BALTIMORE -- Stop us if you've heard this one before: A 3-year-old owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert breaks from the rail on a wet track on the third Saturday in May and dominates a stakes race at Pimlico.
Okay, it wasn't American Pharoah winning the Preakness Stakes, but Justin Squared scored a two-length, front-running victory in the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes on the Preakness undercard. The only thing missing was Victor Espinoza. Justin Squared was ridden by Martin Pedroza.
The victory was the third in as many starts for Justin Squared, a son of Zensational named for Justin Zayat and Justin Casse, younger brother of trainer for Mark Casse who purchased the horse.
"Déjà vu," said Zayat, racing manager for his family's Zayat Stables. "He ran a big race. We were confident coming in. It's always good when it ends up that way."
The only anxious moments came at the start, when Justin Squared took a left-hand turn when the gates opened. But Justin Squared quickly recovered and easily made a one-length lead after a quarter in 23.01 seconds. He kept a two-length advantage through a half-mile in 46.17 seconds, opened it up to four lengths by the eighth pole, and won by two over a late-running Counterforce. Formal Summation, who was chasing Justin Squared from second, finished third.
Big Louie D finished fourth but was disqualified by the stewards and placed last for causing interference entering the far turn. Never Gone South and Discreet Angel took the worst of it at that point.
Justin Squared covered the six furlongs in 1:11.41. He returned $3.60 as the 4-5 favorite.
"He's just an extremely fast horse," Baffert said. "We're just going to slowly try and get to the Breeders' Cup Sprint."
Pedroza, who has ridden Justin Squared in all three of his starts, said the horse reminds him of multiple Grade 1 winner Private Zone.
"That's what I said the first time I got on him," Pedroza said. "He's like Private Zone. He's got that same kind of speed, and he can carry his speed, too."