Will Justify pull it off?

Justify at Belmont

Tomorrow Justify runs on the “Big Sandy” with the chance of bringing us another Triple Crown Winner. There was a 27 year drought before American Pharoah won the Triple Crown in 2015. Could we see another super horse so soon?

The first winner of all three Triple Crown races was Sir Barton in 1919 — although it the concept of a Triple Crown victory didn’t gain traction until 1930, when Gallant Fox won all three races. Looking back, there have been 99 runnings of the Triple Crown races. Starting with Sir Barton, only 12 horses have won all three races: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).
I remember watching the three races in the 70s. Secretariat’s win was phenomenal — by the time we’d seen a third Triple Crown winner in just five years, the feat didn’t seem quite so impressive. Little did we know how hard it would be replicate the feat.
Looking at the statistics, 292 horses have won a single leg of the Triple Crown. 52 horses have won two of the three races ( 23 have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, 18 the Preakness and the Belmont, and 11 the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont). So, odds are against him.
What about the track? Belmont is known as the “Big Sandy” for its long sweeping turns and its deep surface. Some jockeys say you can get lost out there, and that it’s a track that needs experience to ride well. That won’t be a problem for Mike Smith, who knows the track like the back of his hand. He started riding here in 1989 and he’s won the Belmont twice, in 2010 with Drosselmeyer and again in 2013 with 13-1 shot Palace Malice.
As for the footing, Bob Baffert says that Justify is training well here and that his horses are fit from training at Santa Anita Park, which is also considered a deep surface.
Here’s his final breeze on the Belmont Track. Ridden by Martin Garcia (who was also American Pharoah’s exercise rider), Justify worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Churchill Downs on a fast racetrack, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven furlongs in 1:27.20. Internal splits were :12.80, :24.80, :37.00 and :48.80.

“It was a really nice breeze and exactly what we were looking for,” Baffert said. “He relaxed nicely and seemed very happy. Martin was very happy with him as well so I was happy, too. He was a little fresh earlier in the week so it was good to see him relax nicely.”

I’d like to see another Triple Crown winner, so I’m rooting for Justify. But I think that Tenfold will give him some trouble.
What are your predictions for tomorrow’s big race?


4 thoughts on “Will Justify pull it off?

  1. I’d LOVE to see Mike Smith get this. Not sure how many more years he will race or how many horses he’ll ride to give him this opportunity. His career deserves this.

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