The center of attention: Justify, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes champion, could become the 13th horse in history to win the Triple Crown--and just the fifth 3-year-old to do so in the modern era, potentially joining Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).
Since the unbeaten Justify began his racing career in February, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains bought into Justify's racing rights only, including the 15 percent owned by SF Bloodstock.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor has been guided to this point by a couple of veterans: trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith.
Justify Wins the 13th Triple Crown in Horse Racing History
Being that valuable might make it hard for the horse to get back on the track again, though ownership seemed optimistic after the win that it was possible.
Hofburg paid $3.70 to show.
Justify's Triple Crown feat came 45 years to the day after another physically imposing chestnut, Secretariat, broke from the first post and won the Belmont by a stunning 31 lengths to complete the Triple Crown.
Smith said Justify was so calm in the gate that he was anxious he might not break. In 2017, Gulfstream Park in South Florida established the Pegasus World Cup, a race where up to 12 people can put up $1 million to reserve a spot in the gate, then either enter a horse in the race or make an arrangement to sell or lease their spot to another owner.
Prior to his victory, the thoroughbred had a ideal 5-0 record in his brief career and had won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
"Mike great, obviously, and Justify is probably a great horse", said trainer Bill Mott, whose Hofburg finished third, 3½ behind Justify. Justify became the first colt in 136 years to win the Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old.
While it's nice to see a Triple Crown victor, it's hardly profitable for bettors. But Smith confessed that Espinoza's Triple Crown journey three years ago actually helped him Saturday. Smith has seven Triple Crown race victories to his credit. "He's now become a household name, and I'm looking forward to his next race just as much as you guys are".
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 awesome horse".
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. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened.
Gronkowski will draw some love from casual bettors that are also football fans, as his namesake is Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots (who is a part-owner of the horse). Restoring Hope spent much of the race just behind the eventual victor and to his outside, though never passed him.