Justify achieved one of the sports' toughest feats 45 years to the day that Secretariat won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths. The New Mexico native won 15 Grade 1 races in 2017, including nine with Bob Baffert, the trainer of Justify and now a two-time Triple Crown victor. This will be the sixth race since February 18 for the three-year old, who took his entire second year off. By today's standards, that is still a lot of racing packed into a relatively short period. "I just won the Triple Crown, man".
With rain and mud a strong possibility again, in NY on Saturday, the question was which Justify would we see?
Turning for home full of running, he looked to have all his rivals toiling, although the ex-Jeremy Noseda-trained Gronkowski - a victor at Newcastle in March - ran an unbelievable race to be second, having trailed the field by some distance from the stalls.
The historic win makes Justify the 13th Triple Crown champion and the first to claim the title since American Pharoah in 2015.
"I think my mother's happy now", Smith said.
Justify paid $3.50 to place and $2.80 to show. "When the half-brother was foaled he was lying in the stall and his legs were so long that I said to Tanya, 'Well, here's one we can't sell'".
Last year, Baffert won four races with Mor Spirit (Metropolitan Handicap), Abel Tasman (Acorn), American Anthem (Woody Stephens) and West Coast (Easy Goer). Hofburg, trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Irad Ortiz - and reckoned by many as a contender to thwart Justify's Triple Crown bid - was third in the field of 10.
While it was overshadowed by Justify's Triple Crown win, Twitter had a ball after Gronkowski - the horse - staged quite the comeback to finish second at the Belmont Stakes. Now, it's up to the undefeated colt and some racing luck to add his name to a revered list of Triple Crown winners. I tell you, it's just incredible.
"We're looking forward to sharing him [with the public] more, " said Elliott Walden, the CEO and racing manager for WinStar Farm, which owns a majority share of the horse. Horses had come close to breaking it in recent years but it wasn't until Justify arrived that the superstition was put to rest. "Amazing. Just hope Eli Manning can do the same thing at 37".
"My thought turning for home was that he had a shot to get him if Justify was vulnerable at a mile and a half", said Gronkowski's trainer, Chad Brown, who took over the care of Phoenix Thoroughbreds' colt from Jeremy Noseda in May.
Gronkowski, named for and partly owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, returned $13.80 and $7. Four of Justify's rivals have been resting since the Kentucky Derby a month ago: Free Drop Billy (16th), Hofburg (seventh), Noble Indy (17th) and Vino Rosso (ninth).