Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become 13th Triple Crown champ

Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become 13th Triple Crown champ

JUSTIFY (c, 3, Scat Daddy-Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper) put an exclamation point on his meteoric rise to the top of the game with a wire-to-wire victory in the GI Belmont S., becoming the 13th victor of horse racing's Triple Crown.

"Our focus was on each race as they came up", Walden said after unveiling Justify's Triple Crown banner inside Belmont Park. He's been 5-0 in his brief career, and now he's ready for a chance at a Triple Crown. Two weeks later, he survived a challenge in the fog-shrouded Preakness, winning by a half-length, again in the slop to set up a Triple Crown try. Justify did that before a rapturous crowd of 90,327, leading wire to wire to cover the 11/2-mile distance in 2:28.18 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard.

Baffert broke a 37-year drought in 2015 with American Pharoah.

"Usually about a week later, you can see how much of a toll it's taken on him, " Baffert said.

Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses.

If Justify succeeds in sweeping the Triple Crown just three years after American Pharoah, it wouldn't be the first time it has happened close together.

The big, chestnut colt stood above the other horses with a commanding lead all the way through the homestretch Saturday in Elmont, N.Y. It was only his sixth race, and some bettors had anxious that he packed too many races into the 110 days leading up to the race, but it was no contest. The thoroughbred horse retired from racing with five wins at the young age of 3 after suffering an injury to his tendon at the Kentucky Derby.

Gronkowski finished second in the 1 1/2 mile race.

WinStar Farm CEO Elliott Walden has denied that a deal has been made and the New York Times last week reported that it may not be official until September so that Justify's owners can take advantage of tax laws dealing with capital gains.

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"Smith said that when he's mounted on his horse, he follows God just as he normally would".

At 52, Mike Smith is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown. He defeated a deep crop, faced more horses in his three legs than any previous Triple Crown victor. Instead of thanking the horse's owner and the trainer, the very first thing he told NBC while being interviewed on horseback following the race, "First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ".

"I've wanted to see that horse's name up there because we knew he was brilliant from day one".

ESPN's Darren Rovell reported before the Belmont that Justify's stud rights had been sold to Irish-based Coolmore for $60 million, with a $15 million bonus if he won the Triple Crown.

This deal makes Justify the most valuable horse in history, reports ESPN.

Restoring Hope, also trained by Baffert, ran interference for the champion while traveling second and deterring any threats by forcing them to go extremely wide.

Gronkowski paid $13.80 to place and $7.00 to show.

An impressive feat for Baffert, racing's affable, most marketable two-legged star, for sure.