Justify and Audible ran first and third, respectively, in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.  The colts have the same ownership group but different trainers.  While Justify won the Preakness, Audible was held out of the race to prep for the Belmont.

The owners are now faced with an enviable yet thought-provoking decision:  Should they run a fresh Audible in the Belmont and take the chance that he will deprive Justify of becoming the thirteenth Triple Crown winner?  Following are three possible strategies.

The Sporting Strategy.  The attitude behind this reasoning is Que Sera Sera or “whatever will be will be.”  Run both colts in the Belmont in spite of the potential consequences and let the chips fall where they may.

This laissez-faire approach could result in Audible taking down Justify.  Imagine the mixed emotions the owners would experience if Audible were to win by a neck or nose over Justify:  “We won but we lost.”

However, running Audible gives the owners insurance in the event that Justify falters badly.

The Commercial Strategy.  The monetary value of the well-bred and ideally conformed Justify would be much greater were he to be a Triple Crown champion rather than the winner of the first two legs.  Justify will have enough difficulty against a strong field at 1 ½ miles without his owners self-imposing more stress by running Audible.  Err on the side of prudence and don’t add to Justify’s already formidable task.

The Hedge Strategy.  Leaving ethics aside for the moment, the owners could instruct Audible’s jockey, Javier Castellano, not to pass Justify if it looks like Justify is going to win the Belmont.  Some sort of purse split would be guaranteed to Castellano and trainer Todd Pletcher.

Assuming that Castellano and Pletcher would agree, which is problematic, this strategy is not so farfetched.  Trainers sometimes start “rabbits” in races to ensure a fair pace for the trainer’s better entry.  And people bet on the rabbit even though it has only a very slim chance to finish in the money after a suicidal pace.

Yet Audible is no rabbit and has a legitimate shot to win the Belmont.  Moreover, the Hedge Strategy would be more defensible if Audible and Justify were running as a coupled entry, which they are not, so bettors would collect no matter which horse won.

The 1948 Triple Crown provides some historical context.  Calumet Farm started stablemates Citation and Coaltown in the Kentucky Derby, with Citation coming out on top and Coaltown running second.  Father and son trainers Ben and Jimmy Jones did not run Coaltown back in either the Preakness or the Belmont.

Though the Joneses never provided a public explanation, it is likely they thought the blazing-fast Coaltown—who equaled three world records and broke four track records during his racing career—would be especially dangerous at the Preakness distance and they did not want to risk an upset of Citation.  Citation went on to win the Triple Crown and both he and Coaltown have their names enshrined in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.  The Jones’ decision may be why Calumet Farm has two winners of the Triple Crown instead of one.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


  1. Baffert will make it worse for Justify if he runs the other horse he is considering entering. Unless his purpose is to kill off the pacesetters so they don’t do in Justify with a hot pace.