Justify claims Triple Crown with Belmont Stakes win

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Baffert, of course, saddled American Pharoah in 2015 when he ended a record 37-year drought. Instead of thanking the horse's owner and the trainer, the very first thing he told NBC while being interviewed on horseback following the race, "First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ".

"To do it back here in NY, it means more to me because NY is like my home", Smith, 52, said.

Justify carried that swagger through the 1½-mile race, starting from the rail and jumping to an early lead. "I mean, he left like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico!"

Smith got the big colt into a relaxed rhythm under a moderate pace heading into the backstretch, and he had an easy trip from there. Gronkowski entered the race at 12-1 odds. Turning for home with a date with immortality awaiting him in the winner's circle, Justify bounded home with Gronkowski (Lonhro ) giving belated chase to the wire.

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Since Wednesday, when Justify pulled up to Barn 1 at Belmont Park, minus the police escort that Pharoah had received, trainer Bob Baffert appeared at ease.

Smith was brilliant, orchestrating the race of his life to become the oldest jockey to win a Triple Crown.

The Belmont surface had been baked dry by sunny skies and 80-degree weather. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

The field included Preakness runner-up Bravazo and third-place finisher Tenfold, along with Derby horses Vino Rosso, Hofburg and Free Drop Billy. Finally, he was sent across the country to Baffert's stable, making his first start on February 18 of this year. Velazquez has carved out his own Hall of Fame career and ranks as the all-time leading jockey in purse money won, with Smith second. The 7-year-old bay horse won by 2¼ lengths and paid $9.10 to win - a generous price on a Baffert trainee. "To win six races in such a short amount of time is an unbelievable feat".

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Three races at various distances on three different tracks over a span of five weeks.

Bet Twice, a horse who collided with Alysheba during the latter's Kentucky Derby victory, won the Belmont Stakes by 14 lengths to prevent Alysheba from taking the Triple Crown.

The 52-year-old jockey knows the sprawling track and its sweeping turns well, having been the leading rider in NY from 1991 to '92.

Bob Baffert was killing time with his kids on the backside at Belmont Park on Saturday, waiting for the horses to be called to the paddock for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, when someone mentioned that, just like three years prior, the kid in the Burger King costume was in attendance. A crowd capped at 90,000 is expected for a chance to witness history. This time, the celebration wasn't quite as sustained, but the accomplishment was even more impressive. Pensive's son (Ponder) and grandson (Needles) also won the Kentucky Derby.

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