Justify draws No. 1 post for Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK — Something Bob Baffert always dreads has come true ahead of the Belmont Stakes: Justify drew the No. 1 post for the colt’s bid to sweep the Triple Crown.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was made the early 4-5 favorite in the 10-horse field for Saturday’s race.

Baffert is not a fan of the inside post for his horses, no matter what the race.

“I never do like to draw the rail, but my horses seem to live in it,” he said Tuesday at Citi Field before throwing out the first pitch at the Orioles-Mets game. “We have it, we can’t change it. We’ll deal with it.”

Justify won the first two legs of the series from the No. 7 post. He ran on sloppy tracks both times and the forecast for Saturday calls for a 60 percent chance of rain.

This time the No. 7 hole went to Tenfold. The colt was a fast-closing third in the Preakness and is 12-1 for the Belmont.

Hofburg was made the 9-2 second choice. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the colt finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness.

The only other horses with single-digit odds are Preakness runner-up Bravazo and Vino Rosso, both at 8-1. Vino Rosso finished ninth in the Derby and didn’t run in the Preakness.

Justify and Bravazo, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, are the only two horses that will have run in all three Triple Crown races. Bravazo was sixth in the Derby and came running late to finish a half-length behind Justify in the Preakness.

Gronkowski is a 12-1 long shot, no doubt attractive odds for his part-owner Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots tight end. He and teammate Tom Brady have wagered together at the Derby in past years.

The Britain-based colt is a newcomer to the Triple Crown trail. He got sick and missed the Derby and has been waiting to make his U.S. debut in the grueling Belmont.

The field for the 150th Belmont in post position order with jockeys and odds: Justify, Mike Smith, 4-5; Free Drop Billy, Robby Albarado, 30-1; Bravazo, Luis Saez, 8-1; Hofburg, Irad Ortiz Jr., 9-2; Restoring Hope, Florent Geroux, 30-1; Gronkowski, Jose Ortiz, 12-1; Tenfold, Ricardo Santana Jr., 12-1; Vino Rosso, John Velazquez, 8-1; Noble Indy, Javier Castellano, 30-1; Blended Citizen, Kyle Frey, 15-1.

Pegasus on Jan. 28, Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Gulfstream Park announced the schedule for the 2022-23 Championship Meet, highlighted by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28.

Also on Pegasus day: The $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, as well as the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Gulfstream’s top Kentucky Derby prep race, the $1 million Florida Derby, will be run on April 1 as part of a card with 10 stakes races. Other top 3-year-old preps at Gulfstream in early 2023 include the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1, the $250,000 Holy Bull on Feb. 4 and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on March 4.

The Pegasus is returning for a seventh time. The format has changed several times in the race’s infancy; the purse structure for the Pegasus World Cup no longer requires owners to put up $1 million apiece for a spot in the starting gate for what was, at its inception, the world’s richest race with a purse that reached $16 million.

This much has remained constant: Winning the Pegasus changes a horse’s resume. No Pegasus winner has ever finished worse than sixth in the yearlong earnings among North American horses, and two past winners – Arrogate and Gun Runner – are two of the three highest-earning thoroughbreds in U.S. history.

Gulfstream’s Championship Meet runs from Dec. 26 through April 2, featuring 60 stakes races, 35 of them graded, and worth a combined $13.6 million.

Stradivarius, 3-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, retired to stud

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LONDON – Stradivarius, one of the most famous racehorses in Britain and Ireland after winning the Gold Cup at Ascot three times, has been retired to stud.

Bjorn Nielsen, the owner of Stradivarius, said he felt it would be unfair to make the horse come back next season as a 9-year-old after time away with a bruised foot.

“It has been a fairytale from start to finish,” Nielsen told British newspaper The Racing Post.

Stradivarius, bred in Ireland and the son of Sea The Stars, won 20 of his 35 races – including seven Group One races – and earned almost 3.5 million pounds (now $3.8 million) in prize money.

Stradivarius won four Goodwood Cups, three Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.