Magnificent Justify bags Triple Crown in Belmont Stakes

Sat 9 Jun 2018
Justify - Belmont Park - Racingfotos Justify becomes the 13th winner of the Triple Crown on Saturday (Racingfotos)

Justify etched his name into American racing history with a brilliant victory in the Belmont Stakes in New York seeing him become just the 13th horse to claim the Triple Crown.

Hot on the heels of his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the unbeaten Bob Baffert-trained three-year-old passed the so-called ‘Test of the Champion’ in the mile-and-a-half Belmont with flying colours.

In doing so, he emulated Baffert’s American Pharoah, who in 2015 was the first to land all three races since Affirmed in 1978.

Ridden by Mike Smith, 52, Justify is only the second undefeated runner to win the Triple Crown, after the great Seattle Slew in 1977, with Baffert the second trainer to achieve the feat twice.

"This horse ran a tremendous race," Smith, who at 52 is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown, told reporters. "He's so gifted. He's sent from heaven. He's just amazing."

Trainer Hugo Palmer puts in to context Justify's Triple Crown achievements in Luck On Sunday.

"It's amazing," said Baffert, who had Triple Crown near-misses with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002). "It never gets old. American Pharoah, he'll always be my first love.

"(This horse) was showing me the same signs (as American Pharoah), he showed me that same brilliance. Superior horse. I mean, he could have won every race on the undercard today. He's just that kind of horse."

Justify took command before the first turn, settling into a comfortable rhythm as stablemate Restoring Hope and the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Bravazo kept him in their sights.

Galloping through fractions of 23.37 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 48.11 for the half, 1:13.21 for three quarters and 1:38.09 for the mile, Justify entered the far turn without having been asked for run, still two lengths clear of his stablemate and closest rival, with Bravazo hanging on in third.

Approaching the closing stages, the formerly Jeremy Noseda-trained Gronkowski came from the clouds, picking off a half-dozen rivals to gain third even as Vino Rosso was moving into second.

Once in the stretch, however, Justify continued to roll along and Gronkowski had to settle for second, with Hofburg coming on to edge Vino Rosso by a neck.

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