Bob Baffert believes Justify is in the form of his life ahead of his bid for racing immortality in the Belmont Stakes.
It is just three short years since the Baffert-trained American Pharoah became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 and only the 12th horse in history to win the Triple Crown.
The Hall of Fame trainer can hardly believe his luck as he prepares to saddle another major candidate for the holy grail of the American racing so soon afterwards, with Justify set to go off a hot favourite to add to his May triumphs in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
Baffert watched Justify enjoy a final blowout on the Belmont Park dirt track on Friday morning and could not have been happier with what he saw.
He told Press Association Sport: “He’s doing really well. He’s just come back from exercise and, honestly, we couldn’t be happier with him.
“We’re all excited. I’m feeling pretty good about everything.”
Justify had to battle through sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, but is set to encounter a faster surface in New York this weekend.
Baffert believes underfoot conditions could see his charge in an even better light and is hopeful being drawn in stall one will not be an inconvenience as he steps up to a mile and a half for the first time.
“The weather is looking good and I think a dry track will suit him much better,” Baffert added.
“He’s drawn the one hole, but he’s going a mile and a half and I’d much rather him get it now than in the Derby, that’s for sure.
“He needs to get away clean and get into a nice, relaxed rhythm.”
In between the Triple Crown successes of Affirmed and American Pharoah, 12 horses managed to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but failed to complete the hat-trick in the Belmont.
I’ll Have Another in 2012 failed to run in the final leg after suffering injury and those beaten at Belmont include such luminaries as Spectacular Bid (1979), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989), and, most recently, California Chrome (2014).
Baffert saddled Silver Charm and Real Quiet to finish second in consecutive years in 1997 and 1998.
Comparing Justify to American Pharoah, the trainer said: “He’s an incredible horse, he has the same talent (as American Pharoah) and he really looks fantastic.
“He’s a big horse, but he’s quick and really light on his feet and I think he’s getting better and better.
“It looks like all his racing has caught up with him, but in a good way. He looks like a real racehorse now.
“You just hope he gets away clean and gets racing luck and then we’ll see whether it’s meant to be or not. After that destiny takes over.”
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