Justify wins Belmont to become 13th Triple Crown champion

Triple Crown winner Justify is led around in front of his barn by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes following his arrival at Churchill Downs Monday

No Triple Crown victor has faced more than seven rivals in the Belmont, so Justify could be the first.

When skeptics questioned his audacious ambitions for the late-developing colt, Baffert said Justify was talented enough to win the Kentucky Derby with minimal experience.

"To achieve a result like this, how do you beat it?"he said".

Justify wins Kentucky Derby 144 under Mike Smith in the pouring rain, 5/5/18. Turning for home I could see Gronk flying and at that point thought we had a shot to get him if Justify was vulnerable at a mile and one half.

"I just won the Triple Crown, man".

The Kiwi standing in the middle of Justify's Triple Crown storm says the feeling was surreal.

Now owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners, Justify defeated former United Kingdom galloper Gronkowski by just on two lengths with Hofburg back in third.

At the age of 52, Smith, a devout Christian, is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown. Nearing the far turn, the Chad Brown trainee had caught the rest of the field, and perhaps as a gift to make up for his poor start, the Horse Racing Gods blessed Gronkowski with an opening along the rail. Gronkowski finished second in the 2400m race. For this horse to do it for (jockey) Mike Smith, he deserved something like this.

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At the Kentucky Derby, Justify made fairly easy work of a muddy, but not especially sloppy track. He had missed the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs owing to injury. The next year, the classic rivalry of Affirmed and Alydar reached its peak when Affirmed inched ahead by a head to become the last Triple Crown victor until Pharoah arrived.

"They're two different type of horses, Pharoah and this guy", Baffert told the AP after Justify won the Preakness.

The win marks the second Triple Crown for Justify's coach, trainer Bob Baffert, in just three years - he also won in 2015 with American Pharoah.

"I believe there's just a flow that guides me and when I follow it, wonderful things happen", he said. "He's so gifted. He's sent from heaven". Some have mistakenly moved too early and gotten burned out before the long stretch run.

Belmont Stakes Day card, highlighted by Justify's Triple Crown triumph, generated all-sources handle of $137,954,895, the second-highest one-day handle in NYRA history behind Belmont Stakes Day in 2014.

Like "Big Red", as Secretariat was lovingly called, Justify (an even bigger "Big Red", at 16.3 hands and 1,380 pounds, compared to a typical 1,100-pound thoroughbred), drew the No. 1 post.

Justify returned $3.60 to win, $3.50 to place, and $2.80 to show.

Among those expected to be on hand is New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. It amounts to a race once every 23.5 days on average.

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