Starting out of the No. 1 post, jockey Mike Smith navigated Justify from the rail through a field of nine challengers to give trainer Bob Baffert his second Triple Crown victor in the past four years.
Mara, a member of Starlight Racing, stood in the winner's circle after Justify became only the 13th horse in history to win the Triple Crown, having beat the field on Saturday night at the 150th running of The Belmont Stakes. A talented but inexperienced colt, Hofburg finished second to Audible in the Florida Derby on March 31, which was his stakes debut. But it's likely most of those who put down $2 on the victor will never cash those tickets because they have a souvenir from the race that produced the 13 Triple Crown victor. Many sports fans have just a passing interest in horse racing, only tuning in during May and June, when a Triple Crown's on the line. Justify rewarded his sun-splashed backers with $3.60 on a $2 bet to win. The thoroughbred won the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico Race Course on May 19 by holding off Bravazo by a half-length on a muddy track. Vino Rosso is also owned by Todd Pletcher, who has three Belmont wins to his name.
Won his first race on February 18 at Santa Anita Park by 9-1/2 lengths.
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell writes that Saturday's victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes pushed the value of Triple Crown victor Justify to an all-time record $75 million.
Factors that did in so many horses before Justify, like the Derby's 20-horse field, a sloppy track and blazing early pace, seemed only to make this year's Triple Crown victor stronger. "He is a magnificent animal".
Jockey Mike Smith, 52, is the second-oldest Kentucky Derby victor behind Bill Shoemaker.
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"Justify is a super horse". "He is so gifted". I tell you, it's just incredible.
Justify will break from the No. 1 post in the starting gate. "So far he hasn't gotten overheated or get too anxious about things". If rain falls and turns it sloppy, Justify should feel right at home. But he shot out with a fury, took a 11/2-length lead at the quarter pole and never let a challenger get closer than that. This time, we're just looking back to a time when Barack Obama was still President and Donald Trump was not yet a candidate for President.
But Gronkowski went off at 24-1 and broke dead last.
Gronkowski, named for and partly owned by the New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, returned $13.80 and $7.
Smith, with two previous Belmont victories to his credit, kept it simple, sensing the power in the competitor beneath him. "I learned a lot by watching him and how he handled everything, and how he just took it one race at a time. But I said, I don't know, three is a good number".
The 3-year-old colt is a 4/5 favorite to win, according to Las Vegas odds, after impressive victories leading up to the event.
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