Justify “Fantastic” After Legendary Belmont Victory

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Justify and Bob Baffert Sunday morning at Belmont | Sarah Andrew

Undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ Justify (Scat Daddy) who ran into the record books Saturday, becoming the 13th winner of the American Triple Crown with a decisive 1 3/4-length score in the GI Belmont, emerged from the win in excellent condition, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday morning. After notching his sixth win in just under 16 weeks, the handsome chestnut appeared to be no worse for the wear.

“Today he looked fantastic,” Baffert said Sunday morning. “He wasn’t blowing after the race–he was blowing harder after the Preakness. That was the best work he had coming into all this.”

Justify had a number of visitors to the barn Sunday, including Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who piloted the colt to victory Saturday, members of the China Horse Club and owner Ahmed Zayat, whose Zayat Stables campaigned American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in 2015.

“He’s in that private, special club, the Triple Crown, and he established himself as one of the greats,” said Baffert. “The thing about him I cannot believe [is] the way he walked in the paddock yesterday. He left the stable barn and I was watching the other horses and they were all skittish and he walked up there just like King Kong. He knew, like he’d been there. He’s really intelligent and a smart, smart horse and he knows when to turn it on.”

Baffert said the colt will be shipped from Belmont to Churchill Downs Monday morning and get a “week or so” off before his connections decide his next goal. Justify is tentatively scheduled to return to his home base at Santa Anita Park next Sunday, June 17.

“We’ll take a deep breath and see where we are,” said Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar. “[Bob] will get Justify right and then we’ll make a plan. We’re looking forward to sharing him more. He’s become a household name and I’m looking forward to his next race as much as [everyone else].”

With his victory, Justify became the only undefeated Triple Crown winner besides Seattle Slew, who won the Belmont in wire-to-wire fashion in 1977.

Just 1 3/4 lengths behind Justify was Phoenix Thoroughbreds’s runner-up Gronkowski (Lonhro {Aus}), who put forth a new career-top effort in his main-track debut and first start for trainer Chad Brown, who said he was pleased with the effort Sunday morning. Brown added that he did not have any immediate plans made for Gronkowski, but indicated that the GI Travers S. at Saratoga Aug. 25 is a summertime goal for the 3-year-old.

“My first thought is that the Travers would be a good race for this horse if he were to break better and get a better pace to run at,” said Brown. “It’s a race I would love to win, and it looks like it would suit this horse. How we get from this race to the Travers, I haven’t decided yet. But that’s the race I have in my mind. I’ll discuss it with the owners.”

Brown also sent out A Raving Beauty (Ger) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}) to victory in the GI Just a Game S. on the Belmont undercard and said the 5-year-old European import will be pointed to the July 21 GI Diana S. at Saratoga.

While much of Saturday’s focus understandably was centered on the monumental rise of Justify to Triple Crown glory, his 3-year-old filly counterpart Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) continued her dominance of her division with her third consecutive Grade I score in the GI Acorn S. The chestnut was in good order Sunday morning, according to trainer Brad Cox, who said the filly will likely make her next start in the GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga July 22.

“She looked great [Sunday] morning,” said Cox. “We came out of the race extremely well. She looked great, happy, healthy.”

 

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