At a mud-soaked, fog-laced Pimilco Race Course on Saturday, Justify barely prevailed over the eight-horse field at The Preakness Stakes (1:55.93), meaning the Kentucky Derby victor now has a chance to become the 13th horse in history to capture the Triple Crown.
The New York-based Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, will be shown June 9 on NBC Sports and 11Alive.
Good Magic set out to challenge from the start, and the two raced neck-and-neck for much of the race with the Kentucky Derby runner-up even taking the lead at times. "We'll see how he trains", Baffert said.
That nearly happened to Justify, who won his first four races by a combined 21 1/2 lengths. With Baffert praying for the wire at Pimlico, Justify won by a half-length after completing the race in 1:55.93.
"We've got leaks everywhere, people sitting at tables and tiles falling out", said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for the Stronach Group, which owns the track. "This is his hardest race that he's had".
Baffert tied Lukas' record with his 14th Triple Crown victory and matched 19th-century trainer R.W. Walden with his seventh Preakness title.
Smith won the Preakness for just the second time in 17 tries, 25 years after his first aboard Prairie Bayou.
Justify was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby having not run as a two-year-old, breaking the so-called "Curse of Apollo", a reference to the last horse to achieve the feat in 1882. "I'm so happy that we got it done". "I did the same thing with American Pharoah, all my horses that ran the Triple Crown, they have to be 100 percent". The first was whether a heel bruise that surfaced after the Derby was indeed a non-issue, as Baffert consistently maintained, or perhaps that kind of small physical problem that gets magnified under the grueling Triple Crown schedule.
Now he will go into Belmont Park as America's next great equine sensation as he looks to enter a storied roll of thoroughbreds to sweep America's three most celebrated races, joining Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).