Baffert has winning day, 3 times over, at Belmont Stakes

Rex Christensen
June 13, 2018

People in racing with knowledge of the deal said it included a bonus of about $25 million were Justify to win the Triple Crown, which he then went on to do, and that it also allowed the multiple owners to retain some shares in the horse when he begins his career as a sire (a provision that also has benefited Zayat to the tune of millions of dollars). The early progress of longshot Restoring Hope appeared to cross the line into discouraging other horses from troubling the early rhythms of Justify, his Bob Baffert stablemate.

Barnes, a Santa Rosa native and 1977 graduate of Montgomery High School, had the pleasure of walking Triple Crown victor Justify around the grounds while camera-clicking fans followed their every step, intent on getting a shot or horse racing's newest superstar. If jockey Florent Geroux thought he was in jeopardy of being squeezed out of the first flight aboard Restoring Hope, that could provide cover for his whoop-dee-do aggression. Justify becomes the 13th horse to achieve the Triple Crown.

Asked Saturday after the race about the idea of using Restoring Hope as a "wing man" out of the gates for Justify, Baffert downplayed it.

The jockey for Vinno Rosso, Hall of Famer John Velazquez, said he understood why Restoring Hope broke from usual form and credited Baffert for the strategy. "He looked like a bodyguard making sure nobody got close to Justify". The track said details for honoring Justify were still being worked out.

"I think they at least have to call in Geroux", he told Newsday. Everyone got a fair shot at me.

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Gary West, who owns Restoring Hope, also spoke out in fury about how his horse was handled in the race. "Without Him I wouldn't have all the success I do". Maybe the horse was completely out of control and Florent had no choice.

Which is why there should be no surprise that the opening quarter-mile of the 150th Belmont Stakes last Saturday has become grist for post-race agita. "I will never know".

"He has natural speed", Baffert said.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled American Pharoah to end a 37-year-old Triple Crown drought in 2015, thus became the second trainer along with "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons to train two Triple Crown winners, with Fitzsimmons having conditioned Gallant Fox (1930) and his son, Omaha (1935). "If he had a 5-percent chance to win, he had to be up near the lead".

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