Justify Takes Belmont Stakes, Becomes 13th Triple Crown Horseracing Winner

Justify Takes Belmont Stakes, Becomes 13th Triple Crown Horseracing Winner

Would Justify fall victim to the fatigue and bad luck that had marked 13 failed Triple Crown bids between 1978 and 2015?

Justify completed his Triple Crown with a win at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, but trainer Bob Baffert might have given him an assist with his other horse in the race.

The chestnut colt is the second undefeated colt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, improving to 6-0 in a racing career that began on February 18. Justify has the chance to be the next victor at the 150th Belmont Stakes. The last time there were two Triple Crown champions in the same decade was the 1970s, which produced Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. And he just came along himself. "It was meant to be".

Justify became the 13th Triple Crown victor and first since American Pharoah in 2015 in today's running of the 150th Belmont Stakes, held in NY before 90,000 horseracing fans. He's the first Triple Crown victor to face that many rivals in the 1½-mile Belmont. Justify defeated 35 horses across the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

Sixteen weeks ago, no one knew what to make of Justify - except Hall of Fame horse racing trainer Bob Baffert. James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons guided Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935. American Pharoah ended a 37-year drought in 2015 and now just four years later, racing is celebrating another sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

And the horse proved his trainer prescient, winning a Triple Crown with a mesmerizing and dominant victory at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

He quickly decided that in nearly 40 years as a jockey, he'd never ridden a more gifted 3-year-old. Justify becomes the thirteenth Triple Crown victor and the first since American Pharoah in 2015.

The morning after the Belmont Stakes questions quickly turned to what's next for the newest Triple Crown victor.

At 52, Mike Smith is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown. He's so gifted, " said Smith, who looked to the sky to celebrate after his ride. "He's sent from heaven. He's now become a household name, and I'm looking forward to the next race just as much as you guys are". "I can't describe the emotions going through my body right now".

After the horse won its first two races, he knew Justify was an unbelievable raw talent, capable of history.

Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses.

Justify defied the hard post position along the rail, breaking well and taking the lead within seconds.

Restoring Hope, also trained by Baffert, ran interference for the champion while traveling second and deterring any threats by forcing them to go extremely wide. 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. They didn't do it. From his first race on February 18 and continuing on his unconventional path to the Kentucky Derby, he had done things so brilliantly, so easily, that no dream seemed too big.

Gronkowski, named for and partly owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, finished second. Justify pulled away down the 1,097-yard stretch in front of screaming fans with only 24-1 shot Gronkowski picking off a half-dozen rivals in taking up the chase down the lane.

"Everybody thinks I'm so opposed to Saratoga", he said.

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