Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become Triple Crown champ

Jun 10, 2018, 04:55
Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become Triple Crown champ

Since 1950, the race has been held at Belmont Park, just outside of New York City.

Had the Preakness been another tenth of a mile, a hard-charging Bravazo might've passed Justify and ended the Triple Crown bid on Saturday.

In the last 16 years, the only race-day favorite to win the Belmont Stakes was American Pharoah. Justify beat nine other horses to win - more competition than any Triple Crown victor has even beaten in the Belmont.

Restoring Hope, also trained by Baffert, ran interference for the champion while travelling second and deterring any threats by forcing them to go extremely wide.

"It was by far his hardest race", his jockey Mike Smith said at the time.

Justify is now the 13th horse to win the greatest honor of horse-racing, and only the second since 1998. If rain falls and turns it sloppy, Justify should feel right at home.

Bob Baffert watches the Brooklyn Invitational, a race his horse Hoppertunity won at Belmont Park on Saturday.

In the hours before the race, Justify rested in Belmont's Barn 1, across the street from a Wendy's, undistracted by the beer-soaked fans who reveled close by - including one who almost relieved himself on a tree.

No Triple Crown victor has faced more than seven rivals in the Belmont, so Justify could be the first. The latest that any of the first 12 thoroughbred immortals got started was September 20, the date of Seattle Slew's first race in 1976.

He won the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville on May 5, becoming the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the "Run for the Roses" without a start as a two-year-old, breaking the so-called "Curse of Apollo".

If that victor is Justify, then USA thoroughbred racing will have its 13 Triple Crown champion.

Baffert sensed he had a "monster" on his hands the first time he breezed the colt in January.

The second-place result was a pleasant surprise for the tight end and his team, given that Gronkowski missed both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes due to illness and that the No. 6 horse finished with 24-1 odds to win.

"I wanted to see that horse's name up there because we know he was brilliant from Day 1", Baffert said.

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