Justify captures Belmont Stakes 150 to become 13th Triple Crown winner
Justify prevails in Belmont Stakes 150 under jockey Mike Smith to sweep the Triple Crown (c) Photos by Z
Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner JUSTIFY more than lived up to expectations on Saturday when capturing the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes (G1) under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith by 1 3/4 lengths.
In doing so, the gleaming chestnut became the 13th sophomore to sweep the famed Triple Crown, and the first since Seattle Slew to do so undefeated. Justify exits the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes six-for-six lifetime and boasting $3,798,000 in lifetime earnings.
Justify shot out of his one post like a rocket, or as Smith put it like he was “going 440 yards at Ruidoso, New Mexico.” The pair settled in front through splits of :48.11, :1:13.21, 1:38.09 and 2:02.90, tracked by stablemate Restoring Hope and Bravazo just behind. Gronkowskie was well behind in last early on.
Nearing the final turn, Gronkowski hit another gear, blazing up and over to the rail while passing half the field. Meanwhile, Vino Rosso had edged up to challenge Justify.
In the end, neither could reel in the Bob Baffert pupil, who continued motoring in the lane to finish 1 1/2 miles over the fast main track in 2:28.12. He returned $3.60 for the win as the 4-5 favorite.
Gronkowski proved best of the rest, finishing second 1 3/4 lengths in front of Hofburg, who just took third by a neck over Vino Rosso. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to Tenfold, who was followed under the wire by Bravazo, Free Drop Billy, Restoring Hope, Blended Citizen and Noble Indy.
Justify romped in his initial two starts by a combined 16 lengths, then faced stakes rivals for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). He easily overcame that test with a three-length wire job and headed to the Kentucky Derby favored to win the Run for the Roses. Despite rainy conditions and a sloppy, sealed track on the first Saturday in May, the Scat Daddy colt prevailed by 2 1/2 lengths.
Next up was the Preakness, which also ended up being run over a waterlogged track following week-long showers. Adding to the gloom was a heavy fog that settled over Pimlico as the field headed for the gate in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Much of the Preakness was obscured by the gloom, but Justify emerged in front during the stretch run and just held Bravazo by a half-length on the wire.
Conquering the “Test of the Champion” at Belmont Park on Saturday elevated Justify to legendary status. The popular colt is campaigned by China Horse Club International Ltd., WinStar Farm, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners LLC and was bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther.
Justify is out of the Grade 3-placed Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic and is a half-brother to The Lieutenant, who captured the All American Stakes (G3) at Golden Gate Fields on Memorial Day Monday, May 28.