Notes & Quotes From the Belmont Stakes:

(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.”

 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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