"What an wonderful experience, my heart was pounding and I had to sit down", said Gunther, who witnessed Justify's historic run at Belmont Park. A crowd capped at 90,000 is expected at Belmont Park. Secretariat ended the longest previous Triple Crown drought of 25 years in 1973 in winning the Belmont by an astonishing 31 lengths. Twenty-three times a horse has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to be denied horse racing's ultimate glory by failing to win the Belmont Stakes in NY. Justify improved to 6-0 in a racing career that only began on February 18. By today's standards, that is still a lot of racing packed into a relatively short period. Why can't one of these thoroughbreds just win three athletic competitions in a row?
"When you're standing in the winner's circle in the Derby there's nothing like it, but this is kind of cool because I'm a New Yorker, it's a little special".
"Mike great, obviously, and Justify is probably a great horse", said trainer Bill Mott, whose Hofburg finished third, 3½ behind Justify. It's possible Justify could be paraded at the track like American Pharoah after he won the Triple Crown for Baffert in 2015.
Justify was a US$500,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing.
Hofburg paid $3.70 to show.
"I swear I thought of that, I did", Smith said when he turned for the home stretch. A sore heel a day after that victory raised brief concerns, but two weeks later Justify dug deep at fog-shrouded Pimlico to claim the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.
Fans are streaming into Belmont Park in anticipation of watching Justify try to become horse racing's 13th Triple Crown victor and second since 2015. In that case, the last Triple Crown victor came when Jimmy Carter was in the second year of his Presidency, the Shah of Iran was still in power, and the Soviet Union still existed and had not yet launched what would become a disastrous war in Afghanistan, and Grease had not yet been released in theaters.
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Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be chasing history, with Justify's attempt to win the Triple Crown at Belmont. "He is sent from heaven, I tell you".
"The whole time he was so professional", Smith said of Justify after the race.
Jockey Jose Ortiz rode the rail through the final turn of the 1 1/2-mile test, angled out, and loomed behind Justify, ready to break plenty of hearts.
Baffert will saddle a second horse: 30-1 shot Restoring Hope.
"I was so happy for him when he won", said Smith. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened. Vino Rosso is also owned by Todd Pletcher, who has three Belmont wins to his name.
Gronkowski, named for and partly owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, returned $13.80 and $7.