Triple Crown Winner 2018: Bob Baffert's Justify Celebration, Reaction

Triple Crown Winner 2018: Bob Baffert's Justify Celebration, Reaction

The Belmont Stakes, to be held for the 150th time, is the longest of the triple crown races.

The chestnut colt became the second undefeated horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, improving to 6-0 in a racing career that began February 18.

"It's just incredible", said Baffert, his voice hitching. 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. None of the other nine horses had a chance to catch him.

"I just kept a leg on each side and my mind in the middle", Smith said.

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.

"I think he's got to run better than he did in the Preakness but we know going in he's got the most talent", NBC horse racing analyst Randy Moss said on Friday. "And I am so happy for Mike Smith". "I certainly could have got after him a whole lot more a lot earlier and made him do a little more, as well".

"[Baffert] made my dream come true", Smith said. When he wanted Justify to run fast he would squeeze him, and when he wanted Justify to relax and fall into a rhythm, the jockey would move his hands down.




Smith let Justify roll through a first quarter in:23.37, then subtly eased up the tempo to mark the half-mile in:48.11. "I'll just have a bigger smile on my face, that's all". "He's so gifted. He's sent from heaven".

"I was like, 'Oh, Mike". Baffert said he felt confident, not stressed, during the run-up to the race.

Elliott Warden, one of Justify's owners, called Baffert "the greatest of all-time".

Justify paid $3.50 to place and $2.80 to show. He refused comparisons between the two horses, saying they are different types of racers. And Baffert, 65, pulled ahead of longtime friend and rival trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 82, to claim sole possession of a record 15 wins in Triple Crown races (five Kentucky Derbys, seven Preakness States and three Belmont Stakes).

Justify roared to an imperious victory in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday afternoon, becoming the 13th horse to win thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown and only the second in 40 years. Baffert oversaw American Pharoah's Triple Crown success in 2015 and has used the same methods with Justify.

The triumvirate of the Hall of Fame jockey, the Hall of Fame trainer and the unbeaten, unflappable chestnut colt, who had looked every bit the prohibitive favorite in the days leading up to the race, draped the track in anticipation of the kind of memorable NY event that only the Yankees have provided over the past decade outside of Belmont Park.

Came from behind to win his second race at Santa Anita on March 11 by a comfortable 6-1/2 lengths.

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