Justify claims Triple Crown with win at Belmont Stakes

Wednesday, 13 Jun, 2018

"I just won the Triple Crown, man". In 2008, Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown's breeding rights were sold for $50 million before the horse had a lackluster Belmont Stakes race.

The three-year-old colt Justify won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, after previously winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the three most prestigious horse racing events of the year. It was the second Triple Crown for trainer Bob Baffert and the first for jockey Mike Smith.

The big, chestnut colt stood above the other horses with a commanding lead all the way through the homestretch Saturday in Elmont, N.Y. It was only his sixth race, and some bettors had anxious that he packed too many races into the 110 days leading up to the race, but it was no contest. "It was meant to be". The crowd has been capped at 90,000.

Earlier, Baffert and jockey Mike Smith teamed to win the $750,000 Ogden Phipps with Abel Tasman. "This achievement elevates Justify into the pantheon of America's all-time greatest thoroughbreds". Why can't one of these thoroughbreds just win three athletic competitions in a row?

Justify accomplished a lot in a very short time. Horse racing's latest superstar will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown victor in U.S. Thoroughbred racing and he has a great chance to accomplish the feat. A leading 23 Belmont winners have come out of there, including Secretariat. He also made a late charge to grab third in that race.

"The great ones, they just find another gear", Baffert said of Justify, who improved to 6-0 and joined Seattle Slew as the only horse to claim the Triple Crown with an unbeaten record. Fitzsimmons did it with Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935. But he likely won't be lauded as horse racing's history savior, like American Pharoah.

Justify won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, earning him the coveted Triple Crown. He celebrated by grabbing white carnations from the winner's blanket and tossing them in the air. "He's so gifted", Smith said in a TV interview directly after the race.

Smith and Justify took a curtain call before entering the winner's circle.

The fashion scene at the Belmont Stakes is as diverse as NY itself.

Justify's victory gives racing its second Triple Crown victor of the decade. The last time there were two Triple Crown champions in the same decade was the 1970s, which produced Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed.

Some had wondered whether the colt might show signs of fatigue following a busy schedule but that was not the case as he broke from his number one post position and was never seriously challenged by any of the other nine horses. Three races over the course of five weeks, all at different locations and ranging from 1 3/16 to 1 1/2 miles, take a toll on even the most experienced horses. "He's now become a household name, and I'm looking forward to his next race just as much as you guys are".

Restoring Hope finished in eighth place out of 10 horses, while Justify won the race. Smith slowed the pace midway around the 1 1/2-mile track but maintained a two-length lead heading into the backstretch. They didn't do it. We watched him rush up like he was a Quarter Horse, make a quick right-hand turn, then turn left, pinned [Bravazo] on the rail. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened.

"I actually thought maybe he's not going to break today". With Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski screaming in the stands, his namesake colt surged to third at the 11/4-mile mark, then unseated Vino Rosso for second as the field turned for home. The $2 exacta from the Belmont Stakes paid out $89, and the $1 trifecta paid out $229.74 - totals that eclipsed those of both the Derby and Preakness Stakes.