Gronkowski finished second in the race.
Among the other horses scheduled to compete in the Belmont is Bravazo, who challenged Justify in the Preakness and was beaten by a half-length. We're also blessed we made it back safe, this horse ran a tremendous race.
"When we came with this horse, when he won his second time out, I was thinking, 'I think this is a Derby horse; he could be a Triple Crown horse, man".
It worked to perfection as Smith put an exclamation point on his illustrious career, guiding Justify to victory in the 1½-mile race that was over with an eighth of a mile to go. And it did not hurt that Justify's stablemate, Restoring Hope, acted as horse racing's version of a moving screen on the first turn. It's possible Justify could be paraded at the track like American Pharoah after he won the Triple Crown for Baffert in 2015.
"I'd like to see John win the race!" The horse ran a great race. The New Mexico native won 15 Grade 1 races in 2017, including nine with Bob Baffert, the trainer of Justify and now a two-time Triple Crown victor. "He's just that kind of horse".
"Everybody thinks I'm so opposed to Saratoga", he said.
"I can't believe I'm here in NY winning it again". American Pharoah, he'll always be my first love and for this horse to do it, and for Mike Smith - Mike deserves something like this.
No Triple Crown victor has faced more than seven rivals in the Belmont, so Justify could be the first.
Smith told reporters, "I just want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing us on this afternoon, and blessing us with this wonderful horse".
"I was really happy with way he got away from there", jockey Mike Smith said. It was a different vibe than 2015, when he admittedly felt pressure to win with American Pharoah.
If Justify beats nine rivals in the 150th Belmont, Bob Baffert would become the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice. "You have to be great to win the Triple Crown". He was purchased as a yearling for $500,000.
Chris Kay, president of the New York Racing Association, joked that he would "hold Bode hostage until they make the decision", referring to Baffert's 13-year-old son.
Smith, 52, is the second-oldest Kentucky Derby victor behind Bill Shoemaker, who rode Ferdinand to victory in 1986 at age 54.
He said Justify will likely race in the Traverse and the Breeders' Cup in the months ahead before likely retiring as a stallion at the end of the year. The best bet for watching the race is on NBC Sports Live here. He became the first thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old since 1882, aka the Chester Arthur administration.
"He left there like he was going 440 (yards) at Ruidoso, N.M.", said Smith, a native of Roswell, N.M.