Baltimore — Half the participants in the eight-horse Preakness field have yet to experience the sensation of chasing Justify to the finish line.
Perhaps one of the new shooters in Saturday’s race can find a way to leave the Kentucky Derby winner in his wake.
Quip, Sporting Chance, Diamond King and Tenfold skipped the Derby to focus on earning a chunk of the $1.5 million Preakness purse.
History just might be on their side.
A new shooter — a horse which runs in one of the two remaining Triple Crown races after passing up the Derby — has won the Preakness four times since 2000. Just last year, Cloud Computing paid $13.40 in an upset over Derby winner Always Dreaming.
Then again …
“Derby runners have done well over the course of time,” insisted W. Elliott Walden, president and CEO of racing operations for WinStar Farm, which owns Justify and Quip. “Now is it because they’re the better horses? Quite possibly that’s the case. They’re just the best horses of the crop and that’s why they run in the Kentucky Derby.”
The finest of the newcomers this year appears to be Quip, who has three wins and a second-place showing in five career races.
“He’s a really good horse. He’s fast,” Justify trainer Bob Baffert said of Quip.
Trained by Rodolphe Brisset and ridden by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Florent Geroux, Quip captured the Tampa Derby in March before finishing second in the Arkansas Derby.
While unbeaten Justify comes in with just two weeks’ rest – the quickest turnaround of his career – Quip enters the Preakness coming off an extended break.
“Quip is a horse that has shown quality at the highest level,” Walden said. “We feel like he could have run in the Kentucky Derby, but we wanted to give him a chance to catch up to himself. He’s a slight-made horse we felt like would do better with the five weeks rest.”
Quip had a pair of wins last year before staggering to a seventh-place showing in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November.
In retrospect, that might have been a turning point.
“He’s changed a lot,” Brisset said. “After the Kentucky Jockey Club, we gave him a couple of weeks off and you could see the maturation. You still have to be a little careful when he’s around too many horses, but he’s way more professional.”
Well, Quip will have only seven other horses to contend with on Saturday. Two of them will be saddled by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.