Gronkowski (the horse) finishes second at Belmont Stakes

Tyler Owen
June 10, 2018

Maybe he did. In 2010, Smith lost the Breeders' Cup Classic aboard Zenyatta by a head, that mare's only loss in a 20-race career.

Bob Baffert was killing time with his kids on the backside at Belmont Park on Saturday, waiting for the horses to be called to the paddock for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, when someone mentioned that, just like three years prior, the kid in the Burger King costume was in attendance.

The chestnut colt is the second undefeated colt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, improving to 6-0 in a racing career that began on February 18. Bravazo will go to the Belmont where Justify will have plenty of familiar challenges - and a fresh ones - standing in the way of becoming the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown.

Smith, 52, became the oldest jockey to win a Triple Crown. The crowd was capped at 90,000. Gronkowski returned $13.80 and 7.80 and Hofburg paid $3.70 to show. He followed it up with a half-length win in the slop in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 19. The Kentucky Derby prize money now totals roughly $2 million, with $1.24 million for the victor. He refused comparisons between the two horses, saying they are different types of racers. Often it's the final quarter-mile that does in a contender.

War Emblem won the 2002 Kentucky Derby despite his jockey never meeting the horse until the morning of the race. Belmont Park's deep, sandy surface can prove tiring, too.

There were mild bids turning for home. Many sports fans have just a passing interest in horse racing, only tuning in during May and June, when a Triple Crown's on the line. He'll have nine horses to contend with.

No chance. Between his imposing size and the way his chestnut coat glistens in the sun, Justify is hard to overlook, particularly with his muscular hind legs propelling him forward.

Justify defied all the odds on his way to achieving Triple Crown immortality.

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Prior to his victory, the thoroughbred had a ideal 5-0 record in his brief career and had won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

Gronkowski had never raced on dirt, had never raced farther than a mile, qualified but didn't run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) because he spiked a fever, switched trainers before the race, and only had two published works ahead of the most hard start of his career.

Smith finally had experienced the once-in-a-lifetime feeling Espinoza carries forever with him from the day he made history. He finished 12th that day in the Pat Day Mile on the undercard at Churchill Downs.

"He listens to you - to everything I do", Smith said.

Justify will break from the No. 1 post in the starting gate.

Ron Turcotte, confined to a wheelchair because of a horrific 1978 spill at Belmont, rode superhorse Secretariat to that 31-length rout in 1973 for his Triple Crown.

When he was asked how Justify stacks up against the greatest American thoroughbreds, Smith smiled and said: "I think he's the greatest of all time - I just won the Triple Crown, man!" and the room filled with laughter. James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons guided Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935.

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