Justify wins Preakness, sets stage for Triple Crown bid

Mike Smith celebrates riding Justify to victory in the Preakness Stakes. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Justify wins Preakness, sets stage for Triple Crown bid

  • Bab Baffert's super horse wins by half a length
  • Justify bidding to becoming 13th Triple Crown winner

WASHINGTON: Kentucky Derby winner Justify battled to a gritty victory in the 143rd Preakness Stakes on Saturday to keep the dream of a 13th Triple Crown winner alive.
Pressed early by Derby runner-up Good Magic at fog-shrouded Pimlico, the Bob Baffert-trained Justify, ridden by Mike Smith, surged in the stretch to triumph by half a length over the late-charging Bravazo.
Tenfold was third as Good Magic faded to fourth.
“Oh man, it was a nail-biter,” said Baffert, whose seventh Preakness victory saw him tie 19th-century horseman R. Wyndham Walden for the all-time record.
Baffert also matched D. Wayne Lukas’s record of 14 victories in the three Triple Crown races — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
It was Baffert who saddled American Pharoah in 2015 when the three-year-old became the first horse in 37 years to complete the coveted treble.
“We’re going to make sure that he comes out of the race well and he trains well,” Baffert said of likely plans to point Justify at the June 9 Belmont — the 1 1/2-mile race dubbed The Test of the Champion.
“He’d have to be training really well.”
Between Affirmed’s Triple Crown sweep in 1978 and American Pharoah’s in 2015, 13 horses won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but were disappointed in the Belmont.
Justify, unraced as a two-year-old, won for the fifth time in five races — all since February. And Baffert said Saturday’s race was his toughest challenge yet.
“It was a hard race today on him — probably the hardest race he’s had,” Baffert said. “But, you know, he’s getting fit. He’s just a wonderful, beautiful horse.”
Justify broke cleanly from the seventh post and quickly moved to the front on a Pimlico track rated sloppy after days of rain in Baltimore.
But Good Magic, trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Jose Ortiz, was right there, briefly taking the lead on the back stretch as they separated themselves from the rest of the field and making Justify work hard for the lead as they turned into the final straight.
“They put it to us,” Baffert said. “That (Good Magic) was a good horse and it was like they had their own private match race.
“I wasn’t liking it down the backside,” Baffert admitted. “I was like, well, he’s not running there and they’re going to take their big swing. But luckily, this is what makes horse racing so great.”
No sooner had Justify fought off Good Magic than Bravazo, a 15-1 shot trained by Lukas and ridden by Luis Saez, was challenging, along with Tenfold, a 25-1 shot trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr.
Justify, sent off a 2-5 favorite, held on, completing the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.93 as a crowd of 134,487 erupted.
“A very good horse won the race, a very good horse,” Lukas said. “We ran at him. We kept him honest ... we’ll see what happens in the next one.”
Smith called it a “dream come true,” acknowledging that his mount “got a little tired.”
Baffert said the fighting finish showed Justify’s true mettle.
“These great horses, they just define themselves when they get in that situation, and today, he just showed not only is he a big, beautiful, gorgeous horse, but he is all racehorse,” Baffert said. “And that’s what it took to win today.”


Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

Updated 37 min 14 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

  • A double from Almoez Ali means Qatar top Group E.
  • Juan Antonio Pizzi's men now face Japan in second round on Monday.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive. 

A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash knowing they had already secured a spot in the knockout stages. 

A brace from Almoez Ali in Abu Dhabi was enough to give Qatar the three points and leave them top of the group. 

From the kick-off the Green Falcons were the ones who looked the more likely to make the initial breakthrough —  Fahad Almuwallad slamming a right-foot shot against the post after 22 minutes.

Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos then missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.

But Ali, who scored four goals in Qatar's 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.

He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea's Lee Dong-gook in 2000.

Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight.

While the defeat was not ideal Green Falcons coach Pizzi said he was still hopeful Saudi Arabia would be able to go far in the tournament. 

"It was an intense game but we have to hide our feelings and prepare for the last 16," Pizzi said.

"We were missing quality in the final third and individual errors have cost us," he added.

"But we will bounce back. I respect every team left in the competition, including Japan, but I don't feel that we are inferior to them in any way."

Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarterfinals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16.