Justify romps in Belmont; 13th Triple Crown champ

Florence Fletcher
June 14, 2018

Triple Crown victor Justify returned to Churchill Downs for a little rest Monday, arriving just before a thunderstorm and greeted by camera-clicking fans intent on getting a shot of horse racing's newest superstar. A plan will be formulated once the chestnut colt recovers from a compressed schedule that saw him win six races over 111 days since his debut on February 18.

Jimmy Barnes, the assistant trainer in Bob Baffert's racing opeation, was in the spotlight Monday at Churchill Downs, but purely for the company he was keeping.

On Saturday, Justify won the Belmont Stakes to become the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown, only four years after American Pharoah swept through the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.

A division of Coolmore also bought the rights to American Pharoah, who won the Triple Crown in 2015, snapping a 37-year drought. I felt on my watch, if he's happy, I'll keep him running.

He added that the colt will be "just taking it easy" for a few days before this weekend's planned victory celebration.

Justify is the first Triple Crown victor to face that many rivals in Belmont.

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Vino Ross was the second-place horse when the race entered the stretch on Saturday, getting up to Justify's flank. Baffert oversaw American Pharoah's Triple Crown success in 2015 and has used the same methods with Justify .

"It's been the longest, quickest journey", a hoarse-sounding Baffert said as light rain fell outside Justify's barn.

Baffert's tied Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons as the only trainer to saddle two Triple Crown winners.

"No, Restoring Hope, he has natural speed, and his only chance was to be up near the lead in the first wave because he's like a one-dimensional horse", he said. We're just so proud of him. Gronkowski finished second, 1 3/4 lengths back, and Hofburg was third. That's his job, to protect the other horse, and it worked for them. "It's a race I would love to win, and it looks like it would suit this horse".

Mike Repole, the Queens native and co-owner of fourth-place Vino Rosso and last-place Noble Indy, was hoping stewards would question the "reckless riding" of Restoring Hope jockey Florent Geroux after he raced out of the gates to run behind and just outside of Justify. But now what? Has another "savior" of horse racing come and gone? Seattle Slew was unbeaten when he won the Triple Crown in 1977. He pricked his ears at the sound of the shutter clicks and when Baffert led him closer, he playfully bit at one camera. "People love history being made in sports".

Baffert's reply: "There's plenty of gas in the tank, Don't use it all up at once".

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