ELMONT, NY, June 7, 2018--Since I can remember, when time comes for a post draw in a big race, trainer Bob Baffert was always dogmatically pragmatic about drawing the pole position:

He never wants to be on the fence. He and his horse were very fortunate in the first two legs of this series but this time the racing gods were not as kind.

There are horses drawn outside the potential 13th winner of the Triple Crown capable of forcing the pace issue, namely stablemate Restoring Hope, who could play the role of stalk-ee, and Noble Indy, a potential pace forcer.

That, the mile and a half, and sixth race in 111 days, are obstacles. And what of the foot irritation on his left hind leg sustained in the mud at Churchill? Is it still an issue?

There have been no hints from the barn either way, but the possibility lingers.

At 4-5 or less, I’m not willing to pay to find out. I took Good Magic against Justify in Louisville and Baltimore. On Long Island, my betting allegiance will be with the field’s second most probable winner; Hofburg.

We’re not going to build a case for or against anyone; the HRI audience knows all there is to know about this group. Either you’re a true believer, or you learned your handicapping lessons in Missouri: Show me.

Just one more time -- on the biggest stage any three-year-old Thoroughbred will ever be asked to perform at its best.

Here, then, is how the HRI staff and our contributor see the top contenders:

Tom Jicha

1. Justify--Can't think of a single reason to go against him.
2. Free Drop Billy--Only other Gr. 1 winner has always looked like more distance the better.
3. Bravazo--Derby better than looked, Preakness superb.
4. Tenfold--Owner says he's best bred for 12 furlongs. He might be right.
5. Hofburg--Mott usually doesn't push like he has with this one.

Mark Berner

1- Hofburg is fresh and trained well for upset.
2- Justify stretches out beyond best distance.
3- Vino Rosso can rebound from sub par try.
4- Tenfold had trouble in last; added distance suits.
5- Free Drop Billy is well-bred for 1 1/2 miles.


1. Justify - TC likelier than not
2. Tenfold - Most improvement in last race
3. Noble Indy - Aggressive jock to game re-breaker
4. Hofburg - Much trouble last, Drosselmeyer II?
5. Vino Rosso - (Dry-Track); Bravazo (Wet-Track)

John Pricci

1. Hofburg --Good, troubled Derby; physicality, pedigree, freshness
2. Justify -- Near great colt being asked a most difficult question
3. Free Drop Billy -- Good debut; Wood prep; Blue Grass wipeout; no chance Derby; great works; well-drawn; 30-1 ML
4. Vino Rosso -- Showed true ability in Wood; Derby throw-out; Todd in Belmont
5. Tenfold & Bravazo – like both; can’t separate; your move