Sixteen weeks ago, no one knew what to make of Justify — except Hall of Fame horse racing trainer Bob Baffert.
He knew in February that the 3-year-old chestnut colt, who had yet to run a race, was something special.
And the horse proved his trainer prescient, winning a Triple Crown with a mesmerizing and dominant victory at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
Justify defied the difficult post position along the rail, breaking well and taking the lead within seconds. None of the other nine horses had a chance to catch him.
The 4-5 favorite handled the 1.5-mile distance easily, and though runner-up Gronkowski was less than 2 lengths back, Justify never looked in danger of losing.
“I wanted to see that horse’s name up there because we know he was brilliant from Day 1,” Baffert said. “And I am so happy for Mike Smith. There is no more deserving (jockey) than him.”
Smith said Baffert made his dreams come true.
“Just so blessed that this happened,” he told broadcaster NBC.
Baffert also trained Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015. Baffert — who has won more Triple Crown races than anyone — complimented his team for helping the horse, which ran three major, testing races in five weeks.
Justify became the 13th thoroughbred to win horse racing’s Triple Crown. He has won all six races he has run this year. Only Seattle Slew in 1977 was also an undefeated Triple Crown champion.
It was the largest Belmont field ever beaten by a Triple Crown winner.
Gronkowski, named for the NFL player, finished second, having been last for much of the race. Hofburg was third.