Belmont Stakes: Justify completes US Flat racing Triple Crown

Dean Simpson
June 10, 2018

He's re-writing the history books. He didn't compete as a 2-year-old.

Justify became the 13th Triple Crown victor after claiming victory at the 150th Belmont Stakes outside New York City.

Bob Baffert became the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice.

"[Baffert] made my dream come true", Smith said.

Only 12 horses have won the Triple Crown and only one has done so since 1978 (American Pharoah, 2015).

"This horse ran a tremendous race, he's so gifted, " said Mike Smith, who at 52 is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown. Baffert's 15 Triple Crown win overall moved him ahead of D.

Justify has won all six stakes races he has run.

Trainer Bob Baffert, right, leads Justify out of Barn 33 at Churchill Downs the morning after winning the 144th Kentucky Derby.

Baffert was a little nervous after the first quarter-mile when Justify went out fast. Experience has made him wiser, he said. War Emblem struggled to get off to a strong start out of the gate and couldn't pull out a win in the third leg of the Triple Crown. Justify brought only $1,000 more than his reserve price at the Keeneland auction where he was purchased.

Like Majestic Prince, Smarty Jones entered the Belmont Stakes undefeated, finished in second place and then never raced again in their careers.

The effort was enough to inspire optimism, however.

Gronkowski, a 24-1 shot trained by Chad Brown and part-owned by New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, came from well back to finish second under jockey Jose Ortiz.

The victor was chased home by Lonhro colt Gronkowski, who was making his first start for Chad Brown having previously been trained in Britain by Jeremy Noseda, with Hofburg in third. "And I am so happy for Mike Smith".

"Now I know what perfection feels like", Smith said.

"He could have won every race on the undercard today, he's just that kind of horse".

The field included Preakness runner-up Bravazo and third-place finisher Tenfold, along with Derby horses Vino Rosso, Hofburg and Free Drop Billy.

Justify began his racing career on February 18, a scant 77 days before the Kentucky Derby. Tanya Gunther was responsible for choosing the chestnut colt's parents.

The $2 exacta paid $89, and the $1 trifecta paid $229.74. 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. "And if he's anywhere close as good as Justify that would be a great accomplishment as well".

Baffert started the day a victor in his first two races. Before Justify, the the last was American Pharoah in 2015. The colt has earned over $3.8 million.

"I've never had a horse work like him", Baffert said of Justify earlier this week. "I think he's the greatest of all time". They just knew his presence. "My (late) parents are helping me and friends I've lost". Things happen for a reason. We had him ready.

Behind him horses diced for position.

"You can't find these horses, they find you".

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