Justify Takes Belmont Stakes, Becomes 13th Triple Crown Horseracing Winner

Al Bello  Getty Images

Al Bello Getty Images

Justify's owners purchased the horse for $500,000.

Smith, the coolest man at Belmont Park, who did not even celebrate when the race and the Triple Crown were won, rationed it perfectly.

Justify is on a winning streak.

Justify did not begin his career until February 18 and won his first two starts easily at Santa Anita. The last horse to accomplish the feat was American Pharoah in 2015.

Given the fact that only three years had passed since the last Triple Crown victor, there wasn't almost as much pre-race media hype as there had been in 2015 when American Pharoah won the Belmont to become the first Triple Crown victor since Affirmed in 1978. Here are the odds for every contender in the field the morning of Saturday's race. "He's just brilliant", said Smith, who at 52 became the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown.

In 2015, another horse manned by trainer Bob Baffert rode to glory.

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.

"His mechanics, his motion, just the way he did it. ..."

"It's incredible", said Baffert, who had Triple Crown near-misses with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002). On the other side of the deal was Coolmore, the breeding farm that also oversees American Pharoah's sire activities. Bravazo finished second in the Preakness and Hofburg was sired by Tapit, whose sons have won two of the last races in the Belmont, which is run at a 1 1/2 mile.


However, Baffert has seen similarities in his stride, his growth and his potential. "In the modern day we don't get in a rush with these horses", Baffert told USA Today days before the Derby. "And this horse is getting there".

"They both could win the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the Breeders' Cup Classic".

"It's just about getting the horse in a good, happy, comfortable place, wherever that may be", Smith said. "He's just that kind of horse".

There was one horse, however, who was a threat to Justify's Triple Crown bid at the top of the Belmont Park stretch.

Baffert said he was "in awe" of Pharoah when he won, and "in shock" seeing him win.

Smith has seen it all, and he knows how to handle the pressure. "I mean, he left like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico!" "So far he hasn't gotten overheated or get too anxious about things".

Smith's riding career began in 1982. Two weeks later, his shortest time between races, he captured the Preakness.

Justify's stunning rise puts him in the pantheon of great horses. "There can't be anything greater for the sport". "He's in his 50s acting like he's in his 20s". 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.

The pressure was intense and "Big Money Mike" reacted like a veteran. At that point, Smith asked Justify for a bit more speed.

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