Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Justify continued his training May 25 at Churchill Downs with a 1 1/2-mile morning gallop under Humberto Gomez in preparation for the third jewel of racing's Triple Crown - the June 9 Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
"It was a very good morning," said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's chief assistant Jimmy Barnes. "We did exactly what Bob wanted us to do. He galloped a little bit further today but he told us, once again, to take it easy with him. It's nice to gallop out there all alone. We wanted him to go an easy pace and he was able to do so without any traffic."
Also training Friday during the exclusive window from 7:30-7:40 a.m. EDT for horses preparing for the Belmont Stakes were Preakness runner-up Bravazo, who galloped 1 1/2 miles with exercise rider Danielle Rosier aboard for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas; and Preakness third Tenfold, who galloped about 1 1/2 miles with Angel Garcia for fellow Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen.
"We can't just let Justify have it," Lukas joked after watching Bravazo inch closer to Justify during their gallops. "(Bravazo) bounced out of the Preakness in great shape. Justify is the real deal but my horse is very talented as well. I don't think there is any issue with him going 1 1/2 miles. It's a test to every horse in the race because no one has done that before."
Baffert is expected to be at Churchill later this weekend or early next week, according to Barnes. Justify is scheduled to fly to Belmont from Louisville Wednesday, June 6.
Area horse racing fans are invited to watch Justify and other horses possible for the Belmont each morning from the first floor of the facility free of charge. Churchill will open its Paddock Gate entrance between 7-8 a.m.
Guests may park free of charge in the Orange and Black Lots outside of the Paddock Gate.
Baffert could have a second Belmont Stakes contender in Gary and Mary West's Restoring Hope. He said the final decision to run will be made in the week leading up to the race, depending on how the colt responds in his morning routine at Churchill Downs.
Still in search of a stakes victory, Restoring Hope worked a sharp 1:00 for five furlongs over the Churchill track May 22, his second breeze since finishing 12th in the Pat Day Mile Stakes (G3) on May 5.
"He's doing well," Baffert said by phone. "We're going to watch him train and put a few more works in him. He ran really well in the Wood, ran a nice third in there. I think sometimes with the mile and a half, they can get a piece of it. There's a lot of horses that don't want to go that far, and for others they seem to do well. We'll see."
Trainer Dale Romans said a decision on whether to run grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy in the Belmont Stakes won't be made before Albaugh Family Stables' colt has a timed workout May 27 at Churchill Downs. Free Drop Billy worked a bullet half-mile in :47 3/5 on May 21, the fastest of 51 workouts at that distance.
"We're pointing that way as of now," Romans said of the Triple Crown finale. "We'll just see how it goes the next few days. We'll see how he works this weekend and we'll all talk about it."
Free Drop Billy won last fall's Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, then was a disappointing ninth in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). The son of Union Rags is winless in four starts this year including a 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
"He's a grade 1 winner. He doesn't have to apologize to anyone for being there," Romans said. "He's a good horse. I don't think he liked that muddy track in the Derby. He seems to be a little sensitive to surface."
If Free Drop Billy runs in the Belmont, he'll be ridden by Robby Albarado. Another option is to wait for the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1T) on July 7, Romans has said.
Complementary Belmont Stakes past performances, courtesy of Brisnet.com, can be viewed online.