Monday, 10 December, 2018

Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become Triple Crown champ

Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become Triple Crown champ Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become Triple Crown champ
Sergio Cook | 10 June, 2018, 07:24

He was a walk-on.

The wonderful comet that is Justify proved that, bursting on the scene to win the Kentucky Derby, surviving the fog to win the Preakness, then leading wire-to-wire over the mile-and-a-half on Saturday to become just the sport's 13th Triple Crown champion.

Justify is a product of a mare Gunther owns, and was bred at his Glennwood Farm in Versailles, KY. But this was not a 5-star recruit.

He broke from the No. 1 hole at Belmont Park and within two strides had all the room he needed.

Justify started out hot on Saturday, taking a two-length lead over the rest of the field.

"I was really happy with way he got away from there", jockey Mike Smith said.

"It'll be a Triple Crown victor that'll be remembered for ever", said Gunther "It's just unreal".

"I never get emotional", said Rice, who said he's worked for Smith for 29 years.

Gronkowski, a longshot, tried to go with him, but couldn't seriously threaten him.

Gronkowski, named for and partly owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, challenged on the home stretch and finished a strong second.

His human handlers also made history.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor is the early 4-5 favorite for Saturday's 11/2-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the three-race series.

And while there was no pent-up anguish this time around to vigorously stoke enthusiasm, Justify, ridden by the 52-year-old ironman Mike Smith, did not disappoint the crowd as he captured the 150th Belmont Stakes and become just the 13th Triple Crown victor. The only other unbeaten Triple Crown victor was Seattle Slew in 1977. Seattle Slew was unbeaten when he won the Triple Crown in 1977. In other words, the team behind a Triple Crown victor simply receives the sum total of the top prizes in each race.

His Belmont winning time was 2:28.18, the fourth-fastest among Triple Crown winners, after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in the slop. He also trained American Pharoah during his run to the record books in 2015.

For Justify, being one of the finest athletes of our time will have to do. "Oh, Mike. Don't empty that tank", Baffert said. But he likely won't be lauded as horse racing's history savior, like American Pharoah. But Justify ran over terribly sloppy tracks at Churchill Downs and Pimlico.

Rice said Smith's decision to relocate to California "was a great move".

Smith thanked Baffert for giving him the opportunity to ride Justify into the history books.

But Justify, like all the great thoroughbreds, found "another gear", Baffert said.

He can stop now and be remembered as a Triple Crown champion. A lot of people are happy about it.

Sunday Silence was voted American Horse of the Year in 1989 despite losing to rival Easy Goer at Belmont.

O-WinStar & CHC & Starlight & Head of Plains Partners. They just knew his presence. "Bob just did an unbelievable job to do what we've just done". Mike has done a marvelous job with him. "He was blowing pretty good, he got a good blow out of (the Preakness), but he wasn't as exhausted as we thought he was".

"I could stop right now and I wouldn't complain one bit", Smith told me recently. "I thought maybe, because I could see Gronkowski flying, but he just couldn't get to that horse".

Baffert, a few minutes later, took issue with that. "He didn't find them". Fitzsimmons added to his legend with Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935).

No trainer now has won more Triple Crown races than Baffert's 15. Wayne Lukas for the all-time lead. "I think of my parents, the good friends I've lost".

"I was just watching the clock".

"I'm feeling pretty in awe of the horse", Baffert said. You better believe the jokes on Twitter were rolling.

"Those things tend to happen the way they're supposed to happen", Walden said.

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