This Saturday, Justify capped off a terrific card at Belmont Park with a front-running 1 3/4-length victory in the 150th Belmont Stakes.
Getty Justify's jockey, Mike Smith, is looking for his first Triple Crown.
"I can't describe the emotion that's going through my body right now", Smith said as he made for the winner's circle. "He's so gifted he's sent from heaven", Smith said of Justify, who was the 4/5 favorite.
A horse with another National Football League connection, Gronkowski - named after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was in attendance - finished second. The colt named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski brings a four-race winning streak into his USA debut.
The triumvirate of the Hall of Fame jockey, the Hall of Fame trainer and the unbeaten, unflappable chestnut colt, who had looked every bit the prohibitive favorite in the days leading up to the race, draped the track in anticipation of the kind of memorable NY event that only the Yankees have provided over the past decade outside of Belmont Park.
Justify keeps showing something new each time he races. Each race has strict guidelines to ensure the horse is not overloaded as well as has the ability to reach top speeds.
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.
The chestnut colt burst onto the national scene with a 2 1/2 -length victory on a sloppy track in the Derby. It's the pinnacle of a career that has seen him win more than 5,400 races, including a record 26 in the Breeders' Cup, and now seven Triple Crown races. He was standing so still. "And I was nearly in tears, it's such an emotional experience", he said. "I thought maybe he's not going to break today".
The large and muscular Justify, owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm, made 52-year-old Smith the oldest jockey to ever win the Triple Crown. He won with American Pharoah in 2015, ending a 37-year drought.
The chestnut colt is the second undefeated colt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, improving to 6-0 in a racing career that began on February 18. Indeed, he joined "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons as the only trainers in history to capture two Triple Crowns.
"I never get emotional", said Rice, who said he's worked for Smith for 29 years. "He's very dedicated to what he's doing and I'm so proud to call him my friend".
Justify has already done more than expected, a bit of a late bloomer who doesn't have the pedigree of someone like American Pharoah.
Even though Baffert seemed to know Justify was a special horse four months ago, he still didn't want to tempt fate.