Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become 13th victor of Triple Crown

Belmont Stakes 2018: The 6 horses that are the best bets to upset Justify

Belmont Stakes 2018: The 6 horses that are the best bets to upset Justify

Of the swift and lucky 13 Thoroughbreds who have won the Triple Crown since Sir Barton became the first to wear the mantle of greatness in 1919, only Justify holds the distinction of accomplishing the rare sweep after going unraced as a 2-year-old.

Justify improved to 6-0 in a racing career that only began on February 18. Each race has strict guidelines to ensure the horse is not overloaded as well as has the ability to reach top speeds.

Justify's triumph was a crowning achievement for Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm in Woodford County, the majority owners in a partnership with China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and SF Racing.

Justify was sired by Champagne Stakes and Florida Derby champion Scat Daddy and was born at Glenwood Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.

He didn't flinch when greeted by a roaring crowd as he walked onto the track. He said: "I'm so happy for Mike Smith, there's no one more deserving than him".

Justify lived up to his billing as the prohibitive favorite in the Belmont Stakes with a wire-to-wire victory on Saturday. "And if he's anywhere close as good as Justify that would be a great accomplishment as well". He also made a late charge to grab third in that race.

Smith has two wins each at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont. Before Justify, the the last was American Pharoah in 2015. Indeed, he joined "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons as the only trainers in history to capture two Triple Crowns.

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"As I say, I've got to give all the credit to my daughter who planned the mating of Justify, and my staff at Glennwood".

An hour after his historic win aboard Justify, jockey Mike Smith sat in front of a crowded room of reporters, describing what it was like for an "old man" of 52 to finally win a Triple Crown. The New Mexico native won 15 Grade 1 races in 2017, including nine with Bob Baffert, the trainer of Justify and now a two-time Triple Crown victor.

Seattle Slew's Triple Crown - four years after that of Secretariat, was swiftly followed by Affirmed's in 1978.

The powerful colt with the blaze running the length of his face showed no signs that the rigors of running a compressed schedule had gotten to him.

Gronkowski took second place and Hofburg placed in third. "He's sent from heaven".

In the screengrab below, you can see just how far back Gronk the horse was as the horses went through the first quarter mile. "And I was nearly in tears, it's such an emotional experience", he said.

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. But Smith turned it into an advantage, gunning Justify to the lead and defying any horse to challenge. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

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