OPINION: 2018 Belmont Stakes Could Be Justify’s Time to Make History

(The grand Justify / Photo By Holly M. Smith)

In the entire history of the Triple Crown, there has been only one undefeated Thoroughbred to ever capture the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

That’s saying a lot. That’s writing a lot. That means a whole lot. After all, that is one heckuva lot of history, right there.

Today, they will run the Belmont Stakes for the 150th time. Earlier this year, Churchill Downs hosted the Kentucky Derby for the 145th time, and Pimlico celebrated the Preakness Stakes for the 144th occasion. Through those many years, and many tries, trials, tribulations and tests, only one horse has managed to sweep the series while unbeaten.

That was and is the great, immortal, amazing Seattle Slew. His name is written into the records books with gold ink. His legend lives on through the pedigrees that bear his name, and his lineage. His stamp on the industry shall forever remain like a hoof print in concrete base.

But today, the grand, towering, brilliant chestnut colt Justify — who stands 17.1 hands off the ground and shines with a redness that reminds even the most reverent horse historians of the great Secretariat — will try to join that illustrious and amazing rank of only 1.

Today, he will be led over to the same paddock where the greats have been saddled and paraded. Today, he will be ridden onto the same big, sandy, brown dirt surface where some of the great race calls still echo in the air and through the halls of racing history. Today, he will try to not only win the Belmont Stakes, and become the next great Triple Crown champion, he will try to rewrite history that changes about as often as a Socrates comes along.

Today, he will try to add the words “great, immortal, and amazing” to his name, as well.

Back in January of this year, nobody knew much about this horse named Justify. After all, he had never run a single race to date. But in a short 41/2 months, he has launched a juggernaut through all of racing’s most historic racetracks, shattering his completion along with long-held traditions and would-be curses.

Going into the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, no horse had won the “Run for the Roses” in the past 134 years without having started at least one time as a 2-year-old. Bob Baffert, the game’s most trusted advisor of prime pedigrees, said his horse would do it.

Justify did it.

Going into the Preakness Stakes just two weeks later, no horse in the history of the Triple Crown had ever won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness without having raced at least one time as a 2-year-old. Baffert, the game’s best trainer of his time, and, maybe, of all time, said his horse would do it.

Justify did it.

Now, today, the racing world awaits to see if Justify will become the next Triple Crown champ. A crowd of over 100,000 is expected to jam into Belmont today to witness what may be history, and one of the game’s all-time greatest runners. The television world is sure to tune in to watch and see if Baffert — who coached American Pharoah through this grueling test of tenacity and talent just three years ago — can whisper those magic words one more time. Today, every person who claims to be a horse person of any kind and ilk, will tune their attention to one laser beam focus and watch every step of the 11/2-mile Belmont Stakes to see if this horse can make history, and stamp his name into legend and lore.

All Baffert has said is that is horse has never been better. All Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s able bodied and minded assistant, has said is that the horse is “breathing fire.” All they have said, from pillar to post, is that they believe. Undoubtedly, they think their horse can do it one more time.

Only time will tell, but after all that this remarkable horse has done up till now, why shouldn’t we all believe? Why shouldn’t we all relish? Why shouldn’t we all, root?

After all, history like this doesn’t come along very often, right? One time in 145 years is all.

Can it become two?

I, for one, hopes Justify can do it. I want to write, just one more time:

Justify did it.

Good luck young man. Good luck.

 

I had a lot of confidence in this horse because of the way he trained. He trained so well, and the race he ran when he was third was as impressive a race as a horse can run. To do what he did and be as compromised as he was and still run third to two good horses, he’s a special horse,” Romans said. “The way he’s been working over this racetrack, he’ll take his racetrack with him. He doesn’t care where he is.

“If a horse runs good here, you keep them here.”

Dale Romans, winning trainer of Promises Fulfilled -- who won the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday at odds of 18-1
  • 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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