ELMONT, N.Y. -- Justify, trained by Southern California's Bob Baffert, became the 13th thoroughbred to win horse racing's Triple Crown, finishing first at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York Saturday.
Justify dominated from the start, breaking well from the No. 1 post. He led wire to wire. "It feels pretty good," Baffert said, who added he knew early this year that Justify was a superior horse.
Gronkowski, named for the NFL player, finished second.
Baffert also trained Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015. Only 12 thoroughbreds have achieved the feat in the past century. Justify joined that exclusive stable after today's triumph and wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes earlier this year.
The chestnut colt is just the second horse to win the esteemed Triple Crown since 1978, with the great American Pharoah the most recent to complete the sweep in 2015.
"I think, like all of us, we need Justify to wake up on the wrong side of the bed to have a chance," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of fellow starters Vino Rosso and Noble Indy, before the race.
Footsteps of Pharoah
For Baffert, victory for Justify sees him become the second trainer ever to have two Triple Crown horses to his name.
"This horse is starting to act like Pharoah," said Baffert of Justify, which recently became the first Derby winner in 136 years that did not to race as a two-year-old.
"I think I see a lot of resemblance in these two, the way they move ... When I worked him after the Preakness, American Pharoah, when he would breathe, he was like he was a machine. And this horse is getting there."
The story so far
Justify, ridden by 52-year-old Mike Smith, won a rain-soaked Kentucky Derby ahead of Good Magic in May, before handing Baffert a record-equaling 14th race win in the second of the three Triple Crown events at the Preakness just two weeks later.
While each of the three races date back to the second half of the nineteenth century, the concept of the Triple Crown wasn't conceived until several decades later.
Gallant Fox became the first horse to popularize the term with his success in 1930, although it was Sir Barton in 1919 that first won the three races in the same year.
American Pharoah's 2015 victory put an end to a 37-year Triple Crown drought -- a period that saw 13 horses fall short at the Belmont.