The large and muscular Justify, owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm, was ridden to victory by the veteran Smith.
The reality is the race Gronkowski ran would win quite a few Belmonts, even though the third leg of the Triple Crown is thought to be unkind to deep closers and hasn't produced a last-to-first victor since Jazil in 2006.
It would be hard to imagine Justify running again before July 29 in the Haskell, a race Baffert has won eight times.
Justify began his racing career on February 18, a scant 77 days before the Derby.
"I have no earthly idea what Florent was thinking or what his race strategy was", West said, per Tom Pedulla of the New York Post. Justify rewarded his sun-splashed backers with $3.60 on a $2 bet to win.
American Pharoah was the last horse to win the Triple Crown, capturing horse-racing's storied trifecta in 2015.
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Smith said Justify was so calm in the gate that he was anxious he might not break.
The white mane of Justify trainer Bob Baffert, horse whisperer to the stars, is now known the world over.
If Justify succeeds in sweeping the Triple Crown just three years after American Pharoah, it wouldn't be the first time it has happened close together. It's the pinnacle of a career that has seen him win more than 5,400 races, including a record 26 in the Breeders' Cup, and now seven Triple Crown races.
Justify, the Triple Crown victor, will get a well-deserved break before racing again this year, although no date or location has been targeted.
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Justify, who raced to a contested victory at the Belmont States on Saturday evening to clinch the 13th Triple Crown in horse racing history, sparked plenty of euphoria as he crossed the finish. The next year, the classic rivalry of Affirmed and Alydar reached its peak when Affirmed inched ahead by a head to become the last Triple Crown victor until Pharoah arrived.
"I was just surprised on how well he handled the atmosphere at the Derby with the crowd, how he handled it at the Preakness because every time he shows up people start yelling and screaming and he just looks at them like, 'Thank you, '" Baffert said. Turning for home with a date with immortality awaiting him in the winner's circle, Justify bounded home with Gronkowski (Lonhro ) giving belated chase to the wire.
One owner believes that there was something suspicious about how the race was handled by Restoring Hope, a stablemate of Justify's, with both horses trained by Bob Baffert.
Justify's dominance in a 10-horse field that included Preakness runnerup Bravazo and Derby horses Hofburg (who finished third), Vino Rosso and Free Drop Billy moved Baffert to tears afterward, as his thoughts turned to his late parents and friends he has lost, convinced they've somehow been helping him these past years. Last year, he won 15 Grade 1 races, the most since he won 20 back in 1994.
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