Why it’s impossible to pick against Derby winner Justify in the Preakness

Justify looked dominant at the Kentucky Derby. Could we be seeing another Triple Crown winner this year? USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE — Even during the 37-year Triple Crown drought that tortured horse racing until American Pharoah came along in 2015, roughly one-third of the horses that won the Kentucky Derby came back to win the Preakness.

There always has been a rather simple explanation for that trend: Unless the Derby produces some kind of fluky result, the fastest horse on the first Saturday in May is likely to remain the fastest horse two weeks later.

So as the horse racing world descends on Pimlico this week for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the question for the seven horses trying to challenge Justify is simple: Why would this Preakness be any different?

“The horse that wins the Derby is usually the best horse,” said Bob Baffert, who will try for his seventh Preakness win Saturday. “They’re in, like, top form and that’s what you want.”

Nobody knows that better than Baffert, whose first four Kentucky Derby winners all won the Preakness — and did so in more impressive fashion, bouncing out of Churchill Downs fitter and sharper than they were before.

There’s little reason to believe that’s going to change this year, as Justify faces three of the same horses he beat convincingly two weeks ago and four newcomers who have yet to demonstrate the aptitude it will take to upset him. Heck, even the weather at the Preakness looks like it’s going to produce the same wet track conditions he skipped over in the Derby.

“It’s going to be very tough to beat him,” said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who entered both Bravazo (20-to-1) and Sporting Chance (30-to-1) but is realistic about their chances. “He’s the best horse. It’s just that simple. He’s doing well. I watched him all week, and he’s going to be very, very hard to handle.”

Justify was made the 1-to-2 favorite on the morning line Wednesday and could easily be bet down to something like 1-to-5 on race day. That doesn’t mean he’s a lock to win, of course. A thousand things can happen once they get out on the track,…