Justify wins Belmont to become 13th Triple Crown champion

Lynette Rowe
June 10, 2018

With the win, Bob Baffert became just the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice. All of them are long races for a horse, from just under 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles. Smith will be aboard Justify in the colt's bid to become racing's 13th Triple Crown victor. Baffert won in 2015 with American Pharoah.

"I think he'll run big", Smith said.

With Mike Smith replacing less experienced Drayden Van Dyke in the irons, Justify coasted by 6 ½ lengths in a March 11 allowance race before making the leap to Grade 1 competition in the Santa Anita Derby.

Gronkowski, named for the National Football League player, finished second. We're also blessed we made it back safe, this horse ran a tremendous race. Justify won the first two legs on sloppy tracks.

Twelve out of the last 13 times the horse who won the Derby and Preakness lost the Belmont.

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With Justify running out of the post, he might be forced to jump to the lead and match an early pace - the speed of which could determine whether or not he has anything left in the homestretch. Baffert - who has won more Triple Crown races than anyone - complimented his team for helping the horse, which ran three major, testing races in five weeks. That could be a bit of a challenge for Justify and Bravazo, both of whom raced well in the mud; but it could mean good things for horses like Free Drop Billy and Noble Indy, who didn't.

Justify is the first since American Pharoah in 2015 and joins Seattle Slew (1977) as the only undefeated horses to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

It was the largest Belmont field ever beaten by a Triple Crown victor. Jockey Mike Smith wore the colors of the China Horse Club, one of Justify's owners, on race day; the red outfit with yellow starts resembled the Chinese flag, as the China Horse Club's seeking to grow the sport there.

Hofburg, a 9/2 shot ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., is rated by punters as the most likely to beat Justify. At the inaugural Belmont Stakes, which took place in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack in New York City, the owner of the winning horse took home a prize of $1,850 and an English riding saddle.

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