JUSTIFY will bid to become the 13th horse to win the American Triple Crown on Saturday. American Pharoah in 2015 is the only horse to achieve the treble of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes since Affirmed and Steve Cauthen went into racing folklore in 1978. Some of the other equine legends to complete the holy trinity of US classics in the same season include War Admiral, Secretariat and Seattle Slew.
Justify, who is odds-on, will have to do it the hard way by coming out of the dreaded number one stall. His legendary trainer Bob Baffert has expressed fears about the draw but reports his horse in sparkling form.
His main rival, in the betting at least, is Hofberg (9/2) who was seventh in the Kentucky Derby but missed the Preakness and will arrive a fresh horse.
Preakness runner-up Bravazo, beaten half a length by Justify, and Vino Rossi are both around the 8-1 mark. Check out www.betandskill.com for the latest form, stats and betting arounf the Belmont.
Justify, who is unbeaten in five races, will set a record for the number of rivals defeated in a Triple Crown if he wins the $1.5million Belmont – the most difficult leg over a mile and a half.
It is no mean feat for a three-year-old to run in three Grade 1 races in five weeks. To win all three would be amazing, even more so for a colt whose career began only in February as Justify was unraced as a juvenile.
His rider, Mike Smith, told the Racing Post: “To go for a Triple Crown is incredible, and so tough to pull off, but this is the kind of horse that’s got the required talent. He’s got the ability, there’s no doubting that. He’s by far the best three-year-old I’ve been involved with.
“He’s just really good at everything. He’s naturally quick, he’s got a high cruising speed, he’s fast away at the start. He’s big, fast and strong with great stamina – he just seems to stay and stay and never gives up.”
Smith, christened ‘Big-Money Mike’ for his dependability on the big occasion, added: “He’s a pretty cool character. He takes it all in his stride. He’s pretty laid-back at home but on raceday when he’s in the parade he gets on his toes just enough to give me confidence that he’s on his A game.”
Around 90,000 racegoers will pack the stands at Belmont and Smith believes there are several dangers to Justify’s bid for greatness in the $1.5 million race, for which the unbeaten colt is a best price 5-6 favourite.