OPINION: Amazing, Thrilling, Exhilarating…That is Justify

(Justify / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Go celebrate and love life tonight knowing that special things can still happen. That historic things can still occur. That amazing, extraordinary, and exhilarating things can still be done.

Thank you Justify — the newest and latest Triple Crown Champion.

In a world of great uncertainty, and chaos; in a world that seems to fly off its axis every single day; in a world where hatred and anger turn normal kids into monsters and monsters into common news every night, Justify turned our heads, our hearts, and our minds and gave us all a moment in time to forget all the bad and love the magic of the moment.

On Saturday, in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, Justify ran just like he always does:





Move over Seattle Slew. Make room in the history books. There is now a second undefeated Triple Crown winner. And, there is now the first Triple Crown winner to never, ever, ever having run a single race as a 2-year-old.

Move over Secretariat. Make room in the video library at the Derby Museum. There is a new kid on the block, and he is a chip off the old block. Coming form your heritage, there is a new beautiful “Big Red.”

Move over American Pharoah. Make room over at Ashford / Coolmore Stud, where you know stand as a stallion. It has long been rumored that you will have a new roommate sometime down the road. And, if you are Boardwalk, this guy is certainly Park Place.

Move over all. Justify has proven to be just marvelous. Justify has shown the world to be just worthy. Justify has emerged from this grueling Triple Crown series to be just special.

Special, indeed.

Here are some special memories captured by our own Holly M. Smith — the best equine photographer in the land — and Gene McLean at Churchill Downs:

Justify at Churchill Downs after workout

Justify at Churchill Downs after workout




If anything can be taken away from a sting of a Triple Crown horse retiring, it’s a horse like this,” Smith said. “He is an incredible horse. Really, really proud of him. Bob [trainer Bob Baffert] had him ready. To come off the bench at a mile and an eighth, Bob is just a tremendous trainer. I felt very confident that I could be aggressive early and move a little early.”

“He is still learning as well,” said Smith. “Although he has raced, he had a lot of time off. He got to looking around, looking at the tracks and gawking around and I had a really good hold of him today and I didn’t really want to bother anyone. The last time I rode him we got disqualified [San Felipe Stakes] of course. I picked his head up, and when I asked him to finish he really got underneath me and really galloped out really well.”

Mike Smith, Rider of the winner McKinzie
  • 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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean