Justify Blog

Justify Bob - Blog
May 30, 2018

Louisville, Ky - In 1994, a maiden-claimer Bob Baffert trained worked 1:11.3 from the gate on my watch. He had a real bad way of moving, he paddled that left front so far out that Baffert quipped "he can trip somebody''. The grey gelding, worked fast despite spooking and propping at the 3/8ths pole. I asked Bob what he possibly spooked from, he quickly replied 'he saw a rabbit on the turf course.'

My relationship with Bob, has been friendly, business and everything in between, as we used to play the races at Santa Anita, flanked by Michael Mollica of Breeze Easy LLC now, and at times guys like Mike Pegram or even the late Bob Lewis.

In fact, in 1994 I stood on the apron between Bob Baffert, Michael Mollica, and Bob Lewis, when Bob Lewis said "Bob, I will never have a horse with D Wayne Lukas,'',six months later, Serena's Song.

July 10th 1997, I was in Bafferts Santa Anita barn office, and I asked him about two horses he had entered on the card at Hollywood Park: 'One can't walk and the other one can't see' he said

The blind one according to Baffert, Letthebighossroll was a Flying Paster Gelding who raced 60 times, from age 3 to 9, won 18 of them and finished second 14 times in his ling career to race nine. The Cal-bred was a phenomenal million dollar earner, the hard way, sprinting for Bob and Mike Pegram. A horse I had a chance to clock and watch in my formative years on the track.

The gelding had cataracts, and Bob dropped him in for $50,000 claiming, knowing darn well nobody would take him. He won.

He found the wire with Chris McCarron on board, holding off Plenty Zloty, ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye.

I brought up Letthebighossroll, this past Tuesday morning, as we waited for Justify to come out at Churchill Downs.

"I'm glad I didn't have these great horses in the 90s'', in a thankful, yet appreciative way of how far he has come, said Baffert, despite having won two derbies in the late 90s with Silver Charm and Real Quiet.

As we all get older, we reflect on what we have done, where we have come from and what we have accomplished. Baffert learned his lessons from having some really good horses in his career to set him up for the great ones of the last few.

"He's a beautiful horse, isn't he?" Baffert said with a gleam in his eye as he watched Justify set off to work at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning. I am not sure if he was just admiring his colt out loud or speaking to us.

'He's going from the 4 and 1/2', Bob said while fumbling with his watch. He was excited, giddy, no pressure at all. It was amazing to see. I have learned that Bob can telegraph his chances by his own body language. It took me back to 2008 when I talked to him about Midnight Lute who had just finished his last breeze for the Breeders Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. I knew then, he wouldn't lose.

The conversation turned to his help, "it's a team effort'' and especially Martin Garcia who has over the years breezed some of the top horses under Bafferts care, and who was Justify's back that morning."We are all in" he finished.

As the colt got into his pre work gallop, the notion that his figures suggest he is getting slower, or regressing, came up in a discussion. Bob just gave that look like 'whaaaaaaaat?'

Figure makers see races in figures to answer their question of the validity of the race, but horsemen see the races validity in their horses rather than figures. Figures are secondary for most horsemen as anything man made is fallible and subjective.

To suggest Justify is getting slower is still not answering the question of who can beat him? If he did get slower, he still beat everyone else in the Derby and Preakness, including running the two-year-old Champion and Derby runner up, Good Magic, into the ground to defeat at old Hilltop.

The name of the game is being faster than your opposition, but with figures, sheets, rags and deltas, we look at a number not at the horse. Horsemen look at the horse, first and foremost.

Great horses/athletes do what they have to do and rise to the occassion. The name Lebron James came up. How many times has he been counted out. I don't think we count horses like Justify out, even though many of the same people reciting numbers were the constant knockers of Zenyatta, Tiznow and Gun Runner.

Tiznow did came up in the discussion, now there is a horse that ran to his competition, as he was notorious for waiting on horses, go ask Sakhee or Giant's Causeway.

Horses that know how turn it on and off are susceptible to questionable figures.

Back at Churchill Downs, Justify is now at the pole and all set to work. He picks his pace and takes off from the 4 and 1/2 pole .

Official clockers like the traditional big poles, like the half or three-eights and they clock to the wire and everything after is the gallop out.

We have a different technique, we want the whole picture, so if a horse breaks from a unconventional pole we go from there, plus I know how Baffert works. He works between the short poles. That's his style.

Justify cruises in 12.4, 24.1, 36 flat, 47.2 to the 16th pole and finishes up at the 7.5 pole after the wire in 59.3 on our watch. The internal splits of my clockings are 23.1, 34.3, and 46.4. Official times are 23.3, 46.4 and out in 59.3. There's how many ways to slice a cantaloupe?

The workouts splits and final times are great, people need them to put the work into context, but its how the horse did it.

He looked like 60 million bucks extending through the lane and happy as a lark, bouncing back to the barn. He has taken nothing but steps forward since the Derby.

There are more than I can count, out there, salivating at the prospect of betting against Justify. I believe horses, whether 3/5 or 20-1, tout themselves. We make a living at it. Justify is showing so far into his training that he is sitting on go, and I have learned, he touts himself and that comes back to his trainer. He has been here before and he certainly is one of the best ever. You don't second guess guys like Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, Lebron James or Bob Bafferts of the world.

Whether you like or dislike personally, you have to Justify Bob, as one of the greatest. Its the accomplishment and feats he has recorded, not your view through your binoculars.

In an industry and society, that agendas, schemes and overall cannibalization of our own heroes is commonplace, we need legends the likes of Baffert, and If the bighoss rolls in the Belmont Stakes, to the tune of Bob and Justifys body language, those who bet or root against him, maybe wish they had seen that 'rabbit on the turf course'.



Bruno

Racingwithbruno Notes:

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