Justify put himself within one race of joining the greats of American racing with victory in the 143rd Preakness Stakes at a murky and rain-soaked Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore.
Ridden by Mike Smith, 52, Bob Baffert’s undefeated Kentucky Derby hero faced seven rivals in the second leg of the US Triple Crown, including runner-up Good Magic, who served it up to his old rival right from the start.
Justify eventually got on top and had enough left at the line to hold Bravazo and Tenfold, with the gallant Good Magic a close fourth.
He now needs to add the Belmont Stakes on June 9 to become just the 13th horse to win all three races – the last being the Baffert-trained American Pharoah in 2015.
Baffert told NBC Sports: “It was a nail-biter, they put it to us and it was like they had their own private match. Somebody had to give and I’m glad it wasn’t us.
“I’m so happy we got it done. He’s just a great horse, for him to handle all that pressure and keep on running.
“The talent is right there, but he’s had to work for it and I’m happy for the horse, Mike and all the connections.
“We pulled it out, they ran fast – I’ve never had one run that fast here.
“I tip my hat to Good Magic, he made us really work.”