Justify won the Belmont, and completed the Triple Crown victory. Justify took the lead early, and never relented. For the first time on the Triple Crown run, Justify raced on a relatively clean track. The horse raced in the mud at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, which did not seem to impact his performance. The big question heading into the Belmont was whether Justify’s close call at the Preakness would leave the horse with enough left in the tank to compete. Trainer Bob Baffert worked with 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in addition to Justify. Baffert noted the main difference is Justify does not like to be around people quite as much.
“American Pharoah loved human contact,” Baffert explained to the Courier Journal. “He was a very sweet horse and is still very sweet. He loves people, will put his head in your lap. I’m probably closer to that horse because of his temperament. Justify, you can walk up to him and he might give you three, four, five seconds and then he’s done with you. He’ll try to bite your head off. It’s not in a mean way. He’s just a big, tough horse. He’ll run you out of the stall.”
Justify began his race to the Triple Crown by winning the Kentucky Derby with ease. The horse jumped out to the lead, and never looked back. Justify received a strong run from Bravazo in the Preakness, but was able to edge him out by just a half-length to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive. Right after the Preakness, Justify was at -120 to win the Triple Crown. Right before the race, Justify was a -110 favorite to win the Belmont.
Justify took the lead at the Belmont right out of the gate, and never really was challenged. The margin of victory was not quite as big, but the race looked similar to the Kentucky Derby. Gronkowski made a late push to come in second, but was not in real contention to win the race.
It marked the second Triple Crown in four years for Baffert. With American Pharoah making history in 2015, there was a different feeling this time around, given there was not a nearly 40 year gap.
“I only speak for myself, but in general, interest might be a little less,” NBC Sports and former jockey Jerry Bailey explained to Los Angeles Times. “I think that people believe now that you can do it. This horse has won two of the three and maybe it’s not as hard as people thought. But those that have been around and saw the close calls know it’s awful tough…It’s even similar to the grand slam in golf. It’s so hard to do in one year. Even though horse racing isn’t as popular as it was 15 years ago, we’ve had a lot of close calls. That just raises the respect level on how hard it is to do.”