Justify (x2) + Rain (x2) = Champion
Hold your Cup, Lord Stanley. Step aside Cinderella teams that never actually take home the title to create a perfect end to March Madness.
This is what we actually live for every spring: a shot at watching a horse take away the Triple Crown.
The discussion begins before hooves hit the track at Churchill Downs. And then it intensifies when the first horse wins the Kentucky Derby. Can he do it? Can the three-year-old become the next true GOAH: Greatest of all Horses?
Only 12 horses have come before. The last was American Pharoah in 2015. Thoroughbred racing fans and gamblers alike had to wait 37 years in between Triple Crown winners. Will they really have to wait only three years for another?
Only jockey Mike Smith, trainer Bob Baffer and Justify and the gambling gods know.
At the Derby and the Preakness, Justify made history. And he’s primed to do it again at Belmont.
Justify’s run for the Triple Crown
Expect to see Justify out front from the start, having everyone else chase him down.
Justify arrived at Belmont Park on Wednesday and took his place in the same barn American Pharoah settled into in 2015. Then on Thursday, he went around the track with exercise rider Humberto Gomez and then drew the No. 1 post, a favorable post for a horse in search of making history. (Maybe the only other more favorable post would be near the outside so Smith had more options for how to run Justify, but maybe options aren’t what you want when going for the Triple.)
Justify is one of 10 horses in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes. Gates 2 through 10 are as follows: Free Drop Billy, Bravazo, Hofburg, Restoring Hope (Justify trainer Bob Baffer’s other horse), Gronkowski, Tenfold, Vino Rosso, Noble Indy, Blended Citizen.
What does that mean for race day? Expect to see Justify out front from the start, having everyone else chase him down. If another jockey manages to maneuver his horse in front of the best horse in the field, they’ll have to come out of the post fast. So expect Smith, Justify’s jockey, to find a good place before he breaks away.
Holding off Bravazo and Tenfold
Belmont will be Justify’s sixth race in less than four months. That’s something that could take a toll on other horses. And very well could on this horse too.
Plus he won Preakness by only half a length, holding off Bravazo, a much smaller margin than the 2.5 lengths he won the Derby by. And Tenfold, who is also racing Belmont, was just a neck behind Bravazo.
And remember the Preakness was a 1 3⁄16 mile track or 1,900 meters. Belmont Stakes is 1.5 miles or 2,400 meters. If the Preakness had been at Belmont that same day, would Bravazo had enough room to win or would Justify have kept the lead?
Rain, Rain, What are you Going to do on Sunday?
Your bet here isn’t really about horses. It’s about weather.
Your bet here isn’t really about horses. It’s about weather. And there have been varying forecasts. And guess what? Meteorologists aren’t really sure what the weather will be come race day. Some say mostly dry with a storm here and there. And while there are showers and thunderstorms in the forecast in the area with potential to bring “drenching downpours,” a rainy Belmont Stakes may have as many bets on it as the horses trying to win it.
There is a chance the rain goes to the south of the track or maybe even sprinkles the winner. A soggy third leg seems like you should lean toward Justify. If it’s dry, will Justify be even faster? Or will Bravazo or Tenfold be able to make the moves they wanted to make at the Preakness?