Justify will race again after Triple Crown victory


Justify will race again after Triple Crown victory

Ross Houston
June 13, 2018

The strapping chestnut colt, trained by Bob Baffert and rode by Mike Smith, broke well out of the gate and led the one-and-a-half-mile race from wire to wire, pulling away down the homestretch in a finishing time of 2:28.18 amid a deafening crescendo from the crowd of more than 90,000 at Belmont Park, the venerable race course just outside NY city limits.

Justify completed his Triple Crown with a win at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, but trainer Bob Baffert might have given him an assist with his other horse in the race.

And while there was no pent-up anguish this time around to vigorously stoke enthusiasm, Justify, ridden by the 52-year-old ironman Mike Smith, did not disappoint the crowd as he captured the 150th Belmont Stakes and become just the 13th Triple Crown victor.

The 3-year-old chestnut behemoth known as Justify sparkled around Belmont Park's 1½-mile track Saturday in 2:28.18, capturing the 13th Triple Crown in history.

It would be hard to imagine Justify running again before July 29 in the Haskell, a race Baffert has won eight times.


Justify, who did not race as a two-year-old, is now undefeated in six starts.

"I'd like to see John win the race!" Gronkowski likely would have been even closer to Justify at the wire had he not shown his inexperience by failing to switch leads for a significant portion of the stretch run. Remarkably, Justify did not have his first start until February 18th this year and has quickly become the pin-up horse of American racing.

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

Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses. He won his first three races by a combined 19 lengths, making trainer Bob Baffert a believer.

Prior to his victory, the thoroughbred had a flawless 5-0 record in his brief career and had won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He didn't compete as a 2-year-old.


Justify's victory gives racing its second Triple Crown victor of the decade. The next year, the classic rivalry of Affirmed and Alydar reached its peak when Affirmed inched ahead by a head to become the last Triple Crown victor until Pharoah arrived.

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

Their strides and running styles are comparable, Baffert said, adding that they both had similar struggles in their races leading up to the Belmont event. "I thought maybe he's not going to break today". He even likened 52-year-old jockey, Mike Smith, to quarterback Eli Manning.

Restoring Hope, also trained by Baffert, ran interference for the champion while traveling second and deterring any threats by forcing them to go extremely wide.

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.


"We're looking forward to sharing him [with the public] more, " said Elliott Walden, the CEO and racing manager for WinStar Farm, which owns a majority share of the horse.

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