From early on, Baffert said it was clear that Justify was special.
Justify is taking on nine rivals, the largest number that a potential Triple Crown victor has ever faced.
The powerful colt with the blaze running the length of his face showed no signs that the rigors of running a compressed schedule had gotten to him.
If I were to describe my experiences at the 135 Belmont Stakes, held June 7, 2003, and the 150Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, held last Saturday, parts of each story would mirror each other.
At 52, Smith is the oldest jockey to ever win the Triple Crown.
Justify (1), with jockey Mike Smith up, crosses the finish line to win the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y.
Justify defied all the odds on his way to achieving Triple Crown immortality. Then came the final furlong of the fastest Belmont since the advent of modern timing. "I actually thought, 'He's not going to break today.' I mean, he left there like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico".
Three races at various distances on three different tracks over a span of five weeks. Since then, he's run in more than 33,000 races and won almost 5,500, as his horses have purse earned more than $300 million. Bravazo finished second in the Preakness and Hofburg was sired by Tapit, whose sons have won two of the last races in the Belmont, which is run at a 1 1/2 mile.
The additional length at Belmont often tires out these horses, Zito said.
Jockey Mike Smith, who will ride Justify in the Belmont Stakes, is in the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.
"He's so brilliant. Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still", Smith said. "Now we can take a deep breath and just see how the horse is".
And the horse proved his trainer prescient, winning a Triple Crown with a mesmerizing and dominant victory at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. "A Triple Crown victor is rare enough; an undefeated Triple Crown victor is rarer still".
Justify's breeding rights were bought by Coolmore Stud, who paid $75 million and reportedly hopes to breed Justify 250 times in his first year.
In fact his first race was on on February 18th of this year.
"I think he's the greatest of all time", Smith said.
Also, the first 5,000 fans in attendance Saturday will receive a free commemorative print of Justify that celebrates his Triple Crown achievement. The crowd has been capped at 90,000. The forecast calls for 80 degrees and a 20 percent chance of rain. "Once he enters the building, it'll be like Elvis".
"Congratulations to Justify on becoming Thoroughbred racing's 13th Triple Crown victor and further congratulations to his ownership connections, trainer Bob Baffert, and jockey Mike Smith for their superb management and handling of this extraordinary athlete", stated Alex Waldrop, National Thoroughbred Racing Association President and CEO, in a press release.
"Our focus was on each race as they came up", Walden said after unveiling Justify's Triple Crown banner inside Belmont Park.