Justifiable! Racing gets 13th Triple Crown with Justify

Tanya Simon
June 13, 2018

Justify led all the way in New York's Belmont Stakes winning by 1 3/4 lengths to gain immortality as horse racings 13th Triple Crown victor.

"Congratulations to Justify on becoming Thoroughbred racing's 13th Triple Crown victor and further congratulations to his ownership connections, trainer Bob Baffert, and jockey Mike 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.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, sitting statue-still down the back stretch, let him run on the lead while rivals Gronkowski, Hofburg and Vino Rosso battle for position behind him but always two lengths off Justify's pace.

That mantle will rest lightly on the shoulders of Justify as he becomes only the second colt in the history of the Triple Crown to go into - and come out of - the Belmont undefeated.

Gronkowski took second place and Hofburg placed in third. That horse's first crop hasn't even raced yet. When Geroux broke next to last I would have thought that was a great scenario, he doesn't have to worry about him.

Justify dominated the Derby last month but won the Preakness in a closer race two weeks later.

"It never gets old", Baffert said.

Justify made history on Saturday by winning the Triple Crown, which reportedly increased the value of his breeding rights, according to ESPN. He's just a big, tough horse.

To date, only 23 fillies have run the Belmont Stakes, and only three have won: Ruthless, Tanya in 1905 and Rags To Riches in 2007.

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Justify didn't start racing until turning 3 years old, becoming the first horse in over a century to win the Kentucky that didn't race as a 2-year-old.

"He listens to you - to everything I do", Smith said.

Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to a Triple Crown, did a television commercial leading up the Triple Crown races this year.

Of the 13 who ran the table in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, I rank Justify fourth, behind only Secretariat (1973), Citation (1948) and Seattle Slew (1977), with American Pharoah (2015) eighth. "If he could win a graded race, it would be unbelievable".

In addition to the 12 Triple Crown winners, a host of historic names have graced the Belmont Stakes winner's circle draped in the blanket of carnations.

Saturday's race, the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, marked the fifth time Baffert came to Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown. The trainer of both Justify and American Pharaoh becomes just the second to ever win the Triple Crown twice - "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons also did it twice, with Gallant Fox and Omaha in the 1930s.

"As I say, I've got to give all the credit to my daughter who planned the mating of Justify, and my staff at Glennwood".

With the human Rob Gronkowski in attendance, the horse Gronkowski put together the most unexpected performance of the race.

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