Justify won the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets by 1 ¾ lengths on June 9 at Belmont Park to complete a sweep of the U.S. classic races and become the 13th Triple Crown winner in U.S. racing history.
Trained by Bob Baffert for the partnership of China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing, and WinStar Farm, Justify led from start to finish under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Justify improved to six wins in as many starts and joined Seattle Slew as the only undefeated 3-year-olds to sweep the Triple Crown.
Find out what the race’s participants had to say after the 2018 Belmont Stakes.
“This horse ran a tremendous race. He’s so gifted. He’s sent from heaven, I tell you.”
Mike Smith, Hall of Fame jockey of Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown winner Justify
“He was showing me the same signs (as American Pharoah was in 2015). He showed me that brilliance. Superior horse. I mean, he could have won every race on the undercard today. He’s just that kind of horse.”
Bob Baffert, Hall of Fame trainer of Justify
“I’m really proud of my horse. The horse ran a great race. He had a lot of things against him, and we talked about that all week. It was his first time running on dirt, his first time going a mile and a half and he was coming off the layoff. I’m really proud of the way of the way he ran on dirt with so many things going against him. Then he misses the break, and then there’s a soft pace.”
Chad Brown, trainer of Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski
“It’s one of those Triple Crowns where I had two really good horses [also had Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic]. I think in each race I had the second-best horse and that’s the way it went. That’s the end of the story. Justify is a top horse and he won the Triple Crown, and that’s what horse racing is all about. You’ve got to run against everybody and it only takes one good one to beat you. To come so close in the Triple Crown ... but we ran into a real buzz saw. ”
Brown, who also trained Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic
“He broke a bit slow. He’s a horse from England. After that, I didn’t have any choice. I had to drop in and save all the ground. He handled the dirt. I worked him twice and he handled it, so I was optimistic. We got a good trip, it worked out well.”
Jose Ortiz, rider of Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski
“There was no pace and nobody put any pressure on the horse and he kind of walked the dog going around there. They were going slow and he said [jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.] didn’t want to make some crazy move down the backside to go join him, which probably wouldn’t have made any sense. Our horse came running. He ran well. I mean, for not having any pace, he finished up very well.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who saddled Belmont Stakes third-place finisher Hofburg
“Mike [Smith] is great, obviously, and Justify is probably a great horse. I mean, they’re a good combination and they got the job done. We saw another Triple Crown winner. A lot of people are happy about it.
“You can’t doubt [Justify] now, there’s no way. You’ve got to give him credit. He did it right up on the pace, and everybody had an opportunity to take their shot. They didn’t do it today. They let it go too easy.”
Mott on Justify’s Triple Crown sweep
“He’s a champion and you knew he would run well. I went for it, made my move at the quarter pole but I couldn’t catch him.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., rider of third-place finisher Hofburg
“I’ve known [Justify’s Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith] for so long, and for him to get this at this age is incredible. I am really happy for him.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who rode Belmont fourth-place finisher Vino Rosso
“It was a monster race. It’s a great honor to be a part of it. The noise from the crowd out front was shaking this building. It was incredible. It’s nice to be a part of something special.
“I thought my horse ran his race. I’m proud of him. That was a spectacular performance, what Bob [Baffert] did with this horse. There can’t be anything greater for the sport.”
Dale Romans, trainer of Belmont Stakes seventh-place finisher Free Drop Billy