He did it! Justify just became the 13th horse in history to win the Triple Crown after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ defeated the rest of the field to claim victory at the Belmont Stakes!
For two exciting minutes on June 9, all eyes turned to Belmont, New York to see if history would be made once again. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, Justify just had 1.5 miles between him and immortality. After the starter pistol went off, everyone watched the 3-year-old horse fly out of his stall and start from the rail in the biggest race of his life. After fending off challenges from the nine other horses – including Hofburg, Vino Rosso and Gronkowski – Justify and his jockey, Mike Smith, 52, did what only twelve other horses in history have ever done: win racing’s Triple Crown! All the more astonishing, Justify is only the second horse in history to achieve the honor with an undefeated record.
“I feel humbled and blessed to have the opportunity that I do with Justify at this stage of my career,” Justify’s jockey, Mike Smith, said ahead of the race in a post on America’s Best Racing. (At 52, he became the second-oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.) “Whatever might happen in the Belmont, as long as I am healthy and I am helping my horses more than hurting their cause, I will definitely ride for a few more years. When I have great trainers such as Bob Baffert giving me these wonderful opportunities, why not?
“Justify is a very straightforward horse,” Mike added. “When you have horses with this kind of ability, you try to do everything you can to make them happy and comfortable during the early part of the race. I want him to do what comes naturally after that, knowing that is always going to be on the quicker side. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stay out of a horse’s way, but that is what I need to do here.”
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) June 9, 2018
Justify becomes the first Triple Crown winner since American Pharoah, who won all three races in 2015. Pharoah was the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed pulled off the feat in 1978. Justify now joins the twelve other Triple Crown winners: American Pharoah, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Citation, Assault, Count Fleet, Whirlaway, War Admiral, Omaha, Gallant Fox and the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton.