Justify captures Triple Crown, wins Belmont

Posted June 11, 2018

The trainer said he anxious again when Justify made a move forward in the final turn.

The morning after the Belmont Stakes questions quickly turned to what's next for the newest Triple Crown victor. ESPN reported that Justify's owners agreed to a $60 million breeding deal with European racing giant Coolmore before Saturday's race. "I just won the Triple Crown, man".

Only 12 thoroughbreds have achieved the feat in the past century, but Justify's rivals are already conceding it will take a minor miracle to stop him winning the most coveted prize in horse racing. "I tell you, it's just awesome".

Among the possibilities: the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at New Jersey's Monmouth Park, the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 18 and the $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga on August 25.

Despite being the first undefeated Triple Crown victor since Seattle Slew in 1977, there's little expectation that Justify's victory will resonate the same way American Pharoah's did three years ago. He raced three more times after the Belmont Stakes, capping his career with a resounding victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Justify ran the race in an unofficial time of 2:28:18.

"I haven't sat down with Elliott or anything", he said.

He had to run a quarter-mile longer than he ever had before to take the win. He did so with American Pharoah in 2015, ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought. He has won all six races he has run this year.

But even the most optimistic projections of Justify's potential could not have accounted for what he accomplished on Saturday, becoming horse racing's 13th Triple Crown victor a mere 111 days after making his racing debut.

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"Today he looked fantastic", Baffert said. But he said Sunday that Justify is less a trendsetter than a unique phenomenon. "But I was like, 'The race ain't over, you know?' And then he's getting closer and closer and all of a sudden he is fourth, third, second, and I just started going ballistic".

The season-ending Breeders' Cup world championships are in Louisville on November 2-3. His shot at becoming the 13th Triple Crown victor came just 111 days into his career.

Baffert never wants to discuss his own legacy, but Justify's victory stamped him as perhaps the greatest trainer in the history of his sport.

Bob Baffert became the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice.

Following every step of his short career, the people involved with Justify believed more and more they had a special colt in their barn.

Baffert and his family celebrated at familiar favorite restaurant King Umberto, just down Hempstead Turnpike from the track.

Though the possibility is exceedingly remote, Justify's historic Triple Crown could in theory be vacated if stewards found that Restoring Hope broke racing rules in a way that prevented another horse beating Justify.

Justify will leave Belmont Park on Monday and go back to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., for at least a week before eventually returning to Baffert's home base in California.