Justify etched his name into American racing history with a brilliant victory in the Belmont Stakes in New York seeing him become just the 13th horse to claim the Triple Crown.
Hot on the heels of his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the unbeaten Bob Baffert-trained three-year-old passed the so-called ‘Test of the Champion’ in the mile-and-a-half Belmont with flying colours.
In doing so, he emulated Baffert’s American Pharoah, who in 2015 was the first to land all three races since Affirmed in 1978.
Ridden by Mike Smith, 52, Justify is only the second undefeated runner to win the Triple Crown, after the great Seattle Slew in 1977, with Baffert the second trainer to achieve the feat twice.
Unraced as a two-year-old, Justify was sent straight to the front by Smith and was always dictating matters.
Turning for home full of running, he looked to have all his rivals toiling, although the ex-Jeremy Noseda-trained Gronkowski – a winner at Newcastle in March – ran an amazing race to be second, having trailed the field by some distance from the stalls.
Baffert told NBC Sports: “It’s just amazing. I’m so proud to be an American and feel this way, it’s very emotional for me.
“It never gets old. American Pharoah, he’ll always be my first love and for this horse to do it, and for Mike Smith – Mike deserves something like this. There’s no more deserving than him. I told him ‘welcome to the club’.”
He added: “He was showing me the same signs (as American Pharoah), the brilliance, a superior horse. I wanted to see that horse’s name up there, because we knew he was brilliant from day one.
“I can’t believe I’m here in New York winning it again.”
Hall of Fame jockey Smith – the oldest rider to win the Triple Crown – said: “This horse is so gifted. He’s sent from heaven, it’s just amazing. He’s just brilliant.
“I can’t describe the emotions right now.