The rain here won't go away. Not yet anyway. The precipitation that began Tuesday night carried through a soaking of a Thursday morning at Pimlico Race Course and is projected to continue into Saturday's 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes.
Friday's forecast: High of 66 degrees with 100 percent chance of rain.
Saturday's forecast: High of 73 degrees with a 90 percent chance of rain.
"I've seen rain here before in my 38 years," the trainer and six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning under cover inside the Pimlico Stakes barn. "But I've never seen three or four days of rain like this."
Ah, but Kentucky Derby winner Justify had no trouble navigating the sloppy surface that was the Churchill Downs track two weeks back, so there's no reason to doubt his capacity to do the same at Pimlico, right?
"Every racetrack mud is different," Lukas said. "This mud, Churchill's mud, Saratoga's mud, they're all different. You just don't know."
"This track is so much different than Churchill Downs when it gets wet," said Justify's trainer Bob Baffert after his horse stepped out on the Pimlico track for the first time on Thursday. "Churchill, the base, is probably a little bit harder. This track can probably take more water than any track I've seen."
And it's not as if the projected weather is going to cause many bettors to toss Justify, the 1-2 morning-line favorite in a field of eight for Saturday's 6:20 p.m. post time on NBC.
"It's his race to lose," said Lukas, who has a pair of entries in Bravazo and Sporting Chance hoping for an upset. "He's clearly the best horse. Having said that, we're not going to concede the race to him."
"The way Justify ran in the Derby, I don't see any reason he probably won't go to the lead," said trainer John Servis, who won the 2004 Preakness with Smarty Jones and who has Federico Tesio winner Diamond King in this year's field. "Doesn't look like there's a lot of speed in there. I don't think (the weather) will change much."
Still, it's hard to know just what the cumulative effect of the weather will be come Saturday. The forecast says the skies should clear by race time, but after a near week of non-stop rain, what in the world will be the condition of the track?
"They're going to do the best job," said Lukas of the Pimlico crew, "but they're going to be up against it."
Could that sort of track get a horse beat, even one such as Justify that has won two of his four career races on either muddy or sloppy tracks?
"I think any track can get a horse beat in conditions like this," Servis said. "Some horses don't run on it. Some horses don't feel comfortable. Horses get to sliding a little bit, they start protecting themselves. They're not dumb."
In fact, said Lukas, there's likely to be so much mud on the track Saturday, "Some of them you won't know what color they are when the pull up."
As if on cue, just when Justify was ready to hit the track Thursday morning, the rain let up. Training at Churchill since his Derby victory, the son of the late sire Scat Daddy did not make the trip to Baltimore until Wednesday. So for his first time around the surface, Justify turned in an easy gallop.
"He was ready to do a lot more," Baffert said, "but we didn't want to do too much."
As for the weather, Baffert said he has his own in-home meteorologist in 13-year-old son Bode, who was on his way to Maryland from California with his mom, Jill. It was Bode, claimed Baffert, who told him the sky was about to open up right before American Pharoah's 2015 Preakness win — the cloudburst sent Baffert hustling to the indoor paddock — and who predicted a sloppy 2018 Derby.
"He told me before we went (to Kentucky)," said Baffert, "'Dad, I hope he likes the mud.'"
Justify loved the Kentucky mud, but will he love the Maryland mud?
Preakness 2018 field