CRAWFORD | Justify shows a playful side the morning after Triple Crown victory
The morning after winning the Triple Crown, it was a far more sociable Justify that played with reporters and his trainers at Belmont Park.
ELMONT, N.Y. (WDRB) — The morning after winning the Triple Crown, Justify showed he can put on a different kind of show.
NBC’s Today Show shot a live segment at the barn, and like his predecessor, American Pharoah, Justify calmly stood while trainer Bob Baffert was interviewed. But he went Pharoah one better, actually completing a “walk-and-talk,” albeit without the talk.
He posed for cameras. He calmly walked along the edge of a throng of reporters and photographers who took turns patting his head.
“He was tired last night,” Baffert said. “When we got back to the barn, he was real rambunctious. But people still kept coming up to him, and finally he just gave up and it was, ‘OK. All right. Come on up.’ He just gave in.”
He was still in a giving mood Sunday morning as he tried to lick cameras and even take a bite out of the garland of carnations he received for winning the Belmont.
From a horse who hasn’t been paraded much for public view, the change in demeanor has been remarkable. American Pharoah arrived in Kentucky for his Triple Crown quest already a gentle, social animal.
Justify didn’t get around people too much. Baffert said, “You can love on him for about four seconds, then he’s had enough.”
That appears to have changed. And an even more important change in temperament was on display before Saturday’s race.
“I cannot believe the way he walked in the paddock,” Baffert said. “I was watching all the other horses leaving the receiving barn and they were skittish. He walked in like King Kong, like he’d been there. He’s really intelligent and just a smart, smart horse. And he knows when to turn it on.”
Now, he’s learning to turn on the charm a little bit.
To celebrate, Baffert went to a local restaurant, King Umberto’s, where they spelled out “Triple Crown” with pepperoni on pizzas.
“Every time we come here, we go to King Umberto’s,” Baffert said. “It’s one of the things you do. They were excited to see us. A lot of selfies and pictures, but that’s fun. It’s all part of it. I was supposed to go there after Pharoah but we got so tired we couldn’t make it.”
Baffert said he was struck on Saturday by the air of expectation in the crowd.
“It was like that with Pharoah, people came here and knew he was going to get it,” Baffert said. “There were no hecklers. Even (son) Bode was disappointed. . . . But people came out to see a real stud run around there.”
Now, of course, the question turns to whether Justify’s stud career will begin immediately, or whether he might run another race or two. Baffert said he hasn’t been part of any such discussions, but his inclination, as a trainer, is of course to race him a little more.
“Do I wan to race him?” Baffert responded to a question. “Yeah, as long as he’s doing well.”
For now, Baffert said he’ll take a moment to think about the whirlwind.
“It was the longest but quickest journey we’ve ever been on,” he said. “From his first out, in 111 days we won six races. He did it. He’s one of the best I’ve ever had.”
Baffert was scheduled to leave New York Sunday morning. Justify, who will get the week off, is scheduled to leave Monday morning to return to his stall in Baffert’s Barn No. 33 at Churchill Downs.
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