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Mike Smith, 52, becomes oldest jockey to win Triple Crown

13 Juin 2018

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.

Justify led all the way in achieving one of the sports world's toughest feats 45 years to the day that Secretariat won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths.

Blended Citizen won his first race on dirt back on May 12 at the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park, which came in his 10th career start. It showed with Curlin when he was clobbered at the start, taken out of his game, and forced to come from well back for the first time in his short career.

For Justify, being one of the finest athletes of our time will have to do.

Save for a news helicopter circling during training hours, the scene was as mellow as could be - three years between Triple Crown attempts will have such an effect.

Being that valuable might make it hard for the horse to get back on the track again, though ownership seemed optimistic after the win that it was possible. Bravazo finished sixth in the Derby and closed with a rush to take second in the Preakness. Coolmore purchased breeding rights to the 2015 Triple Crown victor American Pharoah from Zayat Stables late in the colt's 2-year-old season or early in his 3-year-old year.

Justify was a US$500,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing.

If Justify remains healthy and sound, Baffert will have plenty of options to map out his summer and fall campaign, with the obvious goal being the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 3 at Churchill.

"He's so brilliant. Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still", Smith said.

Vino Rosso won his first two career starts late a year ago in impressive fashion before contesting two Kentucky Derby prep stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

No Triple Crown victor has faced more than seven rivals in the Belmont, so Justify could be the first.

Justify's jockey is Mike Smith, and at 52 years old he is still considered a big-money rider. He defeated a deep crop, faced more horses in his three legs than any previous Triple Crown victor.

Wearing a white blanket advertising his status as the sport's 13th Triple Crown victor, Justify walked laps inside the barn before coming outside to greet a slew of cameras.

Baffert told NBC Sports: "It's just unbelievable". There's no more deserving than him. Mara said. "Amazing. Just hope Eli Manning can do the same thing at 37".

Since Wednesday, when Justify pulled up to Barn 1 at Belmont Park, minus the police escort that Pharoah had received, the trainer Bob Baffert appeared at ease. Vino Rosso made the most serious move to get within a length but never threatened. "He even looked like he added a few pounds from the Preakness, I mean, this horse just recovers so amazingly quick". Vino Rosso is also owned by Todd Pletcher, who has three Belmont wins to his name.

The horse, named after and part-owned by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, spent much of the race in dead last.

Mike Smith, 52, becomes oldest jockey to win Triple Crown