It is among the biggest prizes in sport but also the most difficult. Can Justify win the Triple Crown?
We will know shortly after 6:45 Eastern Time on Saturday at Belmont Park whether Justify is the second coming of Secretariat or just another horse who failed at the last leg to win racing’s Triple Crown. American Pharoah in 2015 is the only horse to have done it in recent times.
Justify, trained by Bob Baffert is a phenom, a horse who never ran until February but who has carried all before him since and now looks to be only the second unbeaten horse to win the Triple Crown.
The other was Seattle Slew.
Justify will be having his sixth race in just a few months but he already destroyed one of racing's biggest maxims, that no horse could win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old.
So this is no ordinary animal as was evident in the Kentucky Derby when he was part of what many thought was a suicidal fast pace but Justify hardly seemed to turn a hair.
The Preakness was another washout day like the Derby ---with the addition of a heavy fog. When they finally loomed out of the mist it was Justify, who once again, won a very sharp duel and held off the closers to win the Preakness.
His path to the Triple Crown was made significantly easier when Audible was withdrawn allegedly with an injury. Audible is owned by the same connections and loomed as the biggest danger to Justify after his third place in the Derby and his pedigree for the mile and a half Belmont distance.
Little wonder the connections found a way not to run him.
The rest of the field have a lot to prove with Preakness second Brazado the most accomplished horse.
However, I like Vino Rosso to be second to Justify. He ran a clunker in the Derby but the torrential rain and huge field did not suit. He is a horse that must get to the outside as he is not comfortable in and among horses. Jockey John Velazquez has a superb record in the Belmont as does trainer Todd Pletcher.
For third, I’d pick Hofburg the second favorite who is overrated in my opinion but has a good late finishing kick.
The main issue for Justify may not even be his rivals, but rather his draw. He is in the No 1 hole, not the best draw for a horse that loves to race outside and just off the flank of the leader.
He has a superb jockey however in Mike Smith who will have thought that through but I expect he will run and gun Justify into the early lead and control the pace.
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