Stage set for Triple Crown bid as Justify wins Preakness

Justify with Mike Smith atop wins the 143rd

Justify with Mike Smith atop wins the 143rd Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico race track Saturday in Baltimore

The Triple Crown of horse racing is now in play.

Hooked in a nose-to-nose duel all the way around the track with his primary rival Good Magic, Kentucky Derby victor Justify held on to win the 143rd Preakness on Saturday and will head to the Belmont Stakes on June 9 with a chance to become horse racing's 13th Triple Crown victor.

Mike Smith aboard Justify (7) passes Jose L. Ortiz aboard Good Magic (5) during the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.

And considering the dense, eerie fog at Pimlico, it's fair to wonder how many people at the track had clear sight of this fantastic finish?

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The final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes on June 9 in Elmont, New York.

Whether you're taking the favorite at 1/2 or looking for a viable longshot to spoil Justify's Triple Crown run, there's plenty to know about each horse in the field. He has won the Preakness six times - including with all four of his previous Derby winners.

Although Justify did not have his best race and was noticeably exhausted at the end, Baffert would not necessarily agree that the longer Belmont Stakes would be an opportunity to derail his prized horse. That said, the way those two horses were able to close on Justify will certainly raise concerns over how Justify will fare at the 1.5-mile Belmont Stakes in three weeks with the Triple Crown on the line.

Coverage of the Preakness was set to begin Saturday at 2:30 p.m. It was a sloppy track in Louisville and it will be a muddy track in Baltimore after week-long rains and more expected Saturday. It was like they had their own private match race (but I'm) so happy we got it done.

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Victor Espinoza did it aboard American Pharoah in 2015, and he never faltered.

"We're going to make sure that he comes out of the race well and he trains well for it", Baffert said.

"We'll go to Laurel, and we're still in the state of Maryland, and we'll give you a better, more elevated and prestigious experience", the 52-year-old Ritvo explained to a scrum of media in the press box at Pimlico Saturday. "If you go back and really look at it, he's staring right down the racetrack and wouldn't take his eyes off the door until they opened".

Both of those horses have something in common: Hall of Fame trainer Baffert. If the weather doesn't influence the race — Justify is the heavy favorite — it most certainly could have an impact on attendance after the event drew a record 140,327 in 2017.

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Justify also has a nice streak going. He won the Tampa Bay Derby in March and has three wins in five career races.

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