Justify wins Belmont to become 13th Triple Crown champion


An American Thoroughbred, Justify did the unthinkable, overcoming rough conditions to win the Kentucky Derby as a three-year old horse.

Gronkowski came on to finish second, with Hofburg third.

Luis Saez-ridden Bravazo almost ran down a fading Justify in the final yards of the Preakness before finishing second, a half-length behind.

Justify lived up to his billing as the prohibitive favorite in the Belmont Stakes with a wire-to-wire victory on Saturday.

Wearing a white blanket advertising his status as the sport's 13th Triple Crown victor, Justify walked laps inside the barn before coming outside to greet a slew of cameras.

Still, this was Justify's sixth race since mid-February, and his previous two had come on sloppy tracks, surely taking a toll.

In 2015, another horse manned by trainer Bob Baffert rode to glory. Justify becomes the thirteenth Triple Crown victor and the first since American Pharoah in 2015. "He could have won every race on the undercard today".

Though their running styles and strides are different, Baffert said there is only one thing that matters at the end of the day: they're fast. The horse ran a great race.

Some clues might come from how trainer Bob Baffert handled American Pharoah, who got a bit of a break after winning the Triple Crown in 2015 and returned to the track on August 2 to win the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. He's just an unbelievable horse. The Belmont Stakes are named after August Belmont I, the first president of the American Jockey Club, according to Newsday. "I mean, he left like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico!"

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"American Pharaoh, he'll always be my first love", Baffert admitted after the win. The late bloomer won the Belmont Stakes by 1 lengths on Saturday, giving the sport its 13th Triple Crown champion. "Had I known better, the first eighth of a mile I would have thought it was a quarter-horse race, not the mile-and-a-half Belmont".

"I felt great, and that probably wouldn't have happened 10 years ago or 20 years ago", Smith said. Baffert won in 2015 with American Pharoah.

Justify improved to six wins in as many starts and joined Seattle Slew as the only undefeated 3-year-olds to sweep the Triple Crown.

The 52-year-old jockey knows the sprawling track and its sweeping turns well, having been the leading rider in NY from 1991 to '92.m. Justify's owners are betting on his worldwide appeal. He underachieved in both starts, rebounded to win the Wood Memorial Stakes by three lengths and then finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert told NBC Sports: "It's just unbelievable".

The 52-year-old Smith just knows what to do aboard a horse. He was the first horse in more than 100 years to win the Derby without ever having raced as a two-year-old horse, The New York Times reported.

"Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still", Smith said.

In spite of the difficulty, Justify has the aura of a victor.

Gunther said he's now eyeing the future, looking at breeding plans for Justify's mother.