Justify captures Triple Crown, wins Belmont

10 June, 2018, 06:29 | Author: Virgil Todd
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Running from the rail post and facing horses who are better rested could derail Justify's bid for horse racing's Triple Crown.

Gronkowski the horse, partially owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, finished second behind Triple Crown victor Justify in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

The victory marks the second Triple Crown win for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who also won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes with American Pharoah in 2015. He now holds the record with 15 wins in Triple Crown races, one more than D. Wayne Lukas.

Justify lived up to his billing as the prohibitive favorite in the Belmont Stakes with a wire-to-wire victory on Saturday. Before Justify, the the last was American Pharoah in 2015. The chestnut colt with a pronounced white blaze won on slop at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness; even on a faster track on a clear day at Belmont, his opponents couldn't outrun him. Behind those three, Noble Indy, Vino Rosso and Tenfold were stalking the leader, while the relatively unknown Gronkowski was initially last of the 10-horse field. He did not let his supporters down, as he won the 1 1/2-mile race in remarkable fashion.

Gronkowski finished second in the race. While it served Secretariat well, it posed a concern for Baffert, who anxious his colt might get pinned against the rail if he didn't break well.

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Gronkowski, a 24-1 shot trained by Chad Brown and part-owned by New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, came from well back to finish second under jockey Jose Ortiz. And when they questioned Justify's grueling workload - five races in three months, with the Belmont his sixth in less than four months - Baffert said his horse was tough enough to handle it. In 2014, a Peter Pan victor, Tonalist, squelched California Chrome's Triple Crown bid.

Justify paid $3.50 to place and $2.80 to show.

Restoring Hope, also trained by Baffert, ran interference for the champion while traveling second and deterring any threats by forcing them to go extremely wide.

"I wanted to see that horse's name up there", Baffert said.

As gassed as Justify looked at the wire in the Preakness, jockey Mike Smith is convinced the undefeated colt could have run longer and picked up the pace if asked.

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