Peace, and on a sun-splashed Saturday at Belmont Park, victory, and the crown that goes with it. The great Secretariat ended a 25-year drought in 1973 in record fashion, then, four years later, Seattle Slew came along to put his ideal stamp on the feat.
"Give them the credit", said Baffert of WinStar. And he just came along himself. "It was meant to be".
"This horse ran a tremendous race". He was the first horse in more than 100 years to win the Derby without ever having raced as a two-year-old horse, The New York Times reported.
Save for a news helicopter circling during training hours, the scene was as mellow as could be - three years between Triple Crown attempts will have such an effect. Baffert had joked earlier in the week that, with luck, the jockeys who had their sights set on beating Justify might get confused by the change. The USA Today broke down why it is so hard for a horse to pull off the Triple Crown.
Elliott Warden, one of Justify's owners, called Baffert "the greatest of all-time".
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As for Baffert, it's now two Triple Crowns in four years, cementing his spot among the legends of the sport, matching the two won by the legendary James E. "Sonny Jim" Fitzsimmons, who trained Omaha and Gallant Fox in 1930 and 1935. He seemed to have recovered nicely from a hoof bruise after The Derby, but the Belmont's mile and a half can expose even the most bulletproof of horses. "And I am so happy for Mike Smith". "He's sent from heaven. He said, 'I told him the gas tank is full, don't use it all at once.' But just real blessed because you can't find these horses, they find you". The weather in California [where Baffert is based] is very consistent; [Justify] was going into training late; I thought that was something that was a consideration.
Purchased for $500,000, Justify earned $800,000 for his Belmont win, giving him $3,798,000 in his brief career.
Baffert said Sunday that the "plan" for Restoring Hope, which shared the worst odds to win (30-1) with Noble Indy and seventh-place Free Drop Billy, was to "sit off Justify". Nobody did. Smith got the colt into a relaxed rhythm under a moderate pace heading into the backstretch, and he had an easy trip from there. "What he's accomplished in such a short time is just really incredible, I just don't know what else to say". "He was able to go ahead and get a comfortable lead and let him get in that rhythm of his".
Gronkowski is named for and partly owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Justify pulled away from the pack for good down the stretch in front of a packed grandstand of screaming fans.