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
0

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.”


PSG chief Al-Khelaifi charged with corruption over Qatar worlds athletics champs

Updated 23 May 2019
0

PSG chief Al-Khelaifi charged with corruption over Qatar worlds athletics champs

  • BeIN Sports boss Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been under investigation since March
  • Another BeIN executive is also under investigation in France

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi was on Thursday charged with corruption in connection with the bidding process for this year’s world athletics championships in Doha, judicial sources said.
Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, has been under investigation since March in a probe of the bidding process for the 2017 and the 2019 world championships.
Doha lost out to London to stage the 2017 worlds but beat off opposition to host the 2019 event from Eugene in the United States and Barcelona.
Al-Khelaifi was informed by letter of his “mis en examen,” a French legal term that has no direct equivalent in the American or British legal systems but roughly translates as being charged.
The French term does not automatically trigger a trial but means that prosecutors believe there is strong or corroborated evidence of wrongdoing.
Al-Khelaifi was unable to attend questioning by investigators scheduled for May 16 as he was in Qatar for the domestic cup final.
French prosecutors are looking specifically at two payments of $3.5 million in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment, a company jointly owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid, to a sports marketing firm run by Papa Massata Diack.
Diack’s father Lamine Diack was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from 1999 to 2015 and a member of the International Olympic Committee.
As well as probing the world athletics championships the French investigation is also examining circumstances in which the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and Tokyo for 2020.
Prior to the decision to charge him, Al-Khelaifi had been questioned in March as “person of interest” in the case revolving around the 2011 payments by Oryx which were made at a time when Doha was seeking to host the 2017 world athletics championship and the 2020 Olympics.
Investigators were seeking to determine whether, in return for the payments, Lamine Diack used his influence to gain votes for Doha among IAAF members and also to obtain a date change for the competitions to avoid the heat of the Qatar summer.
The world championships take place at the Khalifa International Stadium between September 27 and October 6.
Al-Khelaifi’s lawyer Francis Szpiner denied all wrongdoing on the part of his client saying the Oryx payments were fully transparent and the facts of the case “do not concern him (Al-Khalaifi).”
The head of BeIN Sports “authorized no payment of any kind in relation to the allegations made,” he told AFP.
“Nasser Al-Khelaifi was neither a shareholder, nor a director of Oryx en 2011. He did not intervene either directly or indirectly in the candidature of Doha...”
Another BeIN executive, Yousef Al-Obaidly, a PSG board member and close associate of Al-Khelaifi, is also under investigation in France which claims jurisiction because the IAAF is based in Monaco.
Al-Obaidly has also denied all wrongdoing, saying the allegations were “utterly baseless and unsubstantiated.”
Lamine Diack, meanwhile, was charged with corruption in March in relation to the case while an arrest warrant has been issued for his Senegal-based son, also wanted for corruption and money laundering, according to a source close to the probe.
French prosecutors this week recommended that Diack and his son stand trial in a separate matter, for allegedly obstructing sanctions against Russia for doping in return for payments when he was IAAF president.