It might have been the shortest public relations campaign in history, but the effort was — for a few shining days — valiant.
Just four days after Saratoga business leaders and horse-racing fans launched a bid to rally Justify to enter the 2018 Travers, including a website with a personal appeal to the champion, the official word has been handed down: No.
The Triple Crown-winning colt will be held out of Saratoga’s signature $1.25 million Grade 1 stakes race. His trainer, Bob Baffert, confirmed to news outlets that ankle swelling has caused Justify to be taken off his race training regime, with no scheduled races for him on the horizon.
That means Justify will miss the Haskell Invitational in New Jersey later this month, and he will not be running on Aug. 25 at the Saratoga Race Course.
The news will take a tiny bit of anticipation out of the Travers, where no Triple Crown winner since Whirlaway in 1941 has been successful in adding the Travers to Triple Crown glory. The Saratoga County Chamber led the charge to try and rally Baffert to enter the undefeated 3-year-old at Saratoga.
It would have meant a slew of excitement, since Justify is a perfect six-for-six since his February debut. He won an allowance race and the Santa Anita Derby before his historic sweep of the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.