Why Justify ranks among the best Triple Crown winners

Belmont Stakes Justify Mike

Belmont Stakes hopeful Gronkowski pauses before working out at Belmont Park, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y. Gronkowski is one of 10 horses racing in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday. A crowd capped at 90,000 is expected at Belmont Park.

Justify won the 150th Belmont Stakes, making him the 13th Triple Crown victor.

Justify has won all six of his career starts, four at grade one level. "We've been able to brand something very special in what we've accomplished".

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.

"I can't believe I'm here in NY winning it again". A late surge, however, ensured a second-place finish, and that was not lost on Twitter, who broke out the jokes.

Three years later, a strapping chestnut colt named Justify, with a white blaze, a sweeping stride and an unblemished record, came back to the site where American Pharoah had vanquished horse racing's ghosts - with the same trainer, but his own shot at making history. He took his hand away to give Justify a periodic breath, then gave him a squeeze when he wanted more. Mara said of Smith.

Justify's victory silenced the skeptics who believed the colt was due for a loss because of his rushed schedule and close result in the Preakness.

Belmont Stakes
Mike Lizzi

The way things went this year, don't be surprised to see Smith riding a good one in next year's Triple Crown races.

Next Saturday, Justify's owners, along with trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith, will receive their engraved Kentucky Derby trophies at Churchill. Horse racing's latest superstar will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown victor in U.S. Thoroughbred racing and he has a great chance to accomplish the feat.

Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses. He defeated a deep crop, faced more horses in his three legs than any previous Triple Crown victor. "He's so gifted", Smith said in a TV interview directly after the race. He's sent from heaven, it's just unbelievable. I tell you, it's just wonderful.

There were mild bids turning for home. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened.

"He ran a large number of races in a short amount of time with no 2-year-old foundation", said Chad Brown, who trains Gronkowski.

"I actually thought maybe he's not going to break today". Four of Justify's rivals have been resting since the Kentucky Derby a month ago: Free Drop Billy (16th), Hofburg (seventh), Noble Indy (17th) and Vino Rosso (ninth). The colt named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski brings a four-race winning streak into his US debut.

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