Justify bags Triple Crown win in Belmont Stakes

Jun 9 2018 Elmont NY USA Mike Smith aboard Justify wins the 150th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Mandatory Credit Tommy Gilligan-USA

Jun 9 2018 Elmont NY USA Mike Smith aboard Justify wins the 150th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Mandatory Credit Tommy Gilligan-USA

What makes life worthwhile are its peak experiences, those rare, glorious moments when you rise above the drudgery, the aggravation and the heartbreak. And they come in short order.

Even so, Justify enjoyed a dry track on Saturday and led the race from start to finish. The Travers, a race with significant history, might have some appeal August 25.

The only horse in the 10-horse Belmont race that ran in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness other than Justify is Bravazo. Our superficial age loves to proclaim that whatever just happened is the best ever.

Smith is clearly at the top of his game in a sport where jockeys are riding less and less in their 50s. Baffert called Justify one of the all-time greats. Most horses that have tried to win the Triple Crown have not won the Triple Crown. From there, he reeled off consecutive Grade I wins in the April. 7 Santa Anita Derby, May 5 Kentucky Derby and May 19 Preakness S. Sales History: $500,000 yrl KEESEP '16.

He returned to their cheers with an unblemished record and perfectly clean silks in sharp contrast to his muddied and beaten rivals.

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There was some show of competition from the other horses.

"It was one of those Triple Crowns where I had two really good horses, one in which I feel confident I had the second-best horse in each race", Brown said.

Justify's quest for the Triple Crown will conclude Saturday in NY. "He could've won every race on the undercard today". Eight of his overmatched Belmont opponents had more rest, and he wore them out.

"I couldn't be happier with the way he looks", Baffert said. "He's in a private, special club and established himself as one of the greats. We thought he was that kind of horse but they have to prove it". The colt named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski brings a four-race winning streak into his US debut.

Hofburg will be bet down from 9-2, but he'll still offer better odds than Justify.

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Among the possibilities: the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park in Nw Jersey; the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar outside San Diego on August 18; and the $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga in NY on August 25. He stood so quietly in the starting gate that jockey Mike Smith wondered if he'd respond when it sprang open.

Justify is set to return Monday to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. After the race, Smith said he didn't have much to do. But if Baffert prefers to keep the horse out West, the Pacific Classic on August 18 at Del Mar might be an appealing target.

A win for Justify would be Bob Baffert's second as a trainer. He defeated a deep crop, faced more horses in his three legs than any previous Triple Crown victor. I'm probably closer to that horse because of his temperament.

"(Justify) was showing me the same signs (as American Pharoah)", Baffert told NBC Sports after the race.

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