It has been an explosive second half of the year for Just Might, who won the Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes at Churchill Downs in his most recent trip. It was his fourth victory in a row, dating back to June.
In the middle of the win streak, trainer Michelle Lovell decided to make a surface change, moving the 5-year-old gelding from turf to dirt before the Chesapeake at Colonial Downs.
“We had an opportunity to run him on the turf at Colonial, then they had another stakes (on dirt) that we thought we’d try him in,” Lovell said.
That worked out just fine for Just Might, who ran six furlongs for the first time in his career, winning the Chesapeake and breaking the track record in the process with a time of 1:07.38.
On Friday, the gelding once again will take to the dirt, this time at Keeneland, where he is set to run in the $250,000 Phoenix (G2). It will be his first try in a graded stakes since finishing eighth in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs on April 30, his last loss.
What an exciting stretch duel in the Chesapeake @ColonialRosies!
#8 Just Might gets the win, ridden by @hernandez_colby, trained by Michelle Lovell! Congrats to the connections!August 23, 2021
Just might previously had run on dirt in 2021 when the Colonel Power Stakes at Fair Grounds was taken off the turf in February.
“He’s really versatile,” Lovell said.
As for whether Just Might will continue to run on dirt, Lovell said she will “find out Friday.”
Lovell said she was feeling good about the Justin Phillip gelding’s chances going into Friday’s race. Colby Hernandez will have the mount.
“He’s training really good into it,” Lovell said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Beyond the Phoenix, Lovell said she did not know what might come next for Just Might. He ran in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland, and the Phoenix is a win-and-you’re-in qualifier for the Sprint, but Lovell was not sure he would go, even with the free slot.
“That wasn’t our goal, to go out to California,” Lovell said. “But obviously if he gets a free berth, we’ll think really hard about it.”
2021 has been the gelding’s most successful season, with five wins and a second-place finish in eight starts. He has earned $440,932 so far this year, more than doubling his previous best mark of $188,275 in 2020.
Lovell said she plans to bring him back next year, with an eye on the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland as a goal. She pointed to the recently retired Whitmore as an example of the longevity she believed the gelding could be capable of.
“He’s won five stakes this year, four in a row, it’s an incredible year for him,” Lovell said. “Sound as he is, I’m hoping that he can stick around for a few years at a high level.”
The Phoenix is set to include a field of seven, including Special Reserve, who enters off a second-place effort in the Vanderbilt (G1). Just Might drew the fourth post position.
Post time for Friday’s race is set for 5:10 p.m. EDT.
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