For just a little more than two minutes on Saturday, the horse racing world came to a stop to see if one Chestnut Colt could make history at the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes.
The 3-year-old American thoroughbred racehorse, Justify, came into Saturday’s race hoping to attain the elusive Triple Crown title — reserved only for horses that win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes all in the same year.
Only 12 horses have claimed it in the history of horse racing, with the last being American Pharoah, who pulled off the feat in 2015 after a 35-year drought. There have been many horses who have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, many fall short at Belmont.
The undefeated Justify was the strong favorite among the 15 other horses at the race, which, this year, had a $1.5 million purse on the line. He was ridden by his jockey, Mike Smith.
Regardless of what happened at Belmont, Justify had already made history before ever lining up at the gates on Saturday.
Though he came in as a favorite at the 144th Kentucky Derby on May 5, history was against Justify winning it. 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.
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But it seemed as if Justify was destined for greatness: his 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.
His jockey, Mike Smith, who has more than 5,400 career wins, 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.