April 24, 2019
Justify: the 13th Triple Crown Winner!
Justify, ridden by Mike Smith, wins the Triple Crown and the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, Saturday, June 9, 2018, at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Longines)
It was a most exciting 150th Belmont Stakes on June 9, 2018, as race fans across the nation were wondering if, and hoping that, Justify could take the third jewel in the Triple Crown.
To his advantage, Justify held the #1 post position (on the rail). “Will he take his place in history” announcer Larry Collmus asked.
Justify broke well and went “immediately to the early lead,” said Collmus. The other Bob Baffert trainee, Restoring Hope, kept in second place, but ran wide through the first turn. Bravazo was in third. “The opening quarter mile was a swift one: 23.37 seconds,” Collmus reported. The first half mile was 48.11, “just a bit faster than American Pharoah went three years ago,” Collmus said.
Heading up the back stretch Justify kept a length’s lead, with Restoring Hope second and Bravazo still third through the first ¾ mile of the race. Into the far turn, jockey Mike Smith and Justify kept a two-length lead.
Then Vino Rosso challenged Justify, pulling into second, with Bravazo still in third. As they rounded the stretch, Justify was still in the lead, staving off challenges from Hofburg and Gronkowski.
Into the stretch, “Justify comes roaring home to a raucous Belmont Park with one furlong to run!” shouted a very excited Collmus. “He’s just perfect! And now he’s just immortal! Justify is the 13th Triple Crown winner!” an estatic Colmus screamed. “Justify has done it!”
He ran the race in 2.28.18, winning by a length and three-quarters before a crowd of about 90,000 in Elmont, NY. Gronkowski finished second and Hofburg was third.
“The great ones, they just find another gear,” said Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert, adding, “If he was great, he’s going to do it, and that’s what it’s about,” Melissa Hoppert reported in the New York Times.
“This horse ran a tremendous race,” 52-year-old Mike Smith said, flashing his customary wide grin. “He’s so gifted; he was sent from heaven. I can’t even begin to describe my emotions right now,” reported Hoppert in the NY Times.
As one of the most impressive horses of his generation, it is pure delight to watch his sweeping, rhythmic stride. “He’s just got that big, powerful body, that big, long stride. He’s so efficient. He just does it easily,” Baffert told Childs Walker at the Baltimore Sun. Comparing Justify to American Pharoah, Baffert continued: “They’re superior horses. They’re both quick and their mechanics are the same. They just glide over the ground.”
History of the Triple Crown
In 1919, Sir Barton won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes to achieve what is considered the greatest accomplishment of a Thoroughbred race horse. This June, almost 100 years later, Justify’s win at the Belmont marked a Triple Crown victory that has only happened 12 times before. The previous twelve Triple Crown winners are:
Sir Barton (1919)
Gallant Fox (1930)
War Admiral (1937)
Count Fleet (1943)
Seattle Slew (1977)
American Pharoah (2015)
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