Justify goes for Triple Crown in Belmont Stakes

Ruben Hill
June 13, 2018

Justify became the 13th horse to win thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown on Saturday after charging to victory at the Belmont Stakes in NY. "You can't find horses like this; they find you".

There was one horse, however, who was a threat to Justify's Triple Crown bid at the top of the Belmont Park stretch. Fitzsimmons won in 1930 with Gallant Fox and in 1935 with Omaha. He won his first three races by a combined 19 lengths, making trainer Bob Baffert a believer.

When Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, it was commonplace for Triple Crown champions to keep running, even as 4-year-olds. "It was certainly the most thrilling race I've been involved in and the most excited I've been watching a race", Rags to Riches' trainer Todd Pletcher said to the New York Racing Association, per The Morning Call. "It's a privilege to have a horse like this". I mean, this is only the 13th time in history it's ever been done.

Post time for the Belmont is 23.46 BST, and the weather forecast in NY is for temperatures to still be in the mid-20s as the runners go to the start at around 6.40pm local time.

Walden, who hadn't had a horse with Baffert before, was asked why he chose to give him Justify.

"At first I was like, 'Dang, we're in last place by like 15 yards, '" Rob Gronkowski told The Boston Globe.

Justify ridden Mike Smith leads the field at the end of the back straight at Belmont Park. Pic AP
Justify ridden Mike Smith leads the field at the end of the back straight at Belmont Park. Pic AP

The 52-year-old Smith just knows what to do aboard a horse.

"It was exciting to think about what could be down the road with this horse", Brown said. After a shocking upset loss in the Travers at Saratoga - the biggest summer race restricted to 3-year-olds - there was some question whether Baffert would run him again. "He's so gifted. He's sent from Heaven, I tell you what". While that was a good thing since he was able to avoid traffic and did not have to deal with any other horses vying for the lead, the key was to avoid running too fast too quickly without burning himself out in the lengthy race.

And, as Walden said, maybe the greatest trainer of all time.

"American Pharoah will always be my first love", said Baffert on the NBC broadcast, "but this horse is special and I'm just so happy".

"I can't describe the emotions right now". "We had Point Given, I really thought he could have easily been here [as a Triple Crown winner]". He's a superior horse. He refused comparisons between the two horses, saying they are different types of racers. Additionally, Affirmed was the third Triple Crown victor in five years, a streak that began in 1973 with the legendary Secretariat. Baffert said he felt confident, not stressed, during the run-up to the race. "He just puts an old man out there to sit still, who stays out of the way and lets a good horse be a good horse", Smith said, crediting Baffert for using him. "I'll get another shot"'.

Justify did not begin his career until February 18 and won his first two starts easily at Santa Anita.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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