What Justify just accomplished is unreal. Truly an amazing thing. I was actually present for his second career win at Santa Anita, and I wish I had known then what I was witnessing. At the time, the idea that he could win the Kentucky Derby, never mind the Triple Crown, was some place far off in the back of my mind. I just felt it would be too much for a horse that didn’t debut until February. Others saw it right away. I did not. And as a bettor, that cost me.
Now, for the Belmont. I have no problem with the obvious team tactics employed by Baffert. Using Restoring Hope the way they did was perfectly legal, although I wonder how Gary West feels. I don’t necessarily think the way the race unfolded taints Justify’s Triple Crown win, but it definitely adds to the story. Not quite an asterisk. But maybe just another element. My opinion is that the way the jockeys rode the race essentially handed Justify the Triple Crown. This goes for all of them. No rules were broken. Nothing happened under the cover of darkness. But Justify had everything handed to him on a silver platter and he was good enough not to blow it. Period. I mean, be reasonable here. If Noble Indy pulls up alongside Justify and forces Justify to fight for the first six furlongs, can’t you see Gronkowski passing him late? I sure can. So when people tell the story of Justify to their grandkids, they’ll say he did an incredible thing that no horse had ever come close to doing before and when he won the Triple Crown, he had help. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing illegal. No asterisk. Just a few extra words.
I also don’t think he’ll ever race again. The only point would be to let him try to beat older horses, and while I don’t think the handicap division is all that tough, I think he’ll need to raise his game to beat…..well I’m not sure who, actually. I just don’t think he’ll race again. No point. I highly doubt he’d get the same dream trips he’s been getting in the big Grade 1s against open company. I mean, the one time he faced a fight he almost lost to Bravazo.
I’m not anti-Justify. If it sounds that way, it shouldn’t. I can respect special accomplishments, even if they cost me money. The story is what it is, and I suspect it’s a story that is over.