"This horse ran a tremendous race, he's so gifted", said Mike Smith, who at 52 is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown.
Justify, bred by Langley, B.C.'s John Gunther, took the Belmont Stakes by one-and-three quarter lengths today on Saturday. Three weeks after that, he won his sixth race in as many starts to win the Triple Crown. He's 5-for-5 in a career that did not begin until February 18 of this year.
Given the fact that only three years had passed since the last Triple Crown victor, there wasn't almost as much pre-race media hype as there had been in 2015 when American Pharoah won the Belmont to become the first Triple Crown victor since Affirmed in 1978.
"It definitely seemed to me he was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont, and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown". Baffert would then go on to become one of the most famed trainers in the world! I wanted to see that horse, his name up there with those greats.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be chasing history, with Justify's attempt to win the Triple Crown at Belmont. "He's just that kind of horse".
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"I think my mother's happy now", Smith said.
"I believe there's just a flow that guides me and when I follow it, unbelievable things happen", he said. First for Smith. Second in four years after American Pharoah in 2015. Before American Pharoah, he had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown three times, with Silver Charm, in 1997, Real Quiet (1998) and Point Given (2001) and failed to complete the feat before American Pharoah did it to become the first Triple Crown victor in 37 years, since Affirmed in 1978.
"He's brilliant. He was so still in the gate I thought he might not break but he left so fast it was like he was going to go 440 yards!" He did it with American Pharoah in 2015.
Should he win, he will be only the second undefeated horse to complete the triple crown, joining Seattle Slew (1977). We saw another Triple Crown victor.
"Justify is a super horse".
When Baffert left the paddock to head for the grandstand, he relayed to Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, one of Justify's owners, what he had told Smith. He became the first thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old since 1882, aka the Chester Arthur administration.
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Smith, 52, is the second-oldest Kentucky Derby victor behind Bill Shoemaker, who rode Ferdinand to victory in 1986 at age 54. The next year, the classic rivalry of Affirmed and Alydar reached its peak when Affirmed inched ahead by a head to become the last Triple Crown victor until Pharoah arrived.
"He's sent from Heaven", Smith said.
"I nearly collapsed when he went across the wire, it took all my breath away", he said.
The 4-year-old filly cruised to a 7 1/2-length victory while snapping a three-race skid.
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