Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Justify owner Walden sees Baffert as maybe best all time

Gronkowski finished second in the race.

Luis Saez-ridden Bravazo almost ran down a fading Justify in the final yards of the Preakness before finishing second, a half-length behind.

Justify trains on the main track in preparation for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Justify's victory gives racing its second Triple Crown victor of the decade.

Justify established his dominance right from the start this year by winning his first three races by a combined 19 lengths. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

Meanwhile, it looks like Justify will have to win his first Triple Crown race on a fast track.

He was the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a two-year-old.

But Baffert also called Justify one of the all-time greats.

Some clues might come from how trainer Bob Baffert handled American Pharoah, who got a bit of a break after winning the Triple Crown in 2015 and returned to the track on August 2 to win the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

His days now are spent staying in shape with a rigorous workout schedule that keeps him in top condition to use his vast experience in handling the best horses in the business. "I think it's paying off now in the later years", he told the Post. I really believe that.

"He was showing me the same signs (as American Pharoah)", Baffert said of Justify.

The throughbred's accomplishment marks the second horse to win the elusive three races in three years, as American Pharoah also took home the tile in 2015.

"Our focus was on each race as it came up, and now we can take a deep breath and just see how the horse is, " Walden said.

"I haven't sat down with Elliott or anything", he said. It was a different vibe than 2015, when he admittedly felt pressure to win with American Pharoah.

Justify became the second undefeated Triple Crown victor after Seattle Slew in 1977, finishing first in a field of 10.

The Triple Crown is the rarest of all feats on the North American sports ledger.

Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses.

Gronkowski had never raced on dirt, had never raced farther than a mile, qualified but didn't run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) because he spiked a fever, switched trainers before the race, and only had two published works ahead of the most hard start of his career. After not racing as a 2-year-old, Justify has made up for lost time. After standing quietly while his nine rivals were loaded, Justify blasted out of the gate as if on a spring.

Concern over Justify's No. 1 position was eliminated right away, as Smith recalled the start.

At the age of 52, Smith, a devout Christian, is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown.

"I wanted to see that horse's name up there (with the other greats) because we know he was brilliant from day one", Baffert said.

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