Mike Smith, 52, Becomes Oldest Jockey to Win Triple Crown

Tanya Simon
June 12, 2018

Justify led all the way to win the Belmont Stakes by 1¾ lengths on Saturday and become horse racing's 13th Triple Crown champion and second in four years.

Justify is the second Triple Crown victor in the last four years, joining American Pharoah, who accomplished the feat in 2015.

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

No one was saying that Justify, the overwhelming favorite Saturday, would not have won the race without the help of his stablemate or didn't deserve to be a Triple Crown victor.

Mike Smith, Justify's jockey, won 10 percent of what the owners of the horse took home from the races, meaning from the Belmont alone he took home $80,000.

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".

Minutes after Justify's 2018 Belmont Stakes win, Elliott Walden, president and CEO of managing partner WinStar Farm, was asked whether he would comment about the massive reported breeding rights deal with Coolmore.

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Race horse Gronkowski, who is named after and partially owned by Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, took second place and Hofburg placed in third. "If they're great, they're going to win the Triple Crown". All three races that make up the Triple Crown vary in distance, so a horse known for its blistering pace might fare better at The Preakness where the distance is less enduring. Baffert said he felt confident, not stressed, during the run-up to the race. "He's now become a household name, and I'm looking forward to the next race just as much as you guys are". Seattle Slew was unbeaten when he won the Triple Crown in 1977. "But you know, Pharoah was my first Triple Crown victor".

"I can't describe the emotions going through my body right now", he continued.

"Bob has helped me achieve so many of my goals, but today, man, he made my dream come true", an emotional Smith said.

"American Pharoah will always be my first love", said Baffert on the NBC broadcast, "but this horse is special and I'm just so happy".

Smith said: "This horse is so gifted - he's sent from heaven". He managed to hold off Restoring Hope, a longshot (also owned by Baffert) who pulled into second early on and a late push from Brovazo. "When the half-brother was foaled he was lying in the stall and his legs were so long that I said to Tanya, 'Well, here's one we can't sell'".

The two Todd Pletcher-trained racers, Vino Rosso (+900) and Noble Indy (+2800), will break side-by-side from gates 8 and 9 respectively.

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