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Justify wins Belmont Stakes to become 13th victor of Triple Crown

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Teinowitz A conversation with a champion athlete Justify the horse

The favored three-year-old chestnut colt was barely pushed as he completed the 1-1/2 mile (12-furlong) course in a wire-to-wire win in overcast but dry conditions at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

Justify is only the second horse since 1978 to earn the Triple Crown, widely considered the greatest accomplishment in thoroughbred racing, which comes from winning three high-profile US races: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

The large and muscular Justify, owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm, was ridden to victory by veteran jockey Mike Smith.

In sweeping the big three races for 3-year-olds, Smith becomes the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown.

Saturday's race, the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, marked the fifth time Baffert came to Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown. "I mean, he left like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico!"

Hofburg paid $3.70 to show. So when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, the hoards of joyous horse racing fans shook Belmont Park, right outside New York City, to its core.

Smith, who kept looking at the replay of his own performance while fielding questions from the media, admitted that he was anxious about how calm Justify stood in the gate. Horses had come close to breaking it in recent years but it wasn't until Justify arrived that the superstition was put to rest. He won the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths and then survived a half-length victory in the Preakness, both on sloppy tracks. But of all the things the Belmont Stakes is known for it's probably the sheer amount of wonderful horses who've won the 1 ½-mile race since it was first contested in 1867. Gronkowski had won his last four starts in England, but had never raced on dirt or competed at farther than a mile prior to Saturday. "And I thought maybe, because I could see Gronkowski flying, but he just couldn't get to that horse".

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With rain and mud a strong possibility again, in NY on Saturday, the question was which Justify would we see? I tell you, it's just fantastic.

"I've wanted to see that horse's name up there because we knew he was brilliant from day one". Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

John Velazquez, who finished in fourth place on Vino Rosso, also saw the move as questionable.

Justify held off a late-charge from Gronkowski, named after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowskim, the the Giants beat in Super Bowl XLVI.

"What's most impressive about him is his mental attitude, nothing upsets him at all", Gunther said.

The Belmont Stakes is known for a lot of things, from being the crowning glory of a grueling five-week race series to a crushing spoiler for runners and their connections attempting to earn racing immortality with a Triple Crown.

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