Why Justify ranks among the best Triple Crown winners

Heather Diaz
June 13, 2018

Justify is only the second horse since 1978 to earn the Triple Crown, widely considered the greatest accomplishment in thoroughbred racing, which comes from winning three high-profile US races: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

Justify became only the 13th horse in history to win the Triple Crown Saturday at Belmont Stakes.

The 52-year-old jockey who was born in Roswell, grew up in Dexter and has been dominating big races in recent years put an exclamation point on his illustrious career Saturday, guiding Justify to the Triple Crown with a victory in the Belmont Stakes.

Justify came home 1¾ lengths ahead of Gronkowski, the former Jeremy Noseda-trained colt whose previous win was on the all-weather at Newcastle.

At 6-0, Justify joins the legendary Seattle Slew (1977) as the only two undefeated Triple Crown winners. There's a reason the Belmont backstretch is known as the Graveyard of Champions, just as the race itself is rightfully known as the Test of Champions. "It was just a great day, went smooth". Justify became the first colt in 136 years to win the Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old.

"It's a privilege to have a horse like this", Baffert said about Justify.

Chris Mara has won two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants, and now he can add the Triple Crown to his resume.

The horse's first victory at the Santa Anita Park in California a few months ago convinced Baffert that he might be training a champion.

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"It's just incredible to consider the horse's first start was February 18".

Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Justify ran 1? miles - the longest race of the series - in 2:28.18 and paid $3.60, $3.50 and $2.80.

Jun 9, 2018; Elmont, NY, USA; Mike Smith aboard Justify wins the 150th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Coolmore purchased breeding rights to the 2015 Triple Crown victor American Pharoah from Zayat Stables late in the colt's 2-year-old season or early in his 3-year-old year.

"It baffled me", Mike Repole, who owns fellow competitors Vino Rosso and Noble Indy, said, per David Grening of Daily Racing Form. The last to accomplish the feat was American Pharoah in 2015. "A Triple Crown victor is rare enough; an undefeated Triple Crown victor is rarer still". "I thought maybe, because I could see Gronkowski flying, but he just couldn't get to that horse".

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

Baffert, 65, became the second trainer to win two Triple Crowns, joining the late James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons, whose triumphs came in 1930 and '35 with Gallant Fox and Omaha, respectively. Seeing a foe dare approach him sparked Justify's fuel, and the ensuing inferno was more than sufficient to scorch a trail in Big Sandy. "I was blown away", Mara said via the New York Post. A true closer, Blended Citizen does his best running in turf and synthetic races but is still an intriguing challenger to Justify thanks to his consistent speed figures and stamina pedigree.

Justify is coming off a grueling schedule, winning six races in 111 days.

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