• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports Editor

Justify wins Triple Crown

WINSTAR FARM’S JUSTIFY won the Belmont Stakes Saturday, June 9,to become the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown. (Photo by Adam Coglianese)

WinStar Farm's Justify made history Saturday, June 9 by winning the Belmont Stakes, becoming only 13th Triple Crown Winner. The chestnut colt also became just the second undefeated horse (Seattle Slew in 1977) to accomplish the feat. The track was fast for the first time in the three-race set and Justify ran the mile and a half race in two minutes and 28.18 seconds. Justify's first race was on Feb.18 when he won at Santa Anita by nine and a half lengths and won again on March 11 in the mud. On April 7, he won the Santa Anita Derby by three lengths over Bolt d' Oro and became a favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

After winning the Derby and Preakness, the pressure was on for a great showing at the Belmont, and Justify delivered. Justify was bred by John and Tanya Gunther at Glennwood Farm in Versailles. The success of Justify has had a tremendous impact on the farm and has added an enormous amount of credibility to their efforts. The Gunthers are also the breeders of Vino Rosso (Curlin) who came in fourth place at the Belmont. Last year, the Gunthers found success with Mo Town (Uncle Mo) when he won at the Hollywood Derby. "This has been a very emotional experience," said John Gunther. "I am so proud of the amount of work by Tanya and the entire staff at Glenwood Farm. From the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby to the finish line at the Belmont, it has been a whirlwind. Tears were flowing as he came down the stretch on Saturday and we take so much pride in being part of this story." "The great ones find another gear when they need it most," said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert after the race. "American Pharaoh will always be my first love but, man this horse is special." Baffert is only the second trainer in racing history to win multiple Triple Crowns. Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith, 52, was atop Justify for all three legs of the Triple Crown. He had previously earned the nickname "Big Money Mike" but said he never imagined he would ride with an undefeated horse and win the Triple Crown. "He was sent from heaven," said Smith. "I cannot begin to express my emotions right now." The big question that everyone's asking is where does Justify go from here? Will he run in the Haskell and Breeders Cup and challenge American Pharaoh's legacy? Will he stand at a stud farm for the rest of his career? "We're looking forward to sharing him more," said Elliott Walden, the CEO and racing manager of WinStar Farm. "He's becoming a household name, and we look forward to watching him run as much as you guys are."

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