SNIDER: Justify looks ready for Triple Crown coronation

Rick Snider
June 07, 2018 - 7:03 pm
Justify_Belmont_Park

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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The scary part of Justify’s Preakness Stakes victory was how tired he looked after two others nearly ran him down. Surely, the colt was showing the effects of five races over 91 days and wouldn't be ready for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

Think again.

Justify's recent workouts have looked sensational. He looks sensational. And soon, Justify will become thoroughbred racing's 13th Triple Crown champion by beating Ten Fold with Hofburg third.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories showed a green speedster maturing into a distance champion. Justify wears ear plugs until shortly before the race when suddenly allowed to hear the drama around him. And, he likes it. A lot.

This horse is a gamer who is beating a pretty good generation of three-year olds. Five others in the Belmont field – Bravazo, Vino Rosso, Ten Fold, Hofburg and Gronkowski – are all legit contenders. If Justify falters late, it won't be a one-time wonder beating him.

But don’t be fooled by the lengthy 1.5-mile race – the longest major stakes race of the year. Justify will set the early pace through the first mile and should build up a several-length lead turning for home. And then, we'll see him hit another gear. Justify won't run away from the pack, but jockey Mike Smith has owned New York racing for three decades and knows how to win this unusually long race.

It seems odd to have another Triple Crown champion so soon after American Pharoah’s 2015 sweep ended a 37-year drought. But then, there were three champions in the 1930s, four in the 1940s and three in the 1970s, so another streak is finally emerging.

The wise guys that haunt Belmont Park mutual windows will seek to beat Justify. Let them try. Their tickets will be found torn in half on the floor.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks