"He just looks like he's ready to go again", trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday morning as he began to process Justify's historic run. Two weeks earlier, the chestnut-colored colt won the 1.25-mile Kentucky Derby by 2.5 lengths over Good Magic, also on a sloppy course.
If there's a common theme among the crowd, it's the desire to take a selfie to bear witness to their attendance at Justify's bid for the Triple Crown. "His only chance was to be up near the lead", Baffert said of Restoring Hope. And he just came along himself. "It was meant to be".
Justify won the Belmont starting from the rail. He said: "I'm so happy for Mike Smith, there's no one more deserving than him".
For Justify, being one of the finest athletes of our time will have to do.
"You asking me?" he said, nearly incredulously. Slew also was a wire-to-wire Belmont victor. Justify's human handlers also made history.
JUSTIFY (c, 3, Scat Daddy-Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper) put an exclamation point on his meteoric rise to the top of the game with a wire-to-wire victory in the GI Belmont S., becoming the 13th victor of horse racing's Triple Crown.
"I get asked a lot how we move our horses around and why we give horses to certain trainers, " he said.
He added: "He was showing me the same signs (as American Pharoah), the brilliance, a superior horse".
Justify became the 13th thoroughbred to win horse racing's Triple Crown. He celebrated by grabbing white carnations from the winner's blanket and tossing them in the air. He raced for the first time on February 19 at Santa Anita, winning by 9½ lengths.
Smith, with two previous Belmont Stakes victories to his credit, kept it simple, sensing the power in the competitor beneath him.
The historic win makes Justify the 13th Triple Crown champion and the first to claim the title since American Pharoah did it in 2015. He earned $800,000 for winning the Belmont, boosting his career total to nearly $3.8 million. Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Justify ran 1 miles - the longest race of the series - in 2:28.18 and paid $3.60, $3.50 and $2.80.
Bob Baffert and Mike Smith have teamed up to win a big race at Belmont Park. I tell you, it's just unbelievable.
The first horse to load in the gate, Justify stayed so still and steady as the other nine followed suit that Smith anxious for a moment that he might not break at all. They didn't do it. "They let it go too easy". Justify pulled away from the pack for good down the stretch in front of a packed grandstand of screaming fans.
Turning for home full of running, he looked to have all his rivals toiling, although the ex-Jeremy Noseda-trained Gronkowski - a victor at Newcastle in March - ran an incredible race to be second, having trailed the field by some distance from the stalls. "Now we can take a deep breath and just see how the horse is".
The second-place finisher, who was named after New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski, rallied from the back of the pack to finish an impressive second, and Hofburg finished third. It shows a horse eating the flowers off a women's hat and the jockey reimbursing her in the winner's circle with Quick Pay.