Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Justify bidding for rare Triple Crown sweep in Belmont

Justify bidding for rare Triple Crown sweep in Belmont

Justify became the 13th horse in history to win USA racing's coveted Triple Crown with an electrifying triumph in the 150th Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Gronkowski, named for and partly owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, returned $13.80 and $7 in his USA debut after arriving from England. He wasn't a 2-year-old champion bred and built to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. Smith faced the pressure of helping Justify take that final step to become the sport's 13th Triple Crown victor. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

Despite a deal for his breeding rights worth a reported $75 million, the connections of Triple Crown victor Justify plan to continue racing him through the end of this year, they said Sunday. Justify is majority owned by WinStar Farm and Kenny Troutt who hold a 60 percent stake in the horse, China Horse Club also holds a 25 percent stake in the horse and the final 15 percent is owned by a group of investors, according to the Times. Baffert would then go on to become one of the most famed trainers in the world! The horse helped. Asked if he'd rank Justify as the greatest thoroughbred, Smith laughed.

But there was no catching Justify, the 13 Triple Crown victor, Baffert's record 15 Triple Crown race win. I felt on my watch, if he's happy, I'll keep him running.

Among the possibilities: the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park in Nw Jersey; the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar outside San Diego on August 18; and the $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga in NY on August 25. Justify ended a three-year Triple Crown drought.

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The New Mexico native won 15 Grade 1 races previous year, including nine with Bob Baffert, the trainer of Justify and now a two-time Triple Crown victor. I think in each race I had the second-best horse and that's the way it went. "But I said, I don't know, three is a good number". He did it with American Pharoah in 2015.

If Justify beats nine rivals in the 150th Belmont, Bob Baffert would become the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice.

The 52-year-old jockey knows the sprawling track and its sweeping turns well, having been the leading rider in NY from 1991 to '92.m. Besides Bravazo, the only other Preakness horse to take on Justify again is Tenfold.

The big chestnut colt paid only $3.80 to win on a $2 bet.

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Smith is clearly at the top of his game in a sport where jockeys are riding less and less in their 50s. The race is under a microscope with Justify looking to join elite company in pulling off one of the rarest accomplishments in all of sports.

Baffert became the second trainer along with "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons to train two Triple Crown winners, with Fitzsimmons having conditioned Gallant Fox (1930) and his son, Omaha (1935). But jockeys say Smith's age is actually an advantage. Jockey Mike Smith said he now feels, "I belong" in the Hall of Fame.

The two Todd Pletcher-trained racers, Vino Rosso (+900) and Noble Indy (+2800), will break side-by-side from gates 8 and 9 respectively.

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