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Mike Smith, 52, Becomes Oldest Jockey to Win Triple Crown

12 June 2018

Hall of Fame jockey Smith - the oldest rider to win the Triple Crown - said: "This horse is so gifted".

The next most impressive performance to Justify's was second-place Gronkowski's run from last after missing the break to within 1 3/4 lengths of a Triple Crown victor. Bravazo disappointed in the Louisiana Derby but finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby despite being a sizable long shot.

Justify is taking on nine rivals, the largest number that a potential Triple Crown victor has ever faced. He's 5-0, having raced for the first time on February 18.

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.

Bob Baffert is hoping to snag his second Triple Crown in the span of just three years with Justify. The race was won by a half-length, with Justify finishing the 1 3/16-mile race in 1:55.93. "It was just a great day, went smooth". For horses used to training and running at shorter distances it can be like asking them to start over doing something completely different. "Even though the fractions were soft for a horse of his caliber, still he had to go a mile and a half". I felt on my watch, if he's happy, I'll keep him running. "I mean, he left like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico!"

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Enter American Pharoah, who effortlessly floated around the expansive Belmont Park oval in 2015, then turned for home and hit the gas, pulling away from the field to send the capacity crowd into a prolonged state of euphoria.

Fans are streaming into Belmont Park in anticipation of watching Justify try to become horse racing's 13th Triple Crown victor and second since 2015. "And I was nearly in tears, it's such an emotional experience", he said. Add in the tight schedule of three championship races in five weeks, and it's the most challenging of tasks for any horse.

He's won more Triple Crown races, 15, than anyone else and became just the second trainer, after James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons, to win two Triple Crowns. After a handful of agonizing Triple Crown misses, he broke through with Pharoah, solidifying his legacy.

"Justify is a super horse".

In winning the Kentucky Derby, Justify had lifted the so-called "curse of Apollo" in becoming the first horse since 1882 to win without having run as a two-year-old. "He's now become a household name, and I'm looking forward to the next race just as much as you guys are".

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"It never gets old". Justify became the first colt in 136 years to win the Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old.

Smith says Justify is both smart and in great shape.

When fans roared at him in appreciation on the way back to the winner's circle, Smith calmly point to Justify.

Smith is clearly at the top of his game in a sport where jockeys are riding less and less in their 50s. Walden has maintained that a deal for Justify's breeding rights has yet to be finalized.

"To do what he did in such a short time is fantastic", Smith said of Justify.

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