Justify is royal becomes the 13th horse to win the Belmont and the Triple Crown
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
From the start, no other horse had a chance; Justify took the lead and never looked back to win the 150th Belmont Stakes and the 13th Triple Crown. On Saturday afternoon, June 9, 2018, 45 years later to the day, undefeated Justify joined Secretariat in the Triple Crown club. Ridden by jockey Mike Smith, Justify easily won the Belmont Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths in 2:28 18 in the 1 ½ mile “Test of the Champions” in Elmont, New York. Justify becomes the second Triple Crown winner in three years after American Phoroah in 2015. For horse racing, the decade has a very 1970s vibe, when three horses won the Triple Crown after a 25-year drought, Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, and Affirmed in 1978.
Justify broke from the first post and went to the front to the lead, never losing it where he maintained leads of never less than a half of length throughout the race at one point two lengths. In the stretch, he pulled ahead to win by the 1 3/4 lengths. Justify became the first horse since Secretariat to the Triple Crown from the rail post. Justify “set the pace” and his times for each quarter mile until the mile mark were, :23.37, 48.11, 1:13.21, and 1:38.09.
Baffert commented on Justify rallying to speed up in the stretch, saying, “Turning for home, you could just tell — the great ones always find more.” Gronkowski gave it a shot towards the end, but finished second and while Hofburg finished third. Justify was 3/5 odds-on favorite going into the race but many in horse racing doubted that Justify had the stamina to win the grueling Belmont against horses, who were far more rested.
Smith praised his riding partner to NBC, “This horse ran a tremendous race. He’s so gifted. He’s sent from heaven, I tell you.” After winning, Baffert told NBC, “It never gets old… American Pharoah, he’ll always be my first love.” Baffert also said that Justify “was showing me the same signs,” as American Phoaroah. The horse made his debut just 111 days ago on February 18 at Santa Anita.
Justify keeps on breaking history. Baffert now beats fellow trainer for D. Wayne Lucas for most Triple Crown race wins at 15. Baffert, however, ties “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons to have trained two Triple Crown winners. Fitzsimmons won the Triple Crown with Gallant Fox in 1930 and then with Omaha in 1935. Baffert also trained American Pharoah, who in 2015 became the first horse to win the Triple Crown after a 37-year drought, ever since Affirmed won in 1978. Baffert also has the most attempts to the win the Triple Crown than any other trainer with five.
Smith also makes history as the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown at 52-years-old. By winning the Kentucky Derby, Justify became the only horse since 1882 to win the Derby without running as a two-year-old beating Apollo’s Curse. Apollo in 1882 was the only horse to win the Derby without having run in his two-year-old season, no horse had done it since until now. Justify also tied Seattle slew to become the only second horse to run undefeated, having won all his six races and win the Triple Crown.
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a over dozen years experience in education & political journalism.