BALTIMORE – WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing’s Justify, an historic winner of the Kentucky Derby (G1), is bound for legendary Pimlico Race Course for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, the 143rd Preakness Stakes (G1) Saturday, May 19.
In a phone call to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert at 7:59 a.m. Sunday, Maryland Jockey Club President and General Manager Sal Sinatra formally invited the winning connections to take their next step on the Triple Crown trail in the $1.5 million Preakness.
“I spoke to Bob early this morning and extended him the traditional invitation to the Preakness, which he gladly accepted,” Sinatra said. “Bob is looking forward to returning to Baltimore where he has had great success, and we are thrilled to welcome him back. We’re excited to have the Kentucky Derby winner coming to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, and we’re looking forward to a great race and an incredible week of events including InfieldFest and Black-Eyed Susan Day.”
Undefeated through four starts, including a victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 7 in his stakes debut, Justify became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old.
Baffert will be seeking his record-tying seventh Preakness victory, having previously tasted success with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Lookin At Lucky (2010) and Triple Crown champion American Pharoah (2015). Baffert’s four previous Derby winners – Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem and American Pharoah – have all won the Preakness.
Hall of Fame trainer Robert Wyndham “R.W.” Walden won the Preakness seven times between 1875 and 1888.
Jockey Mike Smith, Justify’s Hall of Fame rider, has one previous Preakness victory to his credit with Prairie Bayou in 1993. He has also been second twice including on the Baffert-trained Bodemeister in 2012.
A total of 15 stakes, eight graded, worth $3.7 million will be contested over Preakness weekend, beginning with Black-Eyed Susan Day Friday, May 18.
Preakness Week at Pimlico offers several events including Sunrise at Old Hilltop, where fans can have breakfast trackside while watching horses go through their morning exercise Tuesday, May 15 through Friday, May 18; the traditional Alibi Breakfast on Thursday, May 17; and Budweiser InfieldFest, one of the country’s most eclectic outdoor music festivals.
Headlining this year’s InfieldFest on Preakness Day are Post Malone, 21 Savage and Odesza on the event’s new 65-foot mega-stage designed to give attendees a view of the live racing. Also scheduled to perform are DJs Vice and Frank Walker.