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10 June 2018, 04:57 | Charlene Valdez
Ready for a Triple Crown effort at Belmont NEP’s John Roché and NBC Sports Group’s Keith Kice and Tim Dekime
Kenny Troutt is the primary owner of the racehorse, Justify, which is vying to win the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes. And no one is likely to question it again after what he did Saturday evening at Belmont Park. There, colt-starter Toby Richard was clear from the very first day: written in bright orange marker on the dry-erase board were the words: "Goal: To help start the next Triple Crown victor". Seattle Slew was also undefeated when he won the Triple Crown in 1977.
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. Two weeks later, Justify weathered torrential rain and a blanket of fog to win the Preakness Stakes, setting himself up for the Triple Crown bid.
Justify became the second undefeated Triple Crown victor after Seattle Slew in 1977, finishing first in a field of 10.
Few horses have ever come so far, so fast.
Save for a news helicopter circling during training hours, the scene was as mellow as could be - three years between Triple Crown attempts will have such an effect.
This shocking run wasn't so shocking to those who watched Justify's early moves on the track at Santa Anita.
It will be the first timeJustify runs on a dry track in the Triple Crown series.
"Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still, " Smith said.
Justify is now the 13th horse to win the greatest honor of horse-racing, and only the second since 1998.
It was the first of five mounts Smith has on the 13-race card. The biggest threat to Justify's chances in the 10-horse field is Hofburg, who has 9/2 odds. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened.
His story grew more complicated the next morning when he looked uncomfortable putting pressure on a bruised left hind heel. Majority he has already beaten, in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, but there are a few new faces. The offspring of two distance horses, Bravazo is well-suited to the Belmont Stakes' 1.5-mile distance.
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It was clearly a strategic scrap as the teams were aiming to use the tyres in Q2 that would suit them best to start the race. "I think if I get a few more I'll head-butt someone", he said, only slowly allowing a faint grin.
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