Baffert nicknamed his crew Camp Justify, and the bucolic corner barn setting fit the bill. "He's so gifted he's sent from heaven", Smith said of Justify, who was the 4/5 favorite.
The reality is the race Gronkowski ran would win quite a few Belmonts, even though the third leg of the Triple Crown is thought to be unkind to deep closers and hasn't produced a last-to-first victor since Jazil in 2006.
Justify has already done more than expected, a bit of a late bloomer who doesn't have the pedigree of someone like American Pharoah.
He knew in February that the 3-year-old chestnut colt, who had yet to run a race, was something special. On Saturday, Justify did that, too, before a rapturous crowd of roughly 100,000, leading wire-to-wire to cover the 1½ -mile distance in 2:28.18 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard.
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Vino Ross was the second-place horse when the race entered the stretch on Saturday, getting up to Justify's flank.
"Did you see him in the gate, he's standing so still, " Smith said.
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. While it served Secretariat well, it posed a concern for Baffert, who anxious his colt might get pinned against the rail if he didn't break well. The great Secretariat ended a 25-year drought in 1973 in record fashion, then, four years later, Seattle Slew came along to put his ideal stamp on the feat. I tell you, it's just wonderful. "I mean, he left like he was going 440 yards in Ruidoso, New Mexico!"
Some had wondered whether the colt might show signs of fatigue following a busy schedule but that was not the case as he broke from his number one post position and was never seriously challenged by any of the other nine horses.