Justify wins Belmont to become 13th Triple Crown champion

Belmont Stakes 2018: The 6 horses that are the best bets to upset Justify

As 13 unlucky Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners since 1978 came and went from Belmont Park without completing the Triple Crown, the drought morphed from historical quirk to an existential struggle.

If President Trump is looking for a way to fix his reputation with sports fans after disinviting from the White House the winners of the Super Bowl and the National Basketball Association championship, there's at least one athlete who can be counted on not to make any unwelcome political statements: Triple Crown victor Justify.

The 4-5 favorite handled the 1.5-mile distance easily, and though runner-up Gronkowski was less than 2 lengths back, Justify never looked in danger of losing.

Justify, the 13th horse ever to win the Triple Crown, is partially owned by a company controlled by the top employees of Jewish investor George Soros.

Sixteen weeks ago, no one knew what to make of Justify - except Hall of Fame horse racing trainer Bob Baffert. With the last Triple Crown just three years past, would casual sports fans embrace him as they had American Pharoah? Only his 52-year old jockey, who has reached the peak of his powers in the twilight of his career, added much sentimental value to the story.

'Justify's a freak, super horse, undefeated, incredible what he's done, ' Repole told DFR.

According to NY state gaming commission regulations: 'If any horses trained by the same trainer race uncoupled in any race, and one or more of them shall be disqualified for violation of the rules of racing, any other horses entered by that same trainer shall also be disqualified if in the judgment of the stewards such violation prevented any other horse or horses from finishing ahead of the other part of the entry. But just three years after American Pharoah reset the clock with his majestic performance at Belmont, the precocious, musclebound Justify shoved his way into thoroughbred racing's most glorified club. "He just came on there and broke every curse there was".

But the enduring allure of the Triple Crown is, and always has been, the difficulty of winning it.

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"It's been the longest, quickest journey", a hoarse-sounding Baffert said as light rain fell outside Justify's barn. He stood so quietly in the starting gate that jockey Mike Smith wondered if he'd respond when it sprang open.

He quickly decided that in nearly 40 years as a jockey, he'd never ridden a more gifted 3-year-old.

Purchased for $500,000, Justify earned $800,000 for his Belmont win, giving him $3,798,000 in his brief career.

Both Justify and Restoring Hope were trained by Baffert, and the latter played a big role in Saturday's outcome by breaking out into second place and blocking other horses. But Smith turned it into an advantage, gunning Justify to the lead and defying any horse to challenge.

Restoring Hope, with jockey Florent Geroux up, appeared to run interference for the champion on Saturday while traveling second and forcing would-be challengers to go extremely wide.

Smith got the big colt into a relaxed rhythm under a moderate pace heading into the backstretch, and he had an easy trip from there. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened. The 24-1 shot picked off a half-dozen rivals in taking up the chase down the lane.

"Everybody thinks I'm so opposed to Saratoga", he said.

Hofburg paid $3.70 to show.

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