Monday, 10 December, 2018

Justify Wins Horse Racing's Triple Crown

ImageJustify ridden by Mike Smith began his Triple Crown bid by winning the Kentucky Derby on May ImageJustify ridden by Mike Smith began his Triple Crown bid by winning the Kentucky Derby on May
Eugene Bates | 10 June, 2018, 06:30

"He's so gifted", said Mike Smith, 52, the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown in a post-race interview on NBC.

The 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy will now be enshrined as racing's 13th victor of the Triple Crown, just the second undefeated colt to do so.

At 6-0, he's the second undefeated Triple Crown victor; he's the first to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont without racing at age 2; and he's the only horse to beat nine rivals in the Belmont with a Triple try on the line.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who made his career on the NY racing circuit, piloted a flawless race to give trainer Bob Baffert his second Triple Crown.

In the last 16 years, the only race-day favorite to win the Belmont Stakes was American Pharoah. On Saturday, Justify did that, too, before a rapturous crowd of roughly 100,000, leading wire-to-wire to cover the 1½ -mile distance in 2:28.18 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness on sloppy tracks after heavy rain fell.

Trainer Todd Pletcher also had two horses in the field - 8-1 Vino Rosso and 30-1 Noble Indy.

"This horse ran a tremendous race".

After winning the first two races earlier this year, Justify was the clear favourite to win Saturday's race in Elmont, New York. That horse's name: Gronkowski. Gronkowski was a bit green in the stretch, changing leads several times under Jose Ortiz, but ran well to finish second. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

In the hours before the race, Justify rested in Belmont's Barn 1, across the street from a Wendy's, undistracted by the beer-soaked fans who reveled close by - including one who almost relieved himself on a tree.

The silver-haired Californian becomes only the second trainer to saddle more than one Triple Crown victor after "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons, who trained Gallant Fox and Omaha between the wars.

"I can't describe the emotion that's going through my body right now", Smith said as he made for the winner's circle.

"It's just unbelievable", said Baffert, his voice hitching. But he shot out with a fury, took a 11/2-length lead at the quarter pole and never let a challenger get closer than that.

The 24-1 long-shot Gronkowski battled from the back of the pack to cross the line second, nearly two lengths behind Justify, while the 5-1 Hofburg finished third amid overcast but dry conditions.

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