Justify wins the Belmont Stakes, earning the coveted Triple Crown

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The chestnut colt is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and was ridden to victory by veteran jockey Mike Smith.

The 37-year wait for the Triple Crown of horse racing, mercifully ended three years ago when awesome American Pharoah crossed the finish line first at the 2015 Belmont Stakes, was at the same time exasperating, demoralizing, and borderline comical.

Few horses have ever come so far, so fast.

It seems only yesterday, but it was actually February 18 that Justify loudly announced his presence in roaring off to a 9 ½-length victory in his Santa Anita debut. "To win six races in such a short amount of time is an unbelievable feat".

Justify is taking on nine rivals, the largest number that a potential Triple Crown victor has ever faced.

"I think he'll run big", Smith said.

"This horse ran a tremendous race, he's so gifted", Smith said. None of the other nine horses had a chance to catch him. "There is no more deserving (jockey) than him".

ELMONT, N.Y. -Justify showed his talent in winning the Kentucky Derby and grit in taking the Preakness. "American Pharoah, he'll always be my first love".

His story grew more complicated the next morning when he looked uncomfortable putting pressure on a bruised left hind heel.

" target="_blank">Tamarkuz won the Group 2 Godolphin Mile in Dubai, and Materiality won the Grade 1 Florida Derby". The final time for 1 1/2 miles was 2:28 and change.

Justify defied all the odds on his way to achieving Triple Crown immortality. Or would he become the rare horse, like American Pharoah, talented enough to overcome all obstacles?

The Belmont is known as the "Test of the Champion" for good reason: it's the first and likely last time these 3-year-old colts will be running 1 ½ miles. But he would not know for sure until the race went off, just before 7 p.m.

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