Justify captures Triple Crown with Belmont Stakes win

Ready for a Triple Crown effort at Belmont  NEP’s John Roché and NBC Sports Group’s Keith Kice and Tim Dekime

Ready for a Triple Crown effort at Belmont NEP’s John Roché and NBC Sports Group’s Keith Kice and Tim Dekime

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor has been guided to this point by a couple of veterans: trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith. The final time for 1 1/2 miles was 2:28 and change. Smith will be aboard Justify in the colt's bid to become racing's 13th Triple Crown victor. He did so with American Pharoah in 2015, ending a 37-year drought.

The last horse to win the Triple Crown was American Pharoah in 2015. Restoring Hope will have a new jockey Saturday since Smith will be busy riding Justify.

The white mane of Justify trainer Bob Baffert, horse whisperer to the stars, is now known the world over.

Justify, who went off as a 4-5 favorite, held off Gronkowski and Hofburg, who finished second and third, respectively. Besides Bravazo, the only other Preakness horse to take on Justify again is Tenfold. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened. "It's a weird, quirky race, but I don't see why though he wouldn't handle it".

Justify keeps showing something new each time he races. Baffert declared that he had a plan that would allow the promising 3-year-old to overcome what seemed to be a hopelessly late start and still qualify for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby.

Like "Big Red", as Secretariat was lovingly called, Justify (an even bigger "Big Red", at 16.3 hands and 1,380 pounds, compared to a typical 1,100-pound thoroughbred), broke from the No. 1 post.

Post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for 5:46 CDT Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, and it will be about two-and-a-half minutes before the American classic has its 150 victor.

Should Justify win the Belmont and become the 13th horse to successfully sweep the Triple Crown, it will be something to watch.

Justify went off as a prohibitive 3-5 favorite and paid $3.60, $3.50 and $2.80, becoming the first ever Triple Crown victor to defeat nine opponents at Belmont.

"I think he's got to run better than he did in the Preakness but we know going in he's got the most talent", NBC horse racing analyst Randy Moss said on Friday. Questions about his stamina deepened at the Preakness, where he exhausted over another muddy track and held on to win by ½ a length.

Won his first race on February 18 at Santa Anita Park by 9-1/2 lengths.

For Justify, being one of the finest athletes of our time will have to do.

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