Justify Runs for Triple Crown at Belmont Stakes on Saturday

Justify Belmont Stakes - Justify Triple Crown Race - Belmont Stakes Payouts

Justify has to beat Hofburg and 8 other horses, but Good Magic and Audible will not run in the Belmont Stakes.

Justify goes for the Triple Crown at the 150th Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Justify is a 4-to-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes, which takes place at Belmont Park in New York state.

Many consider Hofburg, listed at 7-to-2, to be the challenger with the best chance to beat Justify. Tenfold, Bravaso, and Vino Rosso have run against Justify during his wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. All three horses have 8-to-1 odds.

Bravaso, trained by D. Wayne Lucas, finished 2nd in the Preakness and 6th in the Kentucky Derby. Tenfold, sired by Curlin and trained by Steven M. Asmussen, finished 3rd in the Preakness.

Vino Rosso, also sired by Curlin and trained Todd A. Pletcher, finished 9th at Churchill Downs, but was a winner of the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G1) April 7 at Aqueduct.

Blended Citizen: Dark Horse to Beat Justify

Hank Goldberg, longtime horse racing broadcaster, believes 15-to-1 Blended Citizen, who won the Peter Pan, has a longshot chance to beat Justify. In fact, Goldberg stated Blended Citizen is one of two horses (alongside Hofburg) with a real chance to beat Justify.

Goldberg cautioned that the jockey riding Blended Citizen does not have a lot of experience at Belmont Park. In the past, that has caused the jockey to misjudge when to make a push along the backstretch, because of the expended length of the Belmont Stakes. At the same time, Blended Citizen is a fresh horse in the longest of the Triple Crown races.

Reasons Justify Wins the Triple Crown

Justify is up against nine horse at the 2018 Belmont Stakes, because several of the top horses in the first two legs of the Triple Crown pulled out of the Belmont Stakes. If Justify wins on Saturday, it will represent 2 Triple Crown winners in the past 4 years for trainer Bob Baffert. American Pharoah won the Triple Crown in 2015.

Though no single challenger provides major drama coming into the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the race has plenty of added suspense for Baffert and the various ownership groups: China Horse Club International Ltd., WinStar Farm, Head of Plains Partners LLC, and Starlight Racing. For the ownership team, Justify’s win would mean a $25-million bonus, which is reported to be attached to the sale of his breeding rights.

Reasons Justify Loses the Belmont Stakes

Reasons exist to wonder if Justify can win the third leg of the Triple Crown, though. At the Preakness, Justify appeared to be fading down the backstretch. Belmont Park has an additional 1/8th of a mile compared to the track at Pimlico, so Justify faces his biggest challenge in terms of race length. This is also the third race in 5 weeks for Justify, so a fresher horse might be take him down the stretch, even if that horse is not necessarily better all-around.

Justify runs from the 1st gate on Saturday, so there is a chance he gets trapped on the inside out of the gate. Jockeys generally prefer to have their horse a few gates off the post. With a field of only 10 horses, a mishap out of the gates is less of a danger.

The weather is going to be crystal clear at Belmont Park on Saturday. Forecasters predict 75 degree weather and no chance of rain. At Churchill Downs and Pimlico, Justify ran in the mud. While most horse racing experts believe Justify is a better horse than his competition, it is possible that Justify beat other thoroughbreds at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes because he is better in the mud. The horse racing world gets to see how Justify does on a clean track against a few of his previous rivals, as well as a handpicked few other fresh horses.

Belmont Stakes Field of Horses

The rest of the field at the Belmont Stakes includes Gronkowski, which is a 12-to-1 horse. The field is rounded out by three longshots at 30-to-1. Free Drop Billy runs from Gate 2 as a 30:1 horse.

Restoring Hope runs from Gate 5 as a 30-to-1 underdog. Noble Indy runs from Gate 9 as a 30-to-1 longshot.

Good Magic Not at Belmont Stakes

Good Magic, who finished 2nd at the Kentucky Derby, will not run at the Belmont. Good Magic gave another good run at the Preakness, but jockey Jose Ortiz admits he pace-pushed too soon and ruined the race for Good Magic, who charged after Justify early in the race, but faded to a 4th place finish at the Preakness.

Trainer Chad Brown agreed with Ortiz, who is a champion jockey. Brown said, “I’m disappointed with the trip. The post didn’t help. We were inside [Justify] the whole way. Unfortunately, our horse took the worst of it being on the fence and getting pressed the whole way. He’s just not a horse that runs on the lead, so I’m pretty disappointed.”

With the disappointing run, Good Magic’s handlers did not want to press their luck with a third race in five weeks, so Good Magic will not be at the Belmont Stakes.

Audible Withdraws from 150th Belmont Stakes

Neither will Audible, who finished 3rd at Churchill Downs. Audible is owned by the same group which owns Justify. Many believed Audible would be the biggest competition Justify would have had at a longer distance.

Trainer Todd Pletcher explained the reason to keep Audible out of the Belmont Stakes, stating, “We have decided to freshen Audible up for a summer campaign. I don’t feel like he’s as well as he was leading up to the Derby. I just don’t feel like he is where he needs to be to compete in the Belmont. We’ll freshen him up for the Jim Dandy or the Haskell.”

If I had a horse going for the Triple Crown and a second horse I owned was the biggest competition, I might keep that horse out of the running, as well. The absence of Good Magic and Audible takes some of the intrigue out of the final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday, but often it is the fresher horses which present the biggest challenge at Belmont Park. Justify will still have to earn his place in history.

Justify Wins Belmont Stakes, 2018 Triple Crown

Updating Friday’s article on Justify’s quest to win the Triple Crown, Justify won the 150th Belmont Stakes to become the 13th Triple Crown winner in horse racing history.  Some will quip about Justify having lesser competition in the Belmont Stakes or the two races ran in the mud on the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but it is a supreme feat to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes in the same year. Yes, it takes luck, but it also takes a great horse.

When asked to comment on Justify’s feat, Bob Baffert said, “It takes a great horse. And I’ve been through it. There’s no excuses. If he was great, he’s going to do it. That’s why it’s so difficult. Triple Crown winners, all I can say is, they’re great.”

Along with “Sonny” Jim Fitzsimmons from the 1930s (Gallant Fox: 1930, Omaha: 1935), Bob Baffert became the second trainer to have two Triple Crown winners. Bob Baffert trained American Pharoah in 2015 when that thoroughbred also won the Triple Crown.