The star of Saturday’s show arrived at Pimlico Race Course by van at about 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. Led by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, Justify calmly got off the van, ears perked, after a 1 1/2-hour flight from Louisville, Ky., for Saturday’s 143th running of the Preakness Stakes.
Barnes did the handoff to trainer Bob Baffert, who walked the Kentucky Derby winner around the shedrow a couple of times, before another handoff that eventually led the colt to stall 28 at the stakes barn.
More than 100 journalists stood in the rain awaiting the colt’s arrival and subsequent 20-second walk to the barn area.
A little more than hour later, Justify was the first name drawn for Saturday’s race and was assigned the No. 7 post in the eight-horse race.
Baffert was not sitting with the ownership group during the draw, instead electing to stand with a couple of reporters off to the side. Elliott Walden, one of the owners who also acts as the spokesman, flashed Baffert a thumbs up when the seven was drawn.
“Yeah, he likes it,” Walden said. “He’s averse to the one hole for some reason. I don’t mind the one hole. I’ve had a lot of luck out of there. I tend to do pretty well in math and I know that’s the shortest way around there. But with an eight-horse field I don’t think any place is bad.”
Walden is also part of the same ownership group that owns Quip, who drew the No. 1 post. The Tampa Bay Derby winner was installed at odds of 12-1.
“We hope that Justify wins, for obvious reasons, it points him toward the Triple Crown,” Walden said. “But if for some reason he stubs his toe, we feel very good about Quip’s chances to be the horse that upsets him.”
Baffert saved his biggest reaction to when Justify’s morning-line odds were announced at 1-2. (Bet $2 to win $1.)
“Man, you talk about pressure,” he said to those near him.
Later, as cameras and microphones enveloped the trainer, he elaborated.
“When you’re 1-2, I always tell everyone there is room for error,” Baffert said. “He’s a great horse, but there are some really good horses. But the horse doesn’t know he’s 1-2.”
The second favorite was Good Magic, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby. He was given 3-1 on the morning line as he drew the No. 5 post.
“I’m fine with the draw,” said trainer Chad Brown, who doesn’t expect to arrive in Baltimore until Friday. “We should be close early.”
Brown won last year’s Preakness with Cloud Computing.
The remainder of the field was Lone Sailor (15-1) in the two, Sporting Chance (30-1) in the three, Diamond King (30-1) in the four, Tenfold (20-1) in the six and Bravazo (20-1) in the eight.
“I’ve always liked the five, six, seven,” Baffert said. “I would have been fine with an inside draw, but at least he gets to see what’s going on inside of him.”