Justify wins Belmont Stakes, earning the Triple Crown

ELMONT, N.Y. — Justify’s career started late, but he’s more than made up for lost time.

The strapping chestnut colt who did not race at age 2 completed the Triple Crown quest Saturday by winning the Belmont Stakes, adding that to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories to become just the 13th horse in history to sweep those three races. In the process, Justify carried trainer Bob Baffert into an unprecedented place in the annals of thoroughbred racing.

Baffert now has won 15 Triple Crown races, most of any trainer. It also was his second Triple Crown, having won it three years ago with American Pharoah; this triumph ties Baffert with “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons as the only men to win the Crown more than once. Fitzsimmons won it in 1930 with Gallant Fox and ’35 with Omaha.

Baffert has had five career chances to win the Triple Crown, losing the first three at the Belmont with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (’98) and War Emblem (2002). Needless to say, his luck at this track has improved dramatically.

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Jun 9, 2018; Elmont, NY, USA; Mike Smith aboard Justify wins the 150th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Justify with jockey Mike Smith aboard wins the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Jun 9, 2018; Elmont, NY, USA; Mike Smith aboard Justify (1) wins the 150th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Justify with jockey Mike Smith aboard wins the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Justify with jockey Mike Smith aboard wins the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Justify with jockey Mike Smith aboard wins the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Scenes from during Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A man wearing a suit poses prior to the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Bee Jersey #10, ridden by Ricardo Santana, wins the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Dan Heary/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A woman wears a decorative hat and old fashion dress prior to the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Jockey Junior Alvarado on #7, Beautiful Shot after the running of the Woody Stephens Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Eric Patterson/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A man wears a decorative hat prior to the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Bee Jersey #10, ridden by Ricardo Santana, wins the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by John Voorhees/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A woman wears a fancy hat during Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Fans watch the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A fan wears a decorative hat on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Carson Dennis/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Scenes from Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Still Having Fun #6, ridden by Joel Rosario, wins the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Scenes from Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: Fans enjoy a picnic during Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A Raving Beauty #7, ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., wins the Longines Just a Game Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Eric Patterson/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A man yells during an undercard race as his horse takes the lead during Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: A young fan views a race during Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09: #10 Bee Jersey, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr. and #1 Mind Your Biscuits, ridden by Joel Rosario battle to the finish in the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park on June 9, 2018 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Eric Patterson/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
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Justify becomes just the second horse to win the Triple Crown with an undefeated career record, joining Seattle Slew in 1977. Justify is perfect through six races, not running his first race until Feb. 18. He has rocketed from anonymity to legendary status in a span of just 112 days.

After plowing through the slop in both the Derby and Preakness, Justify finally got a dry track to run on Saturday and it showcased his brilliance under jockey Mike Smith.

In addition to the $800,000 winner’s purse, the Triple Crown achievement further enhanced the bank accounts of owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Stables and Starlight Racing. Justify earned a minimum $15 million bonus (and reportedly as high as $25 million) from Coolmore Stud, which previously paid $60 million for the colt’s breeding rights last month.

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