CRAWFORD | Five reasons Justify will win the Triple Crown
Eric Crawford on why he thinks Justify will win the Belmont Stakes -- and Triple Crown.
ELMONT, N.Y. (WDRB) — So here we go again. Four years ago I told you why California Chrome wouldn’t win the Triple Crown, and he didn’t. Three years ago I told you why American Pharoah would win the Triple Crown, and he did.
What does that mean? It means I’m due to flop with my latest Triple Crown call.
Bob Baffert’s unbeaten colt Justify has energized the skeptics. They watched his near-loss in the Preakness and figure somebody will finish him off in the Belmont. They might well do just that. Two more jumps in the Preakness and we might not even be here. We’d be talking about how D. Wayne Lukas won his 15th Triple Crown race at 82.
Bravazo is back for the Belmont. Maybe we wind up revisiting that story today.
But I don’t think so. Either Justify has been incredibly fortunate, was superior on off tracks to his competition, and is in for a letdown at the Belmont, or he is incredibly talented, and despite his relative lack of “buzz,” deserves to be considered among the greats as the 13th Triple Crown winner.
My bet: Justify does deserve this.
Five reasons why:
1. HE LIKES THE LEAD. The No. 1 post is not Baffert’s preferred position for this race, but the rail in the Belmont isn’t the crush that it would be in the Kentucky Derby, and for a colt that Baffert is likely to send to the lead from the outset anyway, it doesn’t seem to me a major detriment. Gate-to-wire is the best way to do it in the Belmont. American Pharoah managed it for the most part, though he started slowly and actually took a step back in the gate, then had superior talent and let it go.
2. DRY LAND. The last time we saw Justify run on a dry track, he put up the biggest speed figure of any 3-year-old this season with a 114 in the Santa Anita Derby. “You think he’s been fast so far?” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes asked reporters outside Baffert’s barn a couple of weeks ago. “Wait till you see him on dry ground.”
3. TRAINING ATTITUDE. Justify hasn’t been on the track yet that he didn’t want to go faster. His first work after winning the Preakness was more than a second faster than American Pharoah’s. Even his next-to-last gallop, at Belmont Park, was quicker than a lot of gallops.
4. BAD LUCK. He’s overcome a lot of it. He had surgery as a one year old. He pulled a muscle as a 2-year-old. He had a bruised heel after the Kentucky Derby. He had a slick, ridiculously sloppy track in the Preakness. With the sun out and a clear day in front of him, he is due for some good luck.
5. THE CONFIDENCE OF BAFFERT. Maybe he’s just putting on a show, but Baffert seems genuinely sure that if his horse runs his best race, they’re not going to beat him. Now, maybe Justify isn’t that good. If he’s not, we’ll find out. But maybe he’s that good. At the moment, based on what we’ve seen, he’s the one out there that looks like he could be dominant. Not a single competitor in this race has won a Grade 1 stakes race this year. Justify has won three in a row. I’m betting that what he’s done in the past couple of months hasn’t been a fluke.
Things can go wrong. California Chrome, contrary to my prediction, was every bit good enough to win a Triple Crown, but his foot got stepped on in the gate and that slowed him down, perhaps costing him that place in history. Anything can happen. Maybe there’s more bad luck for Justify. It’s a horse race. You never know.
But this is my feeling. Justify wins.
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