Saturday, 23 June, 2018

Justify's Triple Crown Win Sparks Controversy About Blocking Horse

Jimmy Barnes assistant trainer to Bob Baffert with Justify on the Churchill Downs backstretch June 11 Jimmy Barnes assistant trainer to Bob Baffert with Justify on the Churchill Downs backstretch June 11 Coady
Cary Erickson | 13 June, 2018, 04:41

Justify became the 13th Triple Crown champion with Saturday's 13/4-length victory in the Belmont Stakes that improved him to 6-0 lifetime.

West declined comment on whether Restoring Hope was used to block for Justify, who settled into a comfortable, unpressured advantage that he never relinquished.

At 6-0, he's the second undefeated Triple Crown victor; he's the first to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont without racing at age 2; and he's the only horse to beat nine rivals in the Belmont with a Triple try on the line.

Mike Repole, co-owner of horses that finished fourth (Vino Rosso) and last (Noble Indy) in the Belmont Stakes, advanced that idea on Sunday.

Justify, who cross the finish 1¾ lengths in front of 24-1 longshot and Keeneland sales graduate Gronkowski, is the 20 Belmont victor produced by Keeneland sales.

Following the Belmont Stakes race, some began to accuse another one of Baffert's horses, Restoring Hope, as assisting Justify and jockey Mike Smith by blocking other horses in the race.

"It baffled me", Repole told the Daily Racing Form, according to ESPN. But Smith turned it into an advantage, gunning Justify to the lead and defying any horse to challenge.

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Baffert was a little nervous after the first quarter-mile when Justify went out fast. "He's now become a household name and I'm looking forward to his next race as much as you guys are", he said.

Since 1990, there have been 10 instances where horses have won the first two of the three legs of the Triple Crown: Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, Charismatic in 1999, War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, Smarty Jones in 2004, Big Brown in 2008, I'll Have Another in 2012 and California Chrome in 2014. Maybe the horse was completely out of control and Florent had no choice.

Repole did say that his suspicions don't diminish his respect for the mighty Justify, just the 13th horse in history to win the Triple Crown.

"Justify is a super horse".

Doug Bredar, the agent for Geroux, said he has no comment and Geroux has no comment. "His only chance was to be up near the lead in the first wave because he's like a one-dimensional horse".

But the New York State Gaming Commission confirmed that there were no plans for its steward, Steve Lewandowski, to discuss it with Geroux.