Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Justify claims Triple Crown with win at Belmont Stakes

Justify claims Triple Crown with win at Belmont Stakes

Jockey Mike Smith, 52, is the second-oldest Kentucky Derby victor behind Bill Shoemaker. In 2015, Baffert won with American Pharoah, the last horse to capture the title.

Not only did Justify give the 65-year-old trainer his second Triple Crown in four years on Saturday, but for the second straight year, Baffert came away with a win in every race he had an entry on the day of the Belmont Stakes.

The forecast calls for a high of 80 degrees and cloudy skies. A crowd capped at 90,000 is expected at Belmont Park.

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. "He ran great, but we didn't win".

The horse with the next-best odds in the Belmont Stakes is Hofburg at 15/4.

"The only way we can be competitive with the big boys of the breeding world is by backing ourselves and finding these horses as yearlings", Field said. Often it's the final quarter-mile that does in a contender. Turning for home with a date with immortality awaiting him in the winner's circle, Justify bounded home with Gronkowski (Lonhro ) giving belated chase to the wire. Justify might not need to run his absolute best if his rivals struggle to cope with the longer trip. "This horse ran a tremendous race". He'll have nine horses to contend with.

Justify led for the entire race and completed the mile and a half in an unofficial time of 2 minutes 28.18 seconds.

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"You can't doubt him now, there's no way", said Bill Mott, trainer of third-place Hofburg.

Vino Rosso finished fourth, followed by Tenfold, Bravazo, Free Drop Billy, Restoring Hope, Blended Citizen and Noble Indy. The colt named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski brings a four-race winning streak into his USA debut. This horse, who is jockeyed by two-time Stakes victor John Velasquez, skipped the Preakness to be fresh for the Belmont.

Justify's human handlers also made history.

Since Wednesday, when Justify pulled up to Barn 1 at Belmont Park, minus the police escort that Pharoah had received, the trainer Bob Baffert appeared at ease.

Smith is clearly at the top of his game in a sport where jockeys are riding less and less in their 50s. Horses had come close to breaking it in recent years but it wasn't until Justify arrived that the superstition was put to rest. Slew also was a wire-to-wire Belmont victor. Secretariat won by 31 lengths in a record time of 2:24. 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.

Won his first race on February 18 at Santa Anita Park by 9-1/2 lengths. Gallant Fox, Omaha and War Admiral accomplished the feat in the 1930s.

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