Cheered on by fans wearing yellow foam crowns instead of the Egyptian headdresses that greeted American Pharoah in 2015, Justify won the Belmont Stakes in emphatic fashion on Saturday to earn a crown of his own.
Some may believe it is not as golden as American Pharoah’s, but it is a crown nonetheless.
With a white blaze, a sweeping stride and an unblemished record, Justify came to the site where Pharoah ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought and, guided by the same trainer, took his own shot at history.
Ridden by the 52-year-old ironman Mike Smith, Justify did not disappoint the crowd of about 90 000 as he quickly went to the lead and stayed there, despite a pack of contenders closing in behind him, to capture the 150th Belmont Stakes by a length and three-quarters and become the 13th Triple Crown winner
Justify completed the mile and a half on a (finally) fast track in 2 minutes 28.18 seconds to become the second undefeated Triple Crown winner, along with Seattle Slew in 1977. A motoring Gronkowski, in a bit of a surprise (except maybe to New England Patriots fans), came from last place to finish second with Hofburg in third.
“Is he the next American Pharoah?” trainer Bob Baffert was asked throughout, and by the Belmont, he believed the answer was yes.
Before the Preakness, WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing, who owned his breeding rights, agreed to a reported $60 million deal with Coolmore, which stands American Pharoah at stud. There was to be a bonus of about $25 million if Justify won the crown. It is unclear whether he will race again, although his owners said they would consider it.
Justify is a son of Scat Daddy out of Stage Magic (Ghostzapper).
He is raced by the China Horse Club International Ltd and Head of Plains Partners LLC.
Bred by John D. Gunther he was consigned by Glennwood Farm on the Keeneland September 2016 Sale where he was purchased for $500,000 by the China Horse Club & Maverick Racing.
Excerpt from www.nytimes.com – and by SP Editorial staff