Justify: Racing's $75-Million Horse?

Rex Christensen
June 13, 2018

Jockey Jose Ortiz rode the rail through the final turn of the 1 1/2-mile test, angled out, and loomed behind Justify, ready to break plenty of hearts.

Baffert, 65, became the second trainer to win two Triple Crowns, joining the late James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons, whose triumphs came in 1930 and '35 with Gallant Fox and Omaha, respectively. The race was won by a half-length, with Justify finishing the 1 3/16-mile race in 1:55.93.

Justify is on a winning streak. Justify is the first Kentucky Derby victor since to follow up in the Preakness, and faces nine opponents tonight in a race where one more victory would elevate him to legendary status.

He trained American Pharoah in 2015 when the horse won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes in Baltimore and Belmont Stakes in NY after a 37-year Triple Crown dry spell for thoroughbred horse racing.

Justify scored a wire-to-wire triumph under Mike Smith in Saturday's Belmont, winning by 1 3/4 lengths to become racing's 13th Triple Crown victor and the second in four years for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

The reality is the race Gronkowski ran would win quite a few Belmonts, even though the third leg of the Triple Crown is thought to be unkind to deep closers and hasn't produced a last-to-first victor since Jazil in 2006.

Baffert will saddle a second horse: 30-1 shot Restoring Hope. Baffert oversaw American Pharoah's Triple Crown success in 2015 and has used the same methods with Justify.

"His mechanics, his motion, just the way he did it. ..." Baffert won in 2015 with American Pharoah.

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The big chestnut colt paid only $3.80 to win on a $2 bet.

However, Baffert has seen similarities in his stride, his growth and his potential.

Baffert said Sunday he essentially will do the same thing this time he did with American Pharoah, which is to bring him back to Churchill Downs for a week or so and then likely to Baffert's home base California. I wanted to see that horse's name up there, because we knew he was brilliant from day one. "And this horse is getting there".

"It's been the longest, quickest journey", a hoarse-sounding Baffert said as light rain fell outside Justify's barn.

"It's just about getting the horse in a good, happy, comfortable place, wherever that may be", Smith said. For horses used to training and running at shorter distances it can be like asking them to start over doing something completely different.

Earlier, Baffert and jockey Mike Smith teamed to win the $750,000 Ogden Phipps with Abel Tasman.

Hall of Fame jockey Smith - the oldest rider to win the Triple Crown - said: "This horse is so gifted".

"Both highs are very high", Mara said. "I learned a lot by watching him and how he handled everything, and how he just took it one race at a time".

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