Belmont Stakes: Justify completes Triple Crown with wire-to-wire win

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Justify won the 150th running on the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, becoming the 13th Triple Crown victor.

Justify improved to 6-0 in a racing career that only began on February 18.

The horse I was intrigued by in that race was Quip... who finished last. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness on sloppy tracks after heavy rain fell. He followed it up with a half-length win in the slop in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 19.

The Belmont surface had been baked dry by sunny skies and 80-degree weather.

"I just kept a leg on each side and my mind in the middle", Smith said. Justify was the Belmont's wire-to-wire leader, jumping to a lead out of the gate and never relinquishing it.

Justify keeps showing something new each time he races.

The challenge for the eventual champion came not only from the nine rivals that he faced on the track but also from the grueling distance of the race.

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After a 37-year drought in which the feat seemed impossible, Justify became the second horse in four years to achieve it, tutored, like 2015 predecessor American Pharoah, by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. What's farther down the road remains to be seen, but there's always the blueprint to consult from American Pharoah's 2015 campaign, one that Justify has mirrored since winning the Kentucky Derby. Fitzsimmons added to his legend with Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935). 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. But he likely won't be lauded as horse racing's history savior, like American Pharoah.

The large and muscular Justify, owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm, made 52-year-old Smith the oldest jockey to ever win the Triple Crown. He's the first Triple Crown victor to face that many rivals in the 1½-mile Belmont.

Justify became just the second horse, after Seattle Slew, to win it while still undefeated.

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.

"It was exciting to think about what could be down the road with this horse", Brown said. "He's sent from heaven".

"Just so blessed that this happened", he told broadcaster NBC. "I mean, he left like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico!"