Gronkowski Unlikely Runner-Up in Belmont Stakes


Justify led all the way in New York's Belmont Stakes winning by 1 3/4 lengths to gain immortality as horse racings 13th Triple Crown victor. It may seem like those last few Derby finishers are just going to be also-rans, but anything can happen in horse racing.

Vino Ross was the second-place horse when the race entered the stretch on Saturday, getting up to Justify's flank.

"Grateful to have a horse like this, " Elliott Walden, one of Justify's owners, said after the 3-year-old went wire-to-wire in 2:28.18 to become the second horse in four years to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont. He's the first Triple Crown victor to face that many rivals in the 1½-mile Belmont.

An American Thoroughbred, Justify did the unthinkable, overcoming rough conditions to win the Kentucky Derby as a three-year old horse. The last horse to accomplish the feat was American Pharoah in 2015. The chestnut colt with a pronounced white blaze won on slop at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness; even on a faster track on a clear day at Belmont, his opponents couldn't outrun him.

Field has a habit of finding group 1 winners for SF Bloodstock, starting with Golden Slipper victor Capitalist, then Russian Revolution and now Justify.

Walden, President and CEO of the Windstar syndicate that owns Justify, praised trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith for pushing the horse to win all three legs of the Triple Crown. Majority he has already beaten, in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, but there are a few new faces.

"The gas tank's full, just don't use it all at once", Baffert said.

Blended Citizen won his first race on dirt back on May 12 at the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park, which came in his 10th career start.

"It was by far his hardest race", his jockey Mike Smith said at the time. "He looked like a very good horse and we hired a very good trainer, maybe the greatest of all time".

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Kenny Troutt, owner of WinStar Farm accepted the newly designed Triple Crown trophy with Teo Ah King, the founder of China Horse Club.

"I knew on the first turn that it wasn't good because the way the horse was running, he was not relaxed and we still had a mile and a half to go nearly", jockey Stewart Elliott recalled recently.

"I'll never forget it", Baffert said.

The 52-year-old Smith just knows what to do aboard a horse. And as in England, to win the Triple Crown in America carries with it the utmost that can be won on our racecourses.

Justify's Preakness win got him one step closer to the most coveted win in racing back in May.

Hofburg, a 9/2 shot ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., is rated by punters as the most likely to beat Justify.

"Everybody thinks I'm so opposed to Saratoga", he said.

He had every reason to be thrilled that he had won the Triple Crown along with a legendary horse. He has reduced his riding schedule in recent years to concentrate on riding the sport's best horses.