Justify captures Triple Crown, wins Belmont

Ross Houston
June 12, 2018

An hour after his historic win aboard Justify, jockey Mike Smith sat in front of a crowded room of reporters, describing what it was like for an "old man" of 52 to finally win a Triple Crown.

Gronkowski will draw some love from casual bettors that are also football fans, as his namesake is Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots (who is a part-owner of the horse).

Overnight television ratings for the NBC Sports telecast of Saturday's Belmont Stakes from Belmont Park were the lowest of the seven Triple Crown attempts since the network began broadcasting the race in 2001.

The 4-5 favorite's wire-to-wire victory means an $800,000 share of the overall $1.5 million purse and millions in future stud fees for the three-year-old chestnut colt, who beat nine other horses to take the victory.

The Triple Crown win adds $15 million to that, putting Justify's outright value at $75 million. Baffert came into the year with 12 Triple Crown race wins before tying James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons for second place with Justify's victory at the Kentucky Derby and then tying Lukas last month the Preakness.

For trainer Bob Baffert, this is his second Triple Crown victory overall, and second in the past four years.

Despite a deal for his breeding rights worth a reported $75 million, the connections of Triple Crown victor Justify plan to continue racing him through the end of this year, they said Sunday.


"The great ones, they just find another gear", Baffert said. I wanted to see that horse, his name up there with those greats. I probably expect them to look into reckless riding by Florent and bring him in to question him about what he was thinking and what his tactics were.

"I believe there's just a flow that guides me and when I follow it, wonderful things happen", he said.

Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to a Triple Crown, did a television commercial leading up the Triple Crown races this year.

Justify became the 13th thoroughbred to win horse racing's Triple Crown. "And I was nearly in tears, it's such an emotional experience", he said.

Baffert can expect to hear from officials at several tracks eager to lure racing's newest superstar, much like he did with American Pharaoh.

Joining Seattle Slew as the second unbeaten Triple Crown victor, Justify finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of English invader Gronkowski, who finished strong at 25-1 for trainer Chad Brown. To come so close in the Triple Crown. but we ran into a real buzz saw.

But Justify found his own path.


Justify had to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. "We had Point Given, I really thought he could have easily been here [as a Triple Crown winner]".

Smith, 52, is the second-oldest Kentucky Derby victor behind Bill Shoemaker, who rode Ferdinand to victory in 1986 at age 54. After not racing as a 2-year-old, Justify has made up for lost time.

"Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still", Smith said.

"To win six races in a short amount of time like he did is just an unbelievable feat on his part", Smith said.

Baffert told NBC Sports: "It's just awesome".

Trainer Todd Pletcher also has two horses in the field - 8-1 Vino Rosso and 30-1 Noble Indy.

Chris Kay, president of the New York Racing Association, joked that he would "hold Bode hostage until they make the decision", referring to Baffert's 13-year-old son.


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