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.”


Jorge Jesus warns Al-Hilal the hard work is only just beginning ahead of Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad

Updated 13 August 2018
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Jorge Jesus warns Al-Hilal the hard work is only just beginning ahead of Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad

  • New coach tells team they have to go up a gear it they are to beat Al-Ittihad in London this weekend.
  • Omar Abdulrahman set to make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup.

Al-Hilal have been told that they have to go up a gear if they are to have a chance of victory against Al-Ittihad in Saturday’s Super Cup in London.
The Riyadh giants kicked off the new season with a 1-0 victory over Oman’s Al-Shabab in the Arab Champions Cup on Sunday. But coach Jorge Jesus has told his players that only a much better display will allow them to get their hands on the Super Cup trophy at QPR’s Loftus Road stadium this week.  
Al-Shabab were beaten thanks to a goal from right-back Mohammed Al-Breik midway through the first-half. It gives Al-Hilal a slim advantage to take to the away leg in September as they bid to reach the last 16.
For Jesus, the match was another step toward being where he wants to be when the Saudi Pro League kicks off at the end of August.
“We were missing a number of players and when we are at full strength then we will be at a different level,” the Portuguese coach said.
“We can play better than this and we need to be more clinical in attack and take our chances.”
It was a hard-fought game against a committed and physical opponent who seemed to relish taking on the star-studded hosts.
“It was the kind of test that we needed at this stage,” added the former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss who was appointed in June.
“It was good to keep a clean sheet and we are now looking forward to the next game in London.”
The 64-year-old is expecting a tough test against domestic rivals Al-Ittihad in the British capital, not least because the Jeddah club’s new coach is Ramon Diaz. Even though he led Al-Hilal to last year’s AFC Champions League final, the Argentine was fired by the Riyadh club in February.
There is mixed news for Al-Hilal, however, as they prepare to defend their domestic title. Star midfielders Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed played no part against Al-Shabab and may miss the start of the league season. Otayf has picked up a knee injury that could keep the 25-year-old out of action for two or three weeks. Al-Abed, meanwhile, is struggling to recover from a series of injuries and niggles that have kept the playmaker out of action since last year. The 28-year-old will undergo a series of tests to determine whether surgery is needed. Salman Al-Faraj, another Saudi Arabia international, missed the game but should be fit for the trip to London.
Jesus surprised fans by pushing 19-year-old Nasser Al-Dawsari into the middle, and the teenager impressed with an assured display. It was enough to suggest that he could play a significant role in the team in the coming season as Al-Hilal look to challenge on multiple fronts at home, in Asia and in the Arab Champions Cup.
New signing Omar Abdulrahman did not play. But the 2016 Asian Player of the Year, who joined the club last week in a season-long deal that cost an estimated $17 million — the second most expensive loan signing in football history — was introduced to the crowd during half-time at the King Saud University Stadium. The United Arab Emirates playmaker received a rapturous reception as he returned to his boyhood club.
Jesus also revealed that there may be another addition to the squad before the Saudi Arabian summer transfer window closes on Aug. 23. “We are working on bringing in a new striker,” the coach said.
“If all goes well then the deal should be done soon.”
 Having faced King’s Cup winners Al-Ittihad at Loftus Road this Saturday, the Saudi Arabian champions will then return home for the start of their title defense on Aug. 31 against Al-Feiha.