Justify's Triple Crown Bid Endangered by This Trio of Horses

George Soros

Left-Wing Donor George Soros Tied to Triple Crown Hopeful Justify Getty Images 8 Jun 2018

Fans are streaming into Belmont Park in anticipation of watching Justify try to become horse racing's 13th Triple Crown victor and second since 2015.

In contrast to the first two legs of the Triple Crown series, Saturday's Belmont was run under ideal conditions. Three times - in 1997, 1998 and 2002 - he brought horses to the Belmont that had won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to see them falter. He won with American Pharoah in 2015, ending a 37-year drought.

With Mike Smith replacing less experienced Drayden Van Dyke in the irons, Justify coasted by 6 ½ lengths in a March 11 allowance race before making the leap to Grade 1 competition in the Santa Anita Derby.

Gronkowski finished second in the 1 1/2 mile race.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. He became the first thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old since 1882, aka the Chester Arthur administration.

Smith let Justify roll through a first quarter in:23.37, then subtly eased up the tempo to mark the half-mile in:48.11. He quickly decided that in nearly 40 years as a jockey, he'd never ridden a more gifted 3-year-old.

Hofburg finished third 3.5 lengths behind the victor, with Vino Rosso fourth at 3.75 lengths behind. He also made a late charge to grab third in that race.

Earlier, Baffert and jockey Mike Smith teamed to win the $750,000 Ogden Phipps with Abel Tasman. With the last Triple Crown just three years past, would casual sports fans embrace him as they had American Pharoah?

He knew in February that the 3-year-old chestnut colt, who had yet to run a race, was something special.

Now he has joined Jim Fitzsimmons, who conditioned Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935, as the only trainers to saddle two Triple Crown winners.

"I'm grateful to have a horse like this, to have the opportunity to be here, to make history like this is an incredible feeling", Baffert said.

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