2018 Belmont Stakes: Justify wins Belmont to earn 13th Triple Crown in history

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Justify raced into history Saturday, becoming the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown as he finished first in the 150th Belmont Stakes.

The chestnut colt, jockeyed by Mike Smith, paced the group all race long, eventually pulling away in the closing moments for a wire-to-wire win. Gronkowski was the runner up and Hofburg finished third.

WATCH: JUSTIFY CLAIMS 13TH TRIPLE CROWN

“This horse ran a tremendous race,” an emotional Smith said afterward. “He’s so gifted. He’s sent from heaven, it’s just amazing. I can’t describe the emotions going through my body right now. ”

The victory marks the second time trainer Bob Baffert has accomplished the historic feat in five tries, as he also trained the most recent Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah in 2015. The win also keeps Justify’s undefeated record in tact.

“It’s very emotional for me,” Baffert said , noting the early signs he saw from his horse that a Triple Crown was possible. “He was showing me the same signs [as American Pharoah]. He was showing me that brilliance, [a] superior horse. He could have won every race on the under card today, he’s just that kind of horse.”

The victorious thoroughbred was able to take home the victory from post No. 1, a position Baffert has said previously that he prefers to avoid. Overcoming the unenviable spot added Justify to a list of Triple Crown winners Citation, Assault, Gallant Fox and Sir Barton who have won from No. 1.

With a new entry, here’s the full list of Triple Crown winners:

2018 – Justify

2015 – American Pharoah

1978 – Affirmed

1977 – Seattle Slew

1973 – Secretariat

1948 – Citation

1946 – Assault

1943 – Count Fleet

1941 – Whirlaway

1937 – War Admiral

1935 – Omaha

1930 – Gallant Fox

1919 – Sir Barton

 

Victor Espinoza plans comeback in late December

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza is planning a comeback in late December after fracturing a vertebra in his neck during a training accident at Del Mar.

That’s according to his agent Brian Beach, who says Friday that Espinoza saw his doctors this week and they are pleased with his progress. However, they’re not yet ready to release the 46-year-old Hall of Fame jockey to ride again.

Beach says on his Twitter account that Espinoza “wants to be 100 percent when he comes back.”

A late December return would allow Espinoza to ride at Santa Anita, which opens its winter-spring meet on Dec. 26.

Espinoza got hurt July 22 when he fell while exercising a horse.

He rode American Pharoah to a Triple Crown sweep in 2015.

Vale Dori scores upset win for Baffert in Zenyatta Stakes

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Vale Dori defeated La Force by three-quarters of a length to win the $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes in an upset at Santa Anita on Sunday.

Abel Tasman, the 1-9 favorite trained by Bob Baffert, finished next-to-last, beaten 10 1/2 lengths. Vale Dori, an 11-1 shot also trained by Baffert, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.88 under Joe Talamo. The Grade 1 victory earned her an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.

Vale Dori snapped a six-race skid.

Bettors waged $474,683 to show on Abel Tasman, who was fresh off a pair of Grade 1 victories in New York under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. But she broke poorly from the starting gate and never fired.

“I’m as shocked as everybody else, but they’ll do that,” Baffert said. “I’m worried about (Abel Tasman) because Mike said she was lethargic, and she’s up there where all these sick horses are, so I hope she’s not getting sick.”

Vale Dori returned $24.60, $13.20 and $40.60. She earned $180,000, and increased her career earnings to $1,365,567.

La Force paid $8.40 and $14.60. Shenandoah Queen was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $26.60 to show.