Justify, who had the pole position, got to the front right away under jockey Mike Smith and led the 1.5 mile race the entire way, pulling away in the stretch after a minor challenge. Gronkowski (named for the New England Patriots tight end) was second, and Hofburg took show. Expected strong challenger Bravazo was sixth. Justify ran the race in an unofficial time of 2:28:18.
The 4-5 favorite’s wire-to-wire victory means an $800,000 share of the overall $1.5 million purse and millions in future stud fees for the three-year-old chestnut colt, who beat nine other horses to take the victory. Justify is only the second undefeated Triple Crown winner, following in the footsteps of Seattle Slew. Justify won six of six races in his career and likely will be retired to stud.
The Belmont win follows Justify victories in the Kentucky Derby, a race in which he beat a sloppy track and became the first horse since 1882 to win the Derby without having raced as a two-year-old; and then came through with a narrow Preakness victory in the fog to set up today’s final leg of the Triple Crown.
Trainer Bob Baffert was overcome with emotion when discussing his second Triple Crown winner. “It never gets old,” said Baffert, who admitted American Pharoah would always be his first love. He called Justify “a superior horse” who could have won every race on the undercard.