Favored Justify draws the rail for Belmont

Dean Simpson
June 8, 2018

"I just feel that, I think most importantly, the horse is doing well". He hasn't had it often recently, and figured he was due.

Aside from all the usual speculation that comes in the aftermath of a post-position draw, Justify is worthy of his praise, as he's excelled in muddy wins at the Kentucky and the Preakness.

"Pharoah loved human contact", said Baffert. "Deal with it. So Mike Smith, basically, his options are he only has one option". Wisely choosing horses has been the key to success for Brown, who credits his rise to "having experience in big-race situations" and a good staff. He also won the luck of the draw. Justify, who did not race as a 2-year-old and has only five races on his short but impressive résumé, has won three times on wet tracks. Just like the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the race will be broadcast on NBC.

"With a Triple Crown in play for the second time in four years, SMT has another unique chance to help document a historic moment", says Ben Hayes, Manager, Client Services, SMT. Justify has run five races since mid-February; the Belmont will be his sixth.

"He hasn't had a break", Baffert said. "It's an incredibly humbling game, but tomorrow if you're in there you still have the same chance because they're not going to put you behind the gates because you had a bad day yesterday". He just keeps bringing it every race. "I've never had a horse that can keep his composure after running time after time".

The morning line odds were also set at the draw, with Justify as the heavy favorite at 4/5.

Both horses have connections who have had Belmont success.

"I don't know if Bob is maybe a little nervous about drawing the 1", Pletcher said with a grin.

Long shot outsider Free Drop Billy (30-1) was in gate two, with the unsafe 8-1 contender Bravazo in three.

"He's just breathing fire out there, " Justify's assistant trainer, Jimmy Barnes, said last Friday, after Justify's daily gallop at Churchill Downs. "The thing about Mike, he knows that I'm not anxious about him so there's not that extra pressure". Dale Romans trains Free Drop Billy, who was second in the Holy Bull (G2) and third in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland and Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct.

He laid off until they headed into the turn for home, where he got bumped and ran wide but was rallying at the end. "But there are a lot of good trainers that with the right horse they can win the big one".

Highlighted by the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of the Triple Crown, the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from June 7-9 features 33 races, including 18 stakes, offering $9.4 million in purses and $3.4 million in guaranteed wagers. "He came in here late.' It was exciting to win the Preakness, but I thought, 'Well, maybe this is it, '" Baffert said. Baffert said the margin of victory was somewhat misleading. When I worked him after the Preakness, American Pharoah, when he would breathe, he was like he was a machine. "He was one-dimensional and he was light, he was really light". The gelding was running 10th of 13 horses on the backstretch when his left front leg snapped, tossing Smith onto the wet dirt.

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