Baffert off to 2-for-2 start at Belmont Park

Justify will make his first post Triple Crown appearance at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Justify will make his first post Triple Crown appearance at Churchill Downs on Saturday

Jockey Mike Smith kisses the August Belmont trophy after winning the Triple Crown aboard Justify in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y. Owners Kenny Trout, second from left, and Teo Ah Khing, third from left, and trainer Bob Baffert, right, looked on.

Unbeaten Justify was a 4/5 odds-on favorite on Friday to win the Belmont Stakes in NY, but far from a shoo-in to complete American horse racing's triple crown on Saturday.

In any case, congratulations to jockey Mark Smith, trainer Bob Baffert, who is only the second trainer to win two Triple Crowns, and, obviously to the horse that did most of the work.

The 24-1 long-shot Gronkowski battled from the back of the pack to cross the line second, nearly two lengths behind Justify, while the 5-1 Hofburg finished third amid overcast but dry conditions.

The Belmont Stakes is known for a lot of things, from being the crowning glory of a grueling five-week race series to a crushing spoiler for runners and their connections attempting to earn racing immortality with a Triple Crown. "They were going slow and (jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.) said he didn't want to make some insane move down the backside to go join him, which probably wouldn't have made any sense".

Coolmore will reportedly breed Justify primarily in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, where he could breed at least 250 times in his first year.

"The raw talent is there", said Baffert.

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"What an fantastic experience, my heart was pounding and I had to sit down", said Gunther, who witnessed Justify's historic run at Belmont Park on Saturday. Before Justify, it hadn't been done by a horse who didn't run at 2 and made only six starts in such a short time. He'll run 1 1/2 miles around Belmont's sweeping oval Saturday with nine rivals gunning to keep history from happening. When Justify ran the first quarter-mile in:23.37, Gronkowski was 14 3/4 lengths behind the leader and eight lengths behind Free Drop Billy, who raced ninth in the 10-horse field.

"It is such a surreal feeling and one that I'm still trying to take in", he said. Seattle Slew was unbeaten when he won the Triple Crown in 1977.

Saturday's race, the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, marked the fifth time Baffert came to Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown. "Over the years, people have told me it was one of their most memorable races as well". From there, he reeled off consecutive Grade I wins in the April. 7 Santa Anita Derby, May 5 Kentucky Derby and May 19 Preakness S. Sales History: $500,000 yrl KEESEP '16.

"I actually thought maybe he's not going to break today".

"I can't believe I'm here in NY winning it again". Two (Tenfold and Bravazo) raced in the Preakness as well and got much closer in that one, finishing third and second respectively. Can he become the second Triple Crown victor in 3 years, after the previous wait was 37? Hofburg; 2. Justify; 3.

Justify is 5-0 in a career that began with his first race in February.

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