Horse racing’s popularity has waned in the United States over the last couple of decades, but what Justify managed to do on Saturday captured the hearts and imaginations of Americans and those all across the globe. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes already, the horse trained by Bob Baffert and jockeyed by Mike Smith, won the Belmont Stakes from start to finish to win the Triple Crown for the 13th time in history.
If you will recall, the last Triple Crown had come just three years ago when American Pharaoh accomplished the feat. Before that, it had been a long 37 year wait for a horse to win all three events, which vary in size and track material, which makes the feat very difficult to pull off. What is even tougher to do is win the Triple Crown as an undefeated horse. That had only been done once before Justify, and it was pulled off by Seattle Slew in 1977. In the past, the runs have tended to come in bunches. Three horses won it in the 1930s, four in the 1940s, and three in the 1970s. Could there be a late flourish to close out the 2010s with another winner?
The race itself was brilliant. Justify drew the rail, meaning he would have to load into the gate first. Some believed this could make the horse antsy, but that did not happen. Others feared that a poor start could see him boxed in with nowhere to go. Instead, though, he lead from pillar to post, and the inside line only made it easier for him. The slow starter ended up being Gronkowski. The #6 was all but out of it after the first three or four football fields.
As Justify paced the field, never looking like he was working all that hard while doing it, that horse would make some noise. As the race came into its final stages, Justify began to kick, leaving the field in its wake. Well, all but one. Gronkowski, somehow back into the thick of it, would apply the pressure late, but it wasn’t enough. Justify would win by 1 ¾ lengths to take the Belmont and capture the Triple Crown. Source state that the horse is now worth upwards of $75 million for this victory! It might not be in vogue, but horse racing was very fun on Saturday, and will be something that continues to capture people year after year for three select Saturdays.