Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sports | By Johanna Francis

Justify claims Triple Crown with Belmont Stakes win

Justify claims Triple Crown with Belmont Stakes win

Three races at various distances on three different tracks over a span of five weeks.

"Why would you send a horse that breaks bad and take everybody out, then come back in?" the jockey questioned. His Belmont Stakes triumph on Saturday made him the 13th victor of racing's most coveted trophy.

Twenty-three times a horse has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to be denied horse racing's ultimate glory by failing to win the Belmont Stakes in NY. Baffert's first came in 2015 with American Pharoah, while Fitzsimmons won it in 1930 with Gallant Fox and in 1935 with Omaha.

Justify, jockeyed by Mike Smith, became a sensation because of his impressive size, his calm and dominating presence, and his ability to overcome inexperience. It seems appropriate, since the race - which is 1.5 miles - requires horses to be ruthless and not give up a single furlong if they want to end up in the winner's circle. A crowd capped at 90,000 is expected for a chance to witness history.

Prior to his victory, the thoroughbred had a flawless 5-0 record in his brief career and had won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Owner Ron Winchell believes that on a clean track- unlike the Preakness, where Tenfold lost to Justify by a length- his horse can cruise to a victory. Justify became the first colt in 136 years to win the Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old. "After a week it starts catching up with them". Often it's the final quarter-mile that does in a contender. Belmont Park's deep, sandy surface can prove tiring, too. Justify reported home two lengths in front of that rival, with Hofburg (Tapit) rounding out the trifecta.

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Bob Baffert became the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice. He'll have nine horses to contend with. This horse, who is jockeyed by two-time Stakes victor John Velasquez, skipped the Preakness to be fresh for the Belmont. Bravazo disappointed in the Louisiana Derby but finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby despite being a sizable long shot.

Trainer Todd Pletcher also has two horses in the field - 8-1 Vino Rosso and 30-1 Noble Indy. He's the only horse with experience racing at Belmont Park, having won the Peter Pan there on May 12.

Because of the timing in late January, it allows a horse to run one more time before breeding season begins.

The weather in the NY area on Saturday is expected to be on the warmer side, with highs in the upper 70s. While he may not have had enough to catch Justify, the shipper from Great Britain was much the best of the rest, far outrunning his odds to take second by 1 3/4 lengths. "He could've won every race on the undercard today". Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

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