Top 5 Three-Year-Olds After Justify

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D.S. Williamson

June 24th, 2018

Justify won the Triple Crown. He's the second Triple Crown winner from Bob Baffert's barn since 2015. It's obvious that Justify not only is the best 3-year-old of his generation, he's also one of the best 3-year-olds to ever race.

Justify's also back in training. The Haskell Invitational is most likely his next race. If Justify does run in the Haskell, he's likely to meet at least one of the horses I've listed here. We know Justify is the best, but which other 3-year-olds could challenge the champ later in the summer and possibly into the fall?

Check out my Top 5 3-year-olds after the Triple Crown winner.

Top 5 Three-Year-Olds After Justify

We don't often see the Belmont Stakes as a key 3-year-old race. Usually, the Belmont is a one and done type deal for several 3-year-olds. This year, though, I believe at least 2 seriously talented 3-year-olds emerge from the Belmont Stakes.

1. Hofburg

Why did Gronkowski finish second in the Belmont Stakes while Hofburg finished third? Hofburg went wide. Gronkowski didn't. I believe Hofburg would have had a better shot to beat Justify if he hadn't gone wide around the final turn. If Irad Ortiz had maybe taken an extra moment for an opening, he might have gotten Hofburg home first. That's no knock on Irad. He made a decision that he felt gave his horse the best chance to win.

Owned by Juddmonte Farm and trained by Bill Mott, we know Hofburg will improve. Of all the other 3-year-olds trying to get to Justify's talent level, Hofburg's got the best chance to do it.

2. Gronkowski

Gronkowski's sheer size really surprised me. I had no idea he was that big. I've seen Justify up close. Justify is a big horse. I think Gronkowski might be bigger than Justify. The turn of foot Gronk II displayed in the Belmont Stakes was ultra-impressive. Chad Brown might have a real star on his hands. We'll have to wait and see what Chad's next move is with him. Gronkowski likes to win races and he doesn't have to be as far back as what we saw in the Belmont Stakes.

I think he's the real deal.

3. Audible

It's probably a good thing that the son of Into Mischief skipped the Belmont Stakes. Todd Pletcher's B 3-year-old, Vino Rosso, ran well in defeat. Audible is scheduled to run in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. We'll know if he's improved at all at that time. My guess is that he's improved a ton. Todd Pletcher seems consigned to the fact that Audible is his best 3-year-old. This is especially true after Magnum Moon's career ended due to an injury.

4. King Zachary

Racing for the first time since the Wood Memorial, King Zachary exploded in the stretch to win the Matt Win Stakes by 4 3/4 lengths. He beat Combatant, Funny Duck, and Tiz Mischief in the race. Could the Dale Romans' trainee get better? I believe he most definitely could. Romans hasn't said where he'll run next. My bet is either the Travers or Pennsylvania Derby.

King Zachary's sire is Curlin. The Travers' distance won't be an issue. Not only that, but he's got that push button burst that could help him win a lot of races.

5. McKinzie

Most everyone else has McKinzie ranked first on their list of the best 3-year-olds after Justify. I can't do that. McKinzie is an excellent horse. However, I'm not sure when he comes back from the injury he suffered before the Triple Crown. If he comes back for the Travers, watch out. Baffert has a way of putting late blooming 3-year-olds into the Travers Stakes. He's done it the past couple of years in a row with Arrogate and West Coast.

McKinzie, a late bloomer? Absolutely, he is. Just because he battled the likes of Bolt d'Oro before doesn't mean he's even touched his potential. If he makes it to the Travers, I might just bet on him to win without studying a racing form. But, I question whether he'll be ready by then.