturday.
“He just keeps doing more than we keep expecting,” Justify jockey Mike Smith told The Associated Press after the Preakness. “There’s always going to be that race where he’s going to have to fight one out. I believe that was the one, so hopefully he’ll come back and run even better next time.”