Justify defied all the odds on his way to achieving Triple Crown immortality. "He's my champion", the smiling, ageless jockey added.
Justify, who raced to a contested victory at the Belmont States on Saturday evening to clinch the 13th Triple Crown in horse racing history, sparked plenty of euphoria as he crossed the finish.
Smith and Justify took a curtain call before entering the winner's circle.
"The gates were set off away from the fence a little bit", he said. "He left there today very good which was very important". Justify's owners are betting on his global appeal. "He was standing so good, nearly too good".
In the hours before the race, Justify rested in Belmont's Barn 1, across the street from a Wendy's, undistracted by the beer-soaked fans who reveled close by - including one who almost relieved himself on a tree. Hofburg was third in the thrilling race in which Justify was challenged momentarily at the top of the stretch and then drew off the roars of a crowd of 90,000.
"This horse ran a tremendous race, he's so gifted", Smith said.
Trainer Bob Baffert watches Triple Crown hopeful Justify workout at Belmont Park, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y. Justify will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown victor when he races in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race on Saturday.
What's ahead for Smith remains to be seen.
"They're two wonderful horses, but I have to say American Pharoah is better", he said. American Pharoah, he'll always be my first love and for this horse to do it, and for Mike Smith - Mike deserves something like this. Hofburg, trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Irad Ortiz - and reckoned by many as a contender to thwart Justify's Triple Crown bid - was third in the field of 10.
"What's most impressive about him is his mental attitude, nothing upsets him at all", Gunther said.
"He knows when he sees me it's time to do something serious, you know? It was an unbelievable feeling but I think it is going to take a while to really sink in".
If Justify succeeds in sweeping the Triple Crown just three years after American Pharoah, it wouldn't be the first time it has happened close together.
"It's been the longest, quickest journey", Baffert said Sunday.
" target="_blank">WinStar Farm with 60 percent, China Horse Club with 25 percent, and George Soros' SF Bloodstock with 15 percent - to sell them to Coolmore Stud for $60 million with a $15-million accelerator if the son of Scat Daddy were to win the Belmont. You have to give it to them". "He'll get Justify right, and then we'll make a plan".
Baffert nicknamed his crew Camp Justify, and the bucolic corner barn setting fit the bill.
"He just came on there, and he broke every curse there was", he said. "It was meant to be".
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