ELMONT, N.Y. – After three flawless victories over as many different racetracks, Zayat Stable’s undefeated Justin Squared will bring his win streak to Belmont Park on Saturday, in the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens for 3-year-old sprinters on Belmont Stakes Day.
Justin Squared will face 12 rivals as he takes a shot at seven furlongs for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. By three-time Grade 1 winner Zensational, also trained by Baffert, Justin Squared won his only start as a 2-year-old by 5 ½ lengths in September at Del Mar before returning for his sophomore campaign in April with a victory against optional claiming competition at Los Alamitos Race Course.
The spirited gray colt proved untouchable in his stakes debut on the Preakness Day undercard May 21 at Pimlico, wiring his rivals with a two-length score in the six-furlong Chick Lang.
“He’s ridiculously fast,” said Baffert. “He’s got a big, long stride and is a powerful horse. He’s fun to watch, but he’s a handful, just like his sire. He came back [after the Chick Lang] and worked so well after shipping we thought we’d send him for this one. He’s really fast and we’re just hoping that his speed carries him.”
The second-choice on the morning line at 4-1, Justin Squared will be ridden by his regular jockey, Martin Pedroza, from post 4.
Justin Squared will face Sharp Azteca, also riding a three-race win streak, cutting back in distance for owner Ivan Rodriguez and trainer Jorge Navarro. Winner of the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile on May 7 at Churchill Downs, the Freud colt has been tabbed as the tepid 7-2 program choice. Jockey Joe Bravo will ride from the rail.
Hans Poetsch’s game winner of the Grade 3 Laz Barrera on May 14, I Will Score will make his first start on the East Coast for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. At 5-1 on the morning line, the son of Roman Ruler will have the services of Martin Garcia, riding the colt from post 12.
Reddam Racing’s homebred Mrazek, runner-up in the Laz Barrera, will represent the Doug O’Neill barn. Installed at 6-1, the California-bred will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez; the pair will leave from post 11.
Rounding out the field for the Woody Stephens are Irish Smith Stable’s Seymourdini, a $900,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase, making his stakes debut for Linda Rice; G M B Racing’s Dallas Stewart-trained Tom’s Ready, who will start his first race without the blinkers he’s donned since finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Hopeful last September at Saratoga Race Course; Colts Neck Stable’s homebred stakes-winning Dig Deep for Alan Goldberg; Tale of S’avall for owner-breeder Charles Fipke and trainer Barclay Tagg; Fish Trappe Road, Martin Racing’s New York-bred trained by Bret Calhoun; Winchell Thoroughbred’s Counterforce for Steve Asmussen; Burning Sands’ homebred Awesome Gent from the Todd Pletcher barn; the Florida-bred Imperial Hint for trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr.; and Calumet Farm’s Star Hill for trainer Rusty Arnold.