SportsWatch: Justify wins 2018 Belmont, seizes horse-racing’s Triple Crown in historic undefeated run

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Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports via Reuters

Mike Smith aboard Justify wins the 150th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Justify ran into the history books Saturday, winning the Belmont Stakes in wire-to-wire fashion and completing horse racing’s Triple Crown, becoming just the 13th horse to accomplish that feat and only the second undefeated horse to do so.

Justify was a heavy 4-5 favorite among the betting crowd in Elmont, N.Y. attending the 150th Belmont Stakes. He paid $3.60 for the win.

Gronkowski, a horse named after the New England Patriot’s tight end who bought an ownership stake in the horse before the Kentucky Derby, ran late to finish second at 24-1 and paid $13.80 to place. Hofburg, the second choice at 5-1, ran third, paying $3.70 to show.

Justify, who had bankrolled just under $3 million with help from wins in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes added $800,000 to that total by taking down the winner’s share of the $1.5 million Belmont purse.

Justify became just the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown and just the second undefeated horse to capture the elusive prize. Only Seattle Slew in 1977 had accomplished that feat. Majestic Prince in 1969, Smarty Jones in 2004 and Big Brown in 2008 went into the Belmont Stakes undefeated after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but were beaten as big favorites in the third leg of the Triple Crown.

American Pharoah is the last Triple Crown winner, having swept the series in 2015. Neither Nyquist or Always Dreaming, the Kentucky Derby winners of 2016 and 2017, were able to capture the middle jewel of the crown in the Preakness Stakes.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled American Pharoah, became just the second trainer in history to win more than one Triple Crown. Jim Fitzsimmons also scored Triple Crowns twice, in 1930 with Gallant Fox and five years later in 1935 with Omaha.

Mike Smith, at 52, became the oldest jockey to ride a Triple Crown winner. Smith and Baffert are already both members of horse racing’s Hall of Fame. They are now certain to be joined by Justify.