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‘Justify’ Finishes First in Belmont Stakes
12 June 2018, 08:30 | Charlene Valdez
Al Bello Getty Images
Justify is on a winning streak. His most famous series of wins coming in 2015 with American Pharaoh.
The 37-year wait for the Triple Crown of horse racing, mercifully ended three years ago when unbelievable American Pharoah crossed the finish line first at the 2015 Belmont Stakes, was at the same time exasperating, demoralizing, and borderline comical.
Bob Baffert became only the second trainer in history to win the Triple Crown twice.
For trainer Bob Baffert, this is his second Triple Crown victory overall, and second in the past four years.
The drought before that lasted so long - 37 years, in fact - that many began to believe that horse racing's grand sweep would never again be accomplished.
"His mechanics, his motion, just the way he did it. ... He's so gifted. He's sent from heaven, I tell you". As he crossed the finish line, the racecaller exclaimed, "American Pharoah is finally the one!"
However, Baffert has seen similarities in his stride, his growth and his potential. That said, in nine starts he only has two wins and has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a two-year-old. "Had I known better, the first eighth of a mile I would have thought it was a quarter-horse race, not the mile-and-a-half Belmont. And this horse is getting there".
But Justify, like all the great thoroughbreds, found "another gear", Baffert said.
"They both could win the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the Breeders' Cup Classic". I mean. we're like the coach, but they're the athletes and the jockeys get it done.
Justify'sjockey is Mike Smith, and at 52 years old he is still considered a big-money rider.
"Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still", Smith said.
"I believe there's just a flow that guides me and when I follow it, unbelievable things happen", he said. "So far he hasn't gotten overheated or get too anxious about things".
Smith is clearly at the top of his game in a sport where jockeys are riding less and less in their 50s. Two weeks later, his shortest time between races, he captured the Preakness. "He's in his 50s acting like he's in his 20s. It was going to be my friend or the enemy", Baffert said when asked about what other horses he was concerned about as the race developed. At that point, Smith joined the team. He's had more than 5,450 career wins, which he credits to his vigorous workout routine and the time he spends getting to know the horses he rides. "I am really happy for him". "I think he's the greatest of all time". Gunther's daughter Tanya selected Justify's sire, Scat Daddy.
Gronkowski had never raced on dirt, had never raced farther than a mile, qualified but didn't run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) because he spiked a fever, switched trainers before the race, and only had two published works ahead of the most hard start of his career.
Vino Rosso won his first two career starts late a year ago in impressive fashion before contesting two Kentucky Derby prep stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.