Factors that did in so many horses before Justify, like the Derby's 20-horse field, a sloppy track and blazing early pace, seemed only to make this year's Triple Crown victor stronger. A leading 23 Belmont winners have come out of there, including Secretariat.
Justify raced to victory at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday to become the 13th Triple Crown champion. It has been the stop for all of the great racing legends, from Belair Stud, Sam Riddle and Greentree Stable to the greats, "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons and Woody Stephens. Smith will be aboard Justify in the colt's bid to become racing's 13th Triple Crown victor. He celebrated by grabbing white carnations from the winner's blanket and tossing them in the air.
"But they all ran well, but that's all you can ask for, that your horses do well, but they still have to show up".
When fans roared at him in appreciation on the way back to the winner's circle, Smith calmly point to Justify.
Earlier, Baffert and jockey Mike Smith teamed to win the $750,000 Ogden Phipps with Abel Tasman. The next year, the classic rivalry of Affirmed and Alydar reached its peak when Affirmed inched ahead by a head to become the last Triple Crown victor until Pharoah arrived.
Wearing a white blanket advertising his status as the sport's 13th Triple Crown victor, Justify walked laps inside the barn before coming outside to greet a slew of cameras.
Three races at various distances on three different tracks over a span of five weeks.
Justify, who raced to a contested victory at the Belmont States on Saturday evening to clinch the 13th Triple Crown in horse racing history, sparked plenty of euphoria as he crossed the finish.
"This horse ran a tremendous race, he's so gifted", Smith said. He's sent from heaven, it's just wonderful. "He is sent from heaven, I tell you".
Jockey Jose Ortiz rode the rail through the final turn of the 1 1/2-mile test, angled out, and loomed behind Justify, ready to break plenty of hearts. But Smith turned it into an advantage, gunning Justify to the lead and defying any horse to challenge. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.
Smith got the big colt into a relaxed rhythm under a moderate pace heading into the backstretch, and he had an easy trip from there. They didn't do it. Others have moved too late and let the leaders get away.
Those are the concerns, but for betting purposes, I truly think Justify is a freak of a horse and will contend in this race. "This effort has reinforced our belief that America is a great place to do racing", said Teo Ah Khing, founder of the China Horse Club that is a co-owner of Justify.