Justify, who raced to a contested victory at the Belmont States on Saturday evening to clinch the 13th Triple Crown in horse racing history, sparked plenty of euphoria as he crossed the finish. The crowd has been capped at 90,000. The great Secretariat ended a 25-year drought in 1973 in record fashion, then, four years later, Seattle Slew came along to put his flawless stamp on the feat.
"Our focus was on each race as they came up", Walden said after unveiling Justify's Triple Crown banner inside Belmont Park.
Justify has won all six of his career starts, four at grade one level.
Justify accomplished a lot in a very short time.
Turning for home full of running, he looked to have all his rivals toiling, although the ex-Jeremy Noseda-trained Gronkowski - a victor at Newcastle in March - ran an awesome race to be second, having trailed the field by some distance from the stalls. He did so in 2015 with American Pharoah, a colt that ended a 37-year drought. After a shocking upset loss in the Travers at Saratoga - the biggest summer race restricted to 3-year-olds - there was some question whether Baffert would run him again. The 7-year-old bay horse won by 2 1/4 lengths and paid $9.10 to win - a generous price on a Baffert trainee.
"He's so brilliant. Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still", Smith said.
"He probably broke better today than he has out of the other two (Derby and Preakness), to be honest with you", Smith said. The only other unbeaten Triple Crown victor was Seattle Slew in 1977.
Justify defied all the odds on his way to achieving Triple Crown immortality.
Starting out of the No. 1 post, jockey Mike Smith navigated Justify from the rail through a field of nine challengers to give trainer Bob Baffert his second Triple Crown victor in the past four years. "He's sent from heaven".
An impressive feat for Baffert, racing's affable, most marketable two-legged star, for sure.
Like "Big Red", as Secretariat was lovingly called, Justify (an even bigger "Big Red", at 16.3 hands and 1,380 pounds, compared to a typical 1,100-pound thoroughbred), drew the No. 1 post.
Restoring Hope, also trained by Baffert, ran interference for the champion while traveling second and deterring any threats by forcing them to go extremely wide.
Justify made history on Saturday by winning the Triple Crown, which reportedly increased the value of his breeding rights, according to ESPN.
"My thought turning for home was that he had a shot to get him if Justify was vulnerable at mile and a half", said Chad Brown, who trains Gronkowski. "He even looked like he added a few pounds from the Preakness, I mean, this horse just recovers so amazingly quick". The colt named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski brings a four-race winning streak into his USA debut.