Justify wins Belmont Stakes, captures esteemed Triple Crown

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Justify is the second Triple Crown win for legendary horse trainer Bob Baffert.

That set up a familiar drama for the 1 ½-mile Belmont.

Had the Preakness been another tenth of a mile, a hard-charging Bravazo might've passed Justify and ended the Triple Crown bid on Saturday. He won with American Pharoah in 2015, ending a 37-year drought.

Justify has won the Triple Crown.

After NBC analyst Randy Moss watched Justify win that maiden race by 9 ½ lengths - despite a trip that had Baffert fuming at jockey Drayden Van Dyke - he called his colleague, Jerry Bailey, and said he had a new Derby favorite. He burnished his reputation by defeating nine rivals, the most faced by any Triple Crown champion.

The three-year-old colt, ridden by Mike Smith, is now unbeaten in six races since his debut in February.

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Gronkowski, named for and partly owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, challenged on the home stretch and finished a strong second. The biggest threat to Justify's chances in the 10-horse field is Hofburg, who has 9/2 odds.

Followed that win up with a narrow, half-length victory over Bravazo at the Preakness Stakes in sloppy conditions and thick fog before winning the final jewel of the Triple Crown on Saturday.

John Velazquez was already asking Vino Rosso for more run nearing the quarter pole, while Smith had yet to even loosen his reins on Justify. But Good Magic got the 2-year-old Eclipse Award.

Justify accomplished a lot in a very short time. So, Justify's jockey, Mike Smith, would gross $80,000.

The Belmont Stakes is the last of the Triple Crown races, after the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

"I wanted to see that horse's name up there because we know he was brilliant from Day 1", Baffert said. He became the first thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old since 1882, aka the Chester Arthur administration. There, colt-starter Toby Richard was clear from the very first day: written in bright orange marker on the dry-erase board were the words: "Goal: To help start the next Triple Crown victor".

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