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13 June 2018, 01:34 | Henrietta Morgan
Julio Cortez AP
Justify began his career in mid February, capturing a maiden race at Santa Anita before adding an allowance event at that venue a week shy of one month later. He is the second undefeated Triple Crown victor, joining Seattle Slew in 1977.
Justify closed as a 4-5 betting favorite. In that case, the last Triple Crown victor came when Jimmy Carter was in the second year of his Presidency, the Shah of Iran was still in power, and the Soviet Union still existed and had not yet launched what would become a disastrous war in Afghanistan, and Grease had not yet been released in theaters.
If Justify succeeds in sweeping the Triple Crown just three years after American Pharoah, it wouldn't be the first time it has happened close together.
The historic win makes Justify the 13th Triple Crown champion and the first to claim the title since American Pharoah in 2015. Gallant Fox, Omaha and War Admiral accomplished the feat in the 1930s.
"It's a privilege to have a horse like this", Baffert said about Justify.
It always takes a special horse to complete the American Triple Crown sweep.
The way things went this year, don't be surprised to see Smith riding a good one in next year's Triple Crown races. Secretariat ended the longest previous Triple Crown drought of 25 years in 1973 in winning the Belmont by an astonishing 31 lengths.
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.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor is the early 4-5 favorite for Saturday's 11/2-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the three-race series. In fact, until the Preakness Stakes, no contender had come within 2 1/2 lengths of Justify as he had to fend off Bravazo and Tenfold late.
At 52, Smith became the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown. "He's sent from heaven". "He's now become a household name, and I'm looking forward to his next race just as much as you guys are". "I can't describe the emotions going through my body right now".
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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. That said, in nine starts he only has two wins and has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a two-year-old.
Smith got the big colt into a relaxed rhythm under a moderate pace heading into the backstretch, and he had an easy trip from there.
There was one horse, however, who was a threat to Justify's Triple Crown bid at the top of the Belmont Park stretch.
John Velazquez, who finished in fourth place on Vino Rosso, also saw the move as questionable. With Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski screaming in the stands, his namesake colt surged to third at the 11/4-mile mark, then unseated Vino Rosso for second as the field turned for home.
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