December 3, 2023

Lukas: Justify dominant unless somebody shows up

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be taking two shots against Justify in next week's Preakness (G1) (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)

Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas are both seeking their record-tying seventh wins in the Preakness (G1) next Saturday. While Baffert will be an odds-on favorite to tie the all-time record — set by R. Wyndham Walden in the 19th century — with Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Justify, Lukas is taking a double-barreled shot at preventing this with Bravazo and Sporting Chance, all the while acknowledging Justify looks like Triple Crown material.

“I think this horse has a great chance; I wish I had him,” Lukas said. “There’s no horse out there right now that can stop him on this run. He’s going to get a mile and a half (in the Belmont [G1]). He’s going to run well in the Preakness. It’s his Triple Crown to lose.

“But you can’t concede anything. My job is to spoil the dream. That’s what I get paid for. I’m a good friend of Bob Baffert’s, but when the gate opens, he’s on his own. He didn’t cheer for Oxbow all the way around there,” Lukas said, referring to his 2013 Preakness winner. “Unless somebody shows up, he’s the dominant horse. I feel Bob is in a beautiful position to pull off another Triple Crown. This field of horses has to really step up in order to beat him.”

Bravazo, the Risen Star (G2) winner who outran expectations finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby, and Grade 1 winner Sporting Chance, fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G1) on the Derby undercard, are scheduled to work at Churchill Downs Sunday morning before vanning to Baltimore Monday.

“We’ll keep hammering away at him obviously,” Lukas said of taking on Justify. “Our horses are tough. The thing about the Preakness is that you’ve got to have a tough horse, a horse that can rebound very quickly from the Derby, regardless of the trip. We’ve got one of those this year — Bob (also) has one is the problem. You can see it by the way he gallops, how aggressive he is.

“The problem with Bravazo is very simple: We go from the Risen Star to the Louisiana Derby (G2) four weeks later and we get nothing out of it. By that, I mean from a training standpoint we did not move forward. That was a move backward in condition and everything. Now you go six weeks from Louisiana Derby to Kentucky Derby. In my mind as a trainer, I trained him for 10 weeks to the Derby. I didn’t get anything out of the Louisiana Derby. You’re going to see a horse move forward off the Kentucky Derby now.

“Sporting Chance is a very talented horse. All we’ve got to do is get a clean trip and see it. I see it every day out there. He has got to get over all the little hiccups — and they were man-made in my opinion; the horse is an absolute professional. It’s no question he was over-ridden in the Blue Grass (G2) and so forth. We get a smooth trip and I think you’ll see a very talented horse. He fits with the rest of them.”

Luis Saez will ride Bravazo for the first time in the Preakness, while Luis Contreras has the mount aboard Sporting Chance.


Justify, meanwhile, is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday via airplane from Louisville.

“Justify couldn’t be looking any better,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “Going into Baltimore this next week, I couldn’t be happier with how he looks. The next seven days it’s just keeping him healthy and happy. He had a hard race in the Derby, and the Preakness comes up quick. You just want to go in there with a happy, healthy horse.”

“(The foot bruise) looks like it’s completely behind us. Those things take sometimes 48 hours to resolve themselves, so now we just march forward to Baltimore.”


Trainer John Servis said he hopes to give Federico Tesio winner Diamond King his final Preakness work Sunday morning at Parx outside Philadelphia, but the weather could halt those plans.

“I’d like to work him tomorrow, if I can. It depends on how the track’s going to be. Right now, the track’s pretty sloppy,” Servis said. “If we don’t get any more rain then the track should be good. If the track’s good, then we’ll breeze him first thing in the morning. If it’s not and we need to wait, we’ll probably go first after the break. We’re just playing it by ear. I’d much rather go tomorrow, but if I have to push it back a day then I will.”

Javier Castellano will reportedly ride Diamond King.