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

 

Baffert sweeps Grade 1 two-year-old races at Los Alamitos

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert swept the CashCall Futurity and Starlet for 2-year-olds, winning the Grade 1 races for the second straight year at Los Alamitos.

Improbable won the $300,345 Futurity by five lengths as the 1-5 favorite and 3-2 favorite Chasing Yesterday won the $300,345 Starlet by a head on Saturday. Drayden Van Dyke became the second jockey to win both races in the same year.

Baffert earned his fifth straight victory in the Futurity and his 11th overall, having won it six times at old Hollywood Park.

Improbable ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.18 and paid $2.40 to win. The colt’s ownership includes most of the group that owned Triple Crown winner Justify.

In the Starlet, Chasing Yesterday ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.59 and paid $5 to win. She is a half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert.

Victor Espinoza aims for January comeback

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza is aiming to return to riding in January, six months after he was seriously injured in a training accident.

The 46-year-old rider says he had an MRI recently and “it came out perfect.” Espinoza says he doesn’t need surgery and his spinal cord has healed “perfectly,” which was his main concern.

He fractured a vertebra in his neck at Del Mar last July when the horse he was exercising fell.

Espinoza was back at Del Mar on Saturday for the first time since the accident. He presented the trophy to the winning connections in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He has been recuperating at his Del Mar home.

Espinoza says he hopes to return sometime in January at Santa Anita. The track opens its winter meet on Dec. 26.

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