Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sports | By Ivan Ross

Justify wins Belmont Stakes, becomes 13th horse to win Triple Crown


The staff made special pizzas with Justify and Triple Crown spelled out in pepperoni.

Justify is the first Triple Crown victor to face that many rivals in Belmont.

All six of the rangy chestnut colt's wins have come in 2018, beginning with a maiden victory on February 18 at Santa Anita Park and culminating just shy of 16 weeks later in the Belmont. Baffert has won 14 Triple Crown races, equaling the all-time total of legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Among the possibilities: the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park in Nw Jersey; the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar outside San Diego on August 18; and the $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga in NY on August 25.

"Give them the credit", said Baffert of WinStar. "It was meant to be".

History is about to judge experts and analysts offering their picks for the 2018 Belmont Stakes. He didn't flinch when greeted by 90,327 roaring fans as he walked onto the track. Baffert would then go on to become one of the most famed trainers in the world! "I just won the Triple Crown, man".

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"He's sent from Heaven", Smith said.

A colt with a Canadian connection has made history as just the 13th horse to win horse racing's Triple Crown. Gallant Fox, Omaha and War Admiral accomplished the feat in the 1930s.

"It never gets old". American Pharoah, he'll always be my first love.

"I think he's the greatest of all time", jockey Mike Smith, 52, said about Justify. He celebrated by grabbing white carnations from the winner's blanket and tossing them in the air.

In spite of the difficulty, Justify has the aura of a victor.

Justify's owners purchased the horse for $500,000. Only Seattle Slew in 1977 was also undefeated when he won the Triple Crown.

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"I was just surprised on how well he handled the atmosphere at the Derby with the crowd, how he handled it at the Preakness because every time he shows up people start yelling and screaming and he just looks at them like, 'Thank you, '" Baffert said. Walden has maintained that a deal for Justify's breeding rights has yet to be finalized.

Even so, Justify enjoyed a dry track on Saturday and led the race from start to finish.

Justify will try to immortalize his name and join such horses as Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Citation and Secretariat when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. He's sent from heaven, it's just wonderful.

Justify will break from the No. 1 post in the starting gate. But Smith turned it into an advantage, gunning Justify to the lead and defying any horse to challenge. He did it right up on the pace, and everybody had an opportunity to take their shot. "They let it go too easy". There were mild bids turning for home.

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. "Had I known better, the first eighth of a mile I would have thought it was a quarter-horse race, not the mile-and-a-half Belmont".

The second-place finisher, who was named after New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski, rallied from the back of the pack to finish an impressive second, and Hofburg finished third.

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The season-ending Breeders' Cup world championships are in Louisville on November 2-3. Four of Justify's rivals have been resting since the Kentucky Derby a month ago: Free Drop Billy (16th), Hofburg (seventh), Noble Indy (17th) and Vino Rosso (ninth).

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