Justify keeps showing something new each time he races.
The race is over and history has been made.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor has been guided to this point by a couple of veterans: trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith. He previously won in 2015 with American Pharoah, the colt that ended a 37-year drought. He is only the second trainer in the sport's history to accomplish the feat, and he joined "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons, who trained Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935.
"It never gets old, " Baffert said.
He conquered the slop on May 5 to become the first horse since 1882 to win a Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old and followed that feat with a damp and daring Preakness victory through soupy fog on May 16 that sent him to NY with the crown on the line.
Triple Crown winners are quite rare in thoroughbred racing.
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Justify became just the second horse, after Seattle Slew, to win it while still undefeated. "He's so gifted. He's sent from heaven".
"Just so blessed that this happened", he told broadcaster NBC. "And I was nearly in tears, it's such an emotional experience", he said.
Justify led during the entire race, but Gronkoski miraculously finished in second place after being dead last early in the race. But Smith turned it into an advantage, gunning Justify to the lead and defying any horse to challenge.
Baffert saddled a second horse: 30-1 shot Restoring Hope.
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.
As we reported in our Kentucky Derby story, though, the owner of the horse winning the Triple Crown can make far more money in stud fees than just from prize money.
Yes, that's right. There's a horse named after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Justify reported home two lengths in front of that rival, with Hofburg (Tapit) rounding out the trifecta. Behind those three, Noble Indy, Vino Rosso and Tenfold were stalking the leader, while the relatively unknown Gronkowski was initially last of the 10-horse field.