Belmont field: No. 1 Justify
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Mike Smith
Owners: China Horse Club, WinStar Farm, Starlight Racing, Head of Plains Partners
Morning line: 4-5
Last race: Won the Preakness
Jon White’s analysis: I not alone accept Justify is activity to win the 150th active of the Belmont Stakes and become this country’s 13th Triple Crown winner, I anticipate there is a acceptable adventitious he will do so by a adequate margin.
Many are of the assessment that the greatest achievement in the history of American antagonism was Secretariat’s astounding 31-length achievement in the 1973 Belmont Stakes to complete a Triple Crown sweep. Secretariat was a big filly who thrived on Belmont Park’s all-inclusive 1½-mile oval. Justify is an alike bigger filly who additionally should appetite active on such a ample egg-shaped with its across-the-board turns.
Justify’s Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, said beforehand this anniversary that Justify stands 16 hands, 3 inches alpine and “weighs like 1,270 pounds.” Back Secretariat was a 3-year-old, he was anxiously abstinent on Oct. 22 by Dr. Manuel Gilman, the official veterinarian at that time for the New York Antagonism Assn. tracks. Secretariat’s acme was 16 hands, ½ inch and he advised 1,131 pounds.
If Justify succeeds in the Belmont, he will be the aboriginal Triple Crown champ who did not chase as a 2-year-old. If he is arrive in the Belmont, he and Seattle Slew would be the alone two horses to win the Triple Crown with an chaste record. Justify additionally would become alone the additional Triple Crown champ awash ahead at accessible auction. Seattle Slew was a $17,500 yearling. Justify was a $500,000 yearling.
The Belmont Stakes clip should be abundant bigger for Justify than it was in the aboriginal two legs of the Triple Crown. NBC’s Randy Moss has acicular out that no horse in the 144-year history of the Kentucky Derby won it afterwards activity the aperture quarter-mile as fast as Justify did. Justify was hardly off the advance in a aboriginal division that was run in 22.24 abnormal on a awkward track. Justify splashed home a 2½-length winner, with Acceptable Magic finishing second. Acceptable Magic was aftermost year’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male.
The aboriginal clip was not as arid in the Preakness. Justify ran the antecedent division in 23.11 seconds, afresh on a awkward track. But while the Preakness bounce was not as accelerated as it had been in the Derby, Justify about begin himself affected in a abiding altercate for the advance with Acceptable Magic that connected all the way until abysmal stretch. Afterwards Justify assuredly put abroad Acceptable Magic, he again had to authority off backward challenges from Bravazo and Tenfold. While Justify won by alone a half-length, it was to his acclaim that he got the job done after anytime accepting a blow at any point during the absolute 1 3/16 miles.
If, as expected, the aboriginal clip in the Belmont is not as fast as it was in the Derby or Preakness, Justify’s opponents could be in big trouble.
Of course, in the 1½-mile Belmont, Justify is actuality asked to go further than he anytime has before. But so is anybody abroad in the race. While I would not say Justify’s ancestry is the greatest for a 1½-mile race, the claret of abundant accomplished Belmont Stakes winners is coursing through his veins, including Triple Crown winners Count Fleet (1943), Secretariat (1973) and Seattle Slew (1977). These Belmont Stakes winners additionally are in Justify’s pedigree: American Flag (1925), Johnstown (1939), Bimelech (1940), Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Gallant Man (1957), Sword Dancer (1959), Damascus (1967) and A.P. Indy (1992).
One affair I accept is Justify was not the 2-year-old macho champion. Six of the aftermost seven Triple Crown winners — Count Fleet, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and American Pharoah — were 2-year-old macho champs.
Justify additionally is actuality asked to defeat added opponents in the Belmont Stakes than any of the 12 Triple Crown winners. Justify is adverse nine horses. Sir Barton defeated alone two opponents in the 1919 Belmont, Gallant Fox three in 1930, Omaha four in 1935, War Admiral six in 1937, Whirlaway three in 1941, Count Fleet two in 1943, Assault six in 1946, Citation seven in 1948, Secretariat four in 1973, Seattle Slew seven in 1977, Affirmed four in 1978 and American Pharoah seven in 2015.
Is Justify a assert to win the Belmont Stakes? Certainly not. Spectacular Bid, one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time, was baffled in his bid for a Triple Crown ambit back he accomplished third as an cutting admired in the 1979 Belmont. Smarty Jones’ alone defeat in nine career starts came in the 2004 Belmont. Big Brown’s abandoned accident in eight lifetime starts came in the 2008 Belmont.
But while annihilation can appear in a horse race, I attending for Justify to abide his acceptable means in the Belmont Stakes and complete a ambit of the coveted Triple Crown. If it happens, Baffert will accompany the allegorical Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons as the alone trainers to win the Triple Crown twice. Fitzsimmons won with Gallant Fox in 1930, again with Gallant Fox’s son Omaha in 1935. Baffert won the 2015 Triple Crown with American Pharoah, who prevailed in the Belmont Stakes by an absolute 5½ lengths. Justify would be Baffert’s third Belmont Stakes winner. Point Given won the 2001 Belmont for Baffert in abandoned brightness by 12 3/4 lengths.
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