The strapping chestnut colt, trained by Bob Baffert and rode by Mike Smith, broke well out of the gate and led the one-and-a-half-mile race from wire to wire, pulling away down the homestretch in a finishing time of 2:28.18 amid a deafening crescendo from the crowd of more than 90,000 at Belmont Park, the venerable race course just outside NY city limits.
The 52-year-old jockey who was born in Roswell, grew up in Dexter and has been dominating big races in recent years put an exclamation point on his illustrious career Saturday, guiding Justify to the Triple Crown with a victory in the Belmont Stakes.
Justify led all the way in New York's Belmont Stakes winning by 1 3/4 lengths to gain immortality as horse racings 13th Triple Crown victor.
By winning the Derby, Justify broke the dreaded Apollo Curse, becoming the first horse to win that race after not starting as a two-year-old since Apollo did in 1882.
"I'd like to see John win the race!" "This effort has reinforced our belief that America is a great place to do racing", said Teo Ah Khing, founder of the China Horse Club that is a co-owner of Justify.
After leading American Pharaoh to the the Triple Crown in 2015, snapping that 37-year-old drought, Baffert called his prize horse "the greatest horse I'll ever see".More news: Trump attacks Republican up for re-election with reference to affair
Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses.
Coolmore agreed to a deal to buy American Pharoah for $10 million before the Triple Crown campaign even began, but the three wins tripled the investment, counting bonuses. Owners, fans and even rival trainers stopped by to sneak a peek at the undefeated victor of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Now just three years later, racing is celebrating another sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
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 unbelievable race to be second, having trailed the field by some distance from the stalls. But Smith confessed that Espinoza's Triple Crown journey three years ago actually helped him Saturday. "But if you win the Triple Crown you become a legend and that is what he is now".
In addition to the 12 Triple Crown winners, a host of historic names have graced the Belmont Stakes winner's circle draped in the blanket of carnations.
One owner believes that there was something suspicious about how the race was handled by Restoring Hope, a stablemate of Justify's, with both horses trained by Bob Baffert. "He even looked like he added a few pounds from the Preakness, I mean, this horse just recovers so amazingly quick". Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened.
Among those expected to be on hand is New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
"For him to close up that much ground off a really easy pace, it was a remarkable race that he ran".