(Justify & rider Mike Smith after the Kentucky Derby / Photo Courtesy of Holly M. Smith)
Here are some notes and quotes following Justify’s amazing victory in the Belmont Stakes, capturing the Triple Crown, courtesy of Jenny Kellner, and the NYRA Media Team:
Mike Smith (Jockey of Justify):
“This horse ran a tremendous race,” said Smith, who at 52 is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown. “He’s so gifted. He’s sent from heaven. He’s just amazing.
“Did you see him standing in the gate?” added Smith, sporting the red-and-gold silks of China Horse Club after having worn the white-and-green colors of WinStar Farm in the Derby and Preakness. “He’s standing so still … I actually thought, ‘He’s not going to break today.’ I mean, he left there like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico.”
Bob Baffert (Trainer of Justify):
“It’s amazing,” said Baffert, who had Triple Crown near-misses with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002). “It never gets old. American Pharoah, he’ll always be my first love.
“[This horse] was showing me the same signs [as American Pharoah], he showed me that same brilliance. Superior horse. I mean, he could have won every race on the undercard today. He’s just that kind of horse.”
Jose Ortiz (Rider of Gronkowski):
“He broke a bit slow,” said jockey Jose Ortiz aboard Gronkowski, who was making his American debut. “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. He broke a bit slow. I wish he would have broke a little bit better.”
Bill Mott (Trainer of Hofburg):
“There was no pace and nobody put any pressure on [Justify] and he kind of walked the dog going around there,” said Bill Mott, Hall of Fame trainer of Hofburg. “They were going slow and [jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.] said he 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.
“Mike [Smith]’s great, obviously, and Justify is probably a great horse,” he added. “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.”