Justify wins Belmont to become 13th Triple Crown champ
Justify wins Belmont to become 13th Triple Crown champ
ImageJustify ridden by Mike Smith began his Triple Crown bid by winning the Kentucky Derby on May
13 June, 2018, 00:20
He's been 5-0 in his brief career, and now he's ready for a chance at a Triple Crown. Twenty-three times a horse has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to be denied horse racing's ultimate glory by failing to win the Belmont Stakes in NY. He trained American Pharoah in 2015 when the horse won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes in Baltimore and Belmont Stakes in NY after a 37-year Triple Crown dry spell for thoroughbred horse racing.
Justify did not begin his career until February 18 and won his first two starts easily at Santa Anita.
Baffert, 65, has trained five Kentucky Derby winners, seven Preakness Stakes winners and three Belmont winners.
It takes a great horse to win those two races, but it takes a legendary performer to win the Triple Crown.
"It was meant to be", Baffert said. And he just came along himself.
History is about to judge experts and analysts offering their picks for the 2018 Belmont Stakes. He didn't flinch when greeted by 90,327 roaring fans as he walked onto the track.
"Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still", Smith said.
If you're a cord-cutter, the best bet is Justify.
But Justify, like all the great thoroughbreds, found "another gear", Baffert said.
"Everybody thinks I'm so opposed to Saratoga", he said. "I just won the Triple Crown, man". This time on the legs of Justify.
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The New Mexico native won 15 Grade 1 races past year, including nine with Bob Baffert, the trainer of Justify and now a two-time Triple Crown victor. Slew also was a wire-to-wire Belmont victor. "People love history being made in sports". That said, in nine starts he only has two wins and has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a two-year-old.
Baffert said Sunday he essentially will do the same thing this time he did with American Pharoah, which is to bring him back to Churchill Downs for a week or so and then likely to Baffert's home base California. Justify became the first colt in 136 years to win the Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old. He celebrated by grabbing white carnations from the winner's blanket and tossing them in the air. "But, man, for this horse to do it".
In spite of the difficulty, Justify has the aura of a victor.
Justify isn't done just yet.
"This was more intense than the Derby, I don't know why", Mara, a part-owner of the Giants, told The Post after Justify won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. "He's sent from heaven".
Over the past few years, Arizona Alum Bob Baffert has become a household name in the sport of horse racing.
Adding to Baffert's sentiment was Elliot Walden, CEO of WinStar Farm, one of Justify's owners. But Smith turned it into an advantage, gunning Justify to the lead and defying any horse to challenge.
One owner believes that there was something suspicious about how the race was handled by Restoring Hope, a stablemate of Justify's, with both horses trained by Bob Baffert. Nobody did. Smith got the colt into a relaxed rhythm under a moderate pace heading into the backstretch, and he had an easy trip from there.
Justify continued to lead when he reached the mile mark with a time of 1:38.09, but when he reached the head of the stretch, Vino Rosso made a run at him and was just a length behind. "In the modern day we don't get in a rush with these horses", Baffert told USA Today days before the Derby. Justify rewarded his sun-splashed backers with $3.60 on a $2 bet to win.
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