"It's been the longest, quickest journey", a hoarse-sounding Baffert said as light rain fell outside Justify's barn.
After waiting almost four decades for a Triple Crown victor, lightning has apparently struck twice in a four-year span.
In sweeping the big three races for 3-year-olds, Smith becomes the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown.
Justify, the three-year-old chestnut colt, completed his improbable Triple Crown journey with a dominating win at the 2018 Belmont Stakes.
NBC Sports continues its horse racing coverage with the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series this Saturday, June 16, live at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with live races including the Stephen Foster and Fleur De Lis from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. He straggled home in eighth place, beaten 19 1/2 lengths by a 70-1 shot. Who would've thought we'd see another Triple Crown?
"I wanted to see that horse's name up there (with the other greats) because we know he was brilliant from day one", he told reporters.
"I felt great, and that probably wouldn't have happened 10 years ago or 20 years ago", Smith said.
Three races at various distances on three different tracks over a span of five weeks. "He could've won every race on the undercard today". Bravazo finished second in the Preakness and Hofburg was sired by Tapit, whose sons have won two of the last races in the Belmont, which is run at a 1 1/2 mile. She gets too scared.
Historically, deep closers have not fared well in the Belmont, so riders will seek to put their horses within a few lengths at the quarter pole. Gronkowski burst into the pack and managed to take a rough start and turn it into silver, finishing second behind Justify.
On Saturday, Justify became the 13th horse to accomplish that impressive feat.
While Justify has a strong pedigree of his own, "you can't say he's Secretariat-safe", Zito said. "He's just that kind of horse".
Justify's victory gives racing its second Triple Crown victor of the decade.
Baffert joined Fitzsimmons as the only trainers to oversee two Triple Crown winners. After not racing as a 2-year-old, Justify has made up for lost time.
In fact his first race was on on February 18th of this year.
"I couldn't be happier with the way he looks", Baffert said.
"American Pharoah, he'll always be my first love".
Coolmore Stud had already negotiated for a $60 million deal, but Justify's Triple Crown win was worth a $15 million bonus, turning the breeding fee into a record breaker. A crowd capped at 90,000 is expected for a chance to witness history. He's just incredible. Did you see him standing in the gate? "Once he enters the building, it'll be like Elvis".
Justify was also the second Triple Crown victor for trainer Bob Baffert, who trained American Pharoah back in 2015 when he ended the 37-year Triple Crown drought.
Track officials announced Tuesday that trainer Bob Baffert and the ownership partners in Justify have granted permission for the colt to be paraded on the racetrack and in the paddock and winner's circle between races Saturday, with a final announcement on exact times due Wednesday.