Cheered on by fans wearing yellow foam crowns instead of the Egyptian headdresses that greeted American Pharoah in 2015, Justify (3-5 favourite) won the 150th Belmont Stakes over 2400m in emphatic fashion on Saturday to earn a crown of his own.
With a white blaze, a sweeping stride and an unblemished record, Justify came to the site where Pharoah ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought and, guided by the same trainer in the unflappable Bob Baffert, took his own shot at history. Gronkowski, Hofburg and Vino Rosso filled the places.
The last odds-on favourite to win the Belmont out of the No. 1 position was A.P. Indy all the way back in 1992, and Justify the sixth Triple Crown winner to win out of the No. 1 spot at Belmont.
Skies got a bit overcast at post time, but Justify won wire-to-wire with a stunning pace and a historic run.
Bob Baffert became the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice and Justify becomes the first undefeated Triple Crown winner.
“What a blessing on this wonderful day. This horse is so gifted, he’s sent from Heaven,” said the 52-year-old Smith. “I think I belong in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame now. He was so still in the gate, I wasn’t sure if he was going to break today but wow, he sure did.”
“It’s just amazing, I’m so proud to be an American, very emotional and a lot of help upstairs,” Baffert said. “It never gets old. American Pharoah was my first love, but wow, Mike Smith deserves something like this. This horse is just amazing, he could have won every race on the undercard today.”
Justify, by Scat Daddy, could command a $100,000 stud fee once he retires from racing and starts his breeding career.
-from NY Times, CBS Sports
-Pic by SI.