March 29, 2023

Justify turns in final breeze for Belmont Stakes

Justify ships Wednesday for his date with destiny at Belmont Park (Coady Photography)

Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Justify completed his preparations for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (G1) Monday morning at Churchill Downs, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.40 under Martin Garcia.

Beginning his breeze at the half-mile marker, Justify breezed through splits of :12.80, :24.80, :37, and :48.80 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven furlongs in 1:27.20.

“It was a really nice breeze and exactly what we were looking for,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He relaxed nicely and seemed very happy. Martin was very happy with him as well so I was happy, too. He was a little fresh earlier in the week so it was good to see him relax nicely.”

Also working for the Belmont was stablemate Restoring Hope, who went six furlongs in 1:13 under Florent Geroux, who will ride the Wood Memorial (G2) third in the Belmont. Restoring Hope’s split were :12.60, :24.40, :36.20, :48.40 and 1:00.20 with a gallop out of 1:26.40 for seven furlongs.

“Restoring Hope went really well,” Baffert said. “He’s always been a really good work horse. He’s sort of a one-paced horse. He went a little faster than Justify but I thought overall the work was very good.”

Justify and Restoring Hope are scheduled to make the two-hour flight to New York on Wednesday from Louisville and will leave Churchill Downs’ Barn 33 between 8-8:30 a.m. (EDT).

Preakness runner-up Bravazo left trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ Barn 44 early Monday morning via van to New York while Preakness third, Tenfold, jogged one mile following his five-furlong breeze Saturday. Free Drop Billy walked trainer Dale Romans’ Barn 4 shedrow following his five-furlong move in Sunday.

Tenfold is scheduled to fly to New York on Tuesday and leave Churchill Downs at approximately 10:30 a.m. while Free Drop Billy is scheduled to join Justify and Restoring Hope on Wednesday’s flight.

With the announcement Monday morning that the European-based Seahenge would not start in the Belmont, the prospective field is now at 10. Also likely are Blended Citizen, Gronkowksi, Hofburg, Noble Indy, and Vino Rosso. The Belmont draw is on Tuesday evening of Belmont week and will include the assignment of morning-line odds.

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