"Congratulations to Justify on becoming Thoroughbred racing's 13th Triple Crown victor and further congratulations to his ownership connections, trainerBob Baffert, and jockeyMike Smith for their superb management and handling of this extraordinary athlete", stated Alex Waldrop, National Thoroughbred Racing Association President and CEO, in a press release.
If Justify beats nine rivals in the 150th Belmont, Bob Baffert would become the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice.
Now owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners, Justify defeated former United Kingdom galloper Gronkowski by just on two lengths with Hofburg back in third.
Ultimately, Gronkowski flattened out and finished second, 1 3/4 lengths back, but he came in another 1 3/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Hofburg.
All-sources wagering on the 150th Belmont Stakes itself, carded as Race 11 of 13, was $72,702,815 with on-track handle totaling $6,884,907.
Justify's stunning rise puts him in the pantheon of great horses.
"This never gets old", an emotional Baffert said after the race.
"It's incredible", Baffert said.
Field was trackside for the final leg of the Triple Crown in NY as Justify continued the incredible partnership of WinStar, the China Horse Club and SF Bloodstock, which started in Australia. Many sports fans have just a passing interest in horse racing, only tuning in during May and June, when a Triple Crown's on the line. Justify is also running on the inside post, where no horse has won the Belmont since 1997.
Jockey Mike Smith reacts after guiding Justify to win the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race Saturday
Breaking from the rail with the speed of a quarter horse, the 4-5 favorite quickly established command under Hall of Fame jockeyMike Smith and was left to his own devices on the front end as he entered the first turn.
Some clues might come from how trainer Bob Baffert handled American Pharoah, who got a bit of a break after winning the Triple Crown in 2015 and returned to the track on August 2 to win the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
"It baffled me", Mike Repole, who owns fellow competitors Vino Rosso and Noble Indy, said, per David Grening of Daily Racing Form.
American Pharoah was the last horse to win the Triple Crown, capturing horse-racing's storied trifecta in 2015. He is the second undefeated Triple Crown victor, joining Seattle Slew in 1977.
A win for Justify would be Bob Baffert's second as a trainer. "And I thought maybe, because I could see Gronkowski flying, but he just couldn't get to that horse".
"He looked like a bodyguard making sure nobody got close to Justify".
Justify won the Belmont on Saturday by 1¾ lengths over 24-1 shot Gronkowski after winning the Kentucky Derby by 2½ lengths and the Preakness by a half-length. He took his hand away to give Justify a periodic breath, then gave him a squeeze when he wanted more.
The weather in the NY area on Saturday is expected to be on the warmer side, with highs in the upper 70s. Hofburg; 2. Justify; 3.
Mark Sanford , R-S.C., addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting March 18, 2017 in Hilton Head, S.C. His staff anticipates a higher turnout because unaffiliated voters now can vote in the primary.
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