Justify 4/5 favourite to win Belmont, complete triple crown

Arnold Nichols
June 13, 2018

The race will mark the 150th running of the Belmont.

"Oh yeah", exclaimed Baffert with that fun-loving grin of his, "the king is back!"

Justify, who is 6-0 and is the first horse to sweep the series without racing at age 2, beat nine others to win - more competition than any other Triple Crown victor has beaten in the Belmont.

Justify is just the second horse to capture the Triple Crown undefeated, joining Seattle Slew (1977).

The victor was chased home by Lonhro colt Gronkowski, who was making his first start for Chad Brown having previously been trained in Britain by Jeremy Noseda, with Hofburg in third.

"We're going to find out how much hostility there is out there", Justify's trainer, Bob Baffert, had said in the final moments before Justify headed for the tunnel from the Belmont Park backstretch to the paddock.

"My thought turning for home was that he had a shot to get him if Justify was vulnerable at a mile and a half", said Gronkowski's trainer, Chad Brown, who took over the care of Phoenix Thoroughbreds' colt from Jeremy Noseda in May. "I was going insane down the stretch". Justify becomes the thirteenth Triple Crown victor and the first since American Pharoah in 2015.

"But they're two different types".

Baffert took American Pharoah to Saratoga in August 2015 and the Triple Crown victor was upset by Keen Ice in the Travers. Justify was anything but typical. Prior to the race, after winning both The Preakness and the Kentucky Derby, the horse's evaluation sat at $60 million, but after the win this Saturday, the price tag rose another $15 million, bringing his value to a startling $75 million. Honestly, I felt a little bit guilty that I had a stud deal and he had to retire at end of his 3-year-old season. He's 5-0, having raced for the first time on February 18. Two weeks later, he survived a challenge in the fog-shrouded Preakness, winning by a half-length, again in the slop to set up a Triple Crown try.

"Smith said that when he's mounted on his horse, he follows God just as he normally would".

His peers couldn't help but give him credit for leading Justify so far in such a short period. Bravazo finished sixth in the Derby and closed with a rush to take second in the Preakness. He's the only horse with experience racing at Belmont Park, having won the Peter Pan there on May 12.

For now, the owners of Justify - which also includes Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing - are taking a circumspect approach to the horse's future. "And I was nearly in tears, it's such an emotional experience", he said. He had a lot of things against him, and we talked about that all week. The California weather is very consistent. The horse ran a great race.

"It's been the longest, quickest journey", Baffert said Sunday. He's so in tune with his horses, and he's not going to bring horses up here unless they're right. He became the 13th Triple Crown victor of all time and the second horse to accomplish the feat since 1978.

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