Losing Owner Ignites a Triple Crown Brouhaha



A special water cannon welcome from the Louisville International Airport's Department of Public Safety greeted Justify, and a TV news helicopter followed the Triple Crown victor in his brief journey from the tarmac to trainer Bob Baffert's Barn 33 on the Churchill Downs backside.

Justify became the 13th Triple Crown champion with Saturday's 1 3/4-length victory in the Belmont Stakes that improved him to 6-0 lifetime.

'Who knows if he would have won the race anyway? "He is a Triple Crown victor and he's undefeated", said Repole, emphasizing his admiration for the powerful, 6-for-6 colt. In fact, Notre Dame averages nine wins per season following a Triple Crown - and has only lost 10 games, total, those 12 years. "He's so gifted. He's sent from heaven".

Baffert, who also trained 2015 Triple Crown victor American Pharoah, defended the strategy of having Restoring Hope keep the pace.

The Belmont Stakes is the oldest of the Triple Crown events. On the other side of the deal was Coolmore, the breeding farm that also oversees American Pharoah's sire activities. Affirmed not only raced, but also won Horse of the Year honors, at age 4. "He's just that kind of horse".

While Justify and Mike Smith, his Hall of Fame rider, smoothly accelerated after breaking from the rail to seize the early lead, Geroux rode vigorously to hustle Restoring Hope toward the front. He stayed in second, 1½ to 2 lengths behind Justify, for a mile before retreating to eighth. Hofburg paid $3.70 to show. Plus, as Forde noted, Repole had sought to employ a little gamesmanship himself, having Noble Indy rabbit - i.e. set a fast pace to tire out other competitors - and set the stage for Vino Rosso. Justify became the first colt in 136 years to win the Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old.

The prize-winning horse has won six races in 111 days. Owned by WinStar, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and SF Bloodstock, Justify is scheduled to ship Monday to Louisville, where he will stay at Churchill Downs for the next week or so. "He looked like a bodyguard making sure nobody got close to Justify". "There is no one more deserving than him".

"He's even more magnificent than I thought he'd be".

The Belmont Stakes is generally run on the first or second Saturday in June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The on-track handle was $16,159,584, with 90,327 people in attendance.

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