JUSTIFY (c, 3, Scat Daddy-Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper) put an exclamation point on his meteoric rise to the top of the game with a wire-to-wire victory in the GI Belmont S., becoming the 13th victor of horse racing's Triple Crown.
In the Kentucky Derby, he showed he could run in the mud in a crowded, 20-horse field.
No chance. Between his imposing size and the way his chestnut coat glistens in the sun, Justify is hard to overlook, particularly with his muscular hind legs propelling him forward.
For his next trick, he'll need to show he can endure the grueling 1½-mile Belmont in NY on June 9.
Baffert started the day a victor in his first two races. He's the first Triple Crown victor to face that many rivals in the mile and a half Belmont Stakes.
"He was showing me the same signs", Baffert said after Justify prevailed for the sixth time in a scant 111 days. "When you are part of it and you see the accomplishments up and down the line, you feel very fulfilled".
Darren Rogers, spokesman for Churchill Downs, tweeted after the Belmont that Justify would return there on Monday afternoon.
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The Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor has been guided to this point by a couple of veterans: trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith. A lot of horses, you run them that many times and they'll start getting a little bit nervous or hot. It's not as tough on him because he's a big horse.
On Saturday, Justify did that, too, before a rapturous crowd of roughly 100,000, leading wire-to-wire to cover the 1½ -mile distance in 2:28.18 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard.
Luis Saez-ridden Bravazo almost ran down a fading Justify in the final yards of the Preakness before finishing second, a half-length behind.
"Although he got exhausted (Saturday), he was also looking around a bit at the end", Smith said. "There's no one more deserving than him". Baffert oversaw American Pharoah's Triple Crown success in 2015 and has used the same methods with Justify.
"It feels pretty good", Baffert said, who added he knew early this year that Justify was a superior horse.
Now all eyes are on Justify, who might have one major factor in his favor. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.
"It's just wonderful", said Baffert, his voice hitching.
"I actually thought maybe he's not going to break today".