On Saturday, the attention of the horse-racing world will turn to a 3-year-old thoroughbred racehorse named Justify — who, along with his jockey, Mike Smith — can make history in just under three minutes.
Justify will be going up against 15 other horses at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, this weekend. If he can pull off a victory he will become only the 13th Triple Crown winner in history — and would follow American Pharoah, who pulled off a win in 2015 after a 35-year drought.
The Triple Crown is a rare feat that sees a racehorse win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes all in the same year. While there have been many horses who have come close to reaching that achievement, many end up falling short at the Belmont Stakes — which, this year, has a $1.5 million purse on the line.
But Justify has already surpassed expectations during his Triple Crown bid, and many oddsmakers have billed the undefeated horse as the favorite coming into the 150-year-old race.
With the hype building up for the race, here are five things to know about Justify and his bid for racing immortality.
Justify Has Already Made History This Year by Breaking the “Apollo Curse”
Though Justify was a favorite coming into the 144th Kentucky Derby on May 5, history was against him. Since 1882, the Run for the Roses has never been won by a horse that did not race as a 2-year-old. In order to have a chance at a Triple Crown, Justify was going to have to snap more than a century-old streak. The last horse to win under those circumstances was Apollo — hence the name of the curse — 136 years ago.
Justify won the Derby with a time of 2:04.20, and proved that the seemingly impossible wasn’t so impossible after all. Though he was nursing a bruised hoof, Justify would go on to win the Preakness Stakes while racing in heavy fog.
He Was Sired by a Successful Racehorse
Justify is a Chestnut Colt sired by Scat Daddy, an American thoroughbred racehorse who picked up four wins in the stakes races during his career. He became a distinguished sire after his retirement due to injury after a race at the Kentucky Derby.
Scat Daddy died in December 2015, at 11 years old.
The Group That Co-Owns Justify Likes to Stick to Short Names for Their Horses
According to the Washington Post, WinStar Farm, which co-owns Justify along with the China Horse Club, likes to stick to shorter names for their racehorses that are either one word, or two short words.
This is one of the reasons Justify is named Justify, instead of a long name like other racehorses in history, like “I’ll Have Another” or “Strike the Gold.”
According to the Kentucky Derby website, Justify is also called “Big Red” by those closest to him.
His Trainer Also Was in Charge of the Last Triple Crown Winner
Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert, also trained American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner. Baffert is no stranger to success, as his horses have won five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes, two Belmont Stakes and three Kentucky Oaks.
Throughout his career, the 65-year-old has earned millions of dollars thanks to his wins, with American Pharoah’s accomplishments giving him his highest-ever single year earnings of more than $16 million, according to his website. If Justify earns the Triple Crown, it will only push Baffert’s legacy even further.
Justify is Ridden by 52-Year-Old Jockey Mike Smith
At the Belmont Stakes, Justify will once again be ridden by jockey Mike Smith, who has more than 5,400 career wins. Smith —whose father was also a jockey — hails from Roswell, New Mexico. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2003 and has attained 26 Breeders’ Cup wins, the most of any jockey.
See if Justify can complete the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, with coverage beginning at 4 pm E.T. on NBC.