Four months ago, Hall of Fame horse racing trainer Bob Baffert knew. After all, very few others saw what Baffert saw: that Justify, the chestnut colt that was only three years old, and had never run a race previously, was a special talent.
Then Justify won its first two races, and the world took notice. Baffert’s premonitions, that Justify was a raw talent who could go down in history, were proven true.
And on that fateful June 9th afternoon, when Justify became the 13th horse ever to earn the coveted Triple Crown, Baffert mustered up a simple but eloquent explanation of the victory: “It was meant to be.”
It wasn’t the fact that Justify was equally mesmerizing and dominant in his win at the Belmont Stakes. It was the fact that the horse was faced with running along the difficult post position along the rail, but was still able to break beautifully in the race, and capture a lead over the competition in a matter of seconds. Before the race was halfway through, Justify seemingly separated himself from the rest of the competition.
Justify’s jockey, Mike Smith, professed his pride in how the horse was able to overcome the tough position in the race. It’s likely that Justify had no idea that he entered the race as a 4-5 favourite to win it, but the horse ran the race in the way you’d expect a winner to do so. Justify ran the 1.5 miles seemingly with ease, and even as eventual runner-up Gronkowski — named for NFL star Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots — crept on a distance of only two lengths back, Justify never looked like he lost control of the race.
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Baffert did admit to feeling some nerves through the first quarter-mile of the race, as Justify go out to a fast start, but as the rest of the horses began to low down along the back stretch — and Justify didn’t — he was more at ease. Baffert did have a lingering worry that Justify would seemingly “run out of gas” in the final length of the race, but on the contrary, Baffert again praised Smith and the horse for finding “another gear” to finish off the race definitively.
But Baffert shouldn’t have worried all that much. After all, he knows a few things about training and watching championship horses. Baffert also trained American Pharoah, the horse that won the Triple Crown back in 2015. Baffert has now won more Triple Crown races than anyone in existence, but like any great leader of an organization, he was effusive in his praise for the team that helped Justify perform so admirably.
After becoming only the 13th thoroughbred to win horse racing’s triple crown, Justify is now six-for-six in the races he’s run this year. He joins the great Seattle Slew as the only undefeated horse to win to win all three races with an undefeated record (Slew did so back in 1977). Justify helped Baffert and team cash in as well; the horse earned the team over $2.9 million in prize money, after winning all three legs of the Triple Crown.