The monstrous, mile-and-a-half-long 2018 Belmont Stakes next Saturday will still carry quite some mystery, despite the fact that we face another heavily-favored, Bob-Baffert-trained Triple Crown candidate in Justify. What is at issue is how he, Justify, and his affable, gentlemanly, but apparently omnipotent trainer, will go about doing what Vegas is now saying is a 4/5 sure thing. If they come through the fire, both the trainer and his athlete will enter the history books in a whole new way. And that fact freights this race for them both, as Baffert himself has acknowledged. Nevertheless, indicating at least some vertiginous fun for players, the questions about this running of the Belmont are numerous, pernicious, and pointed.
First and foremost, did that last very tough Preakness win take it out of Justify? It seems very much not to have done so, according to the barnside chatter from Churchill, where Baffert has had Justify breezing and galloping alongside his stiffest Preakness foes, Bravazo and Tenfold. But the last few strides of Justify's eked-out Preakness win sure looked like that race took a toll, and as a son of Scat Daddy, distance as such is not thought to be much in Justify's pedigree. Baffert admitted that the race was hard for his horse in the winner's circle.