2018 Belmont Stakes Results
Race name: Belmont Stakes
Off at: 6:51 pm ET Race Type: Stakes
Age Restriction: Three Year Olds
Distance: One and one half miles on the dirt
Track condition: Fast Winning time: 2:28.18
Winning Breeder: John D. Gunther
Winning Owner: China Horse Club, WinStar Farm, Starlight Racing, Head of Plains Partners
Winning Trainer: Bob Baffert
Winning Jockey: Mike Smith
Horse number Horse name Win Place Show
1 Justify 3.60 3.50 2.80
6 Gronkowski 13.80 7.00
4 Hofburg 3.70
$2 exacta 1-6 $89.00
$1 trifecta 1-6-4 $114.87
$1 superfecta 1-6-4-8 $1051.50
Complete order of finish
4 Vino Rosso
7 Free Drop Billy
8 Restoring Hope
9 Blended Citizen
10 Noble Indy
There is little doubt after that race about several things. Justify is great. Many, including me, strongly suspected it, but now we know it without question. Bob Baffert is the greatest trainer we have seen. A record number of Triple Crown wins. Two Triple Crowns in four years in an era where winning has never been harder. And there is no better rider in big races than Mike Smith. He's cool and collected when most people would be freaking out, and he has a freakish understanding of pace and when a horse can be asked. When a great horse comes together with a truly great jockey and the greatest trainer magic is more than likely to happen, and it certainly did today.
I was a nervous wreck heading into the race. For hours before I was not at all a joy to be around — as my wife and son can surely attest to. I kept telling myself, though, that is he was in the lead after six furlongs and they had run in 1:20.50 or slower then the race was his. He just needed to break fast. Well, he exploded after the gate, and incredibly he was allowed to run free on the lead. The first quarter was a bit fast, but when the six furlong time flashed up at 1:13.21 — essentially a walk for a horse like him — I screamed. I was in shock that that was the time, and in awe that I was about to see the second Triple Crown winner in four years. The second half of the race was just an inevitability. Smith urged him a bit entering the stretch, but the horse was never challenged, and never truly asked to run. If he had had to look a horse in the eye he surely had another gear in reserve. This was a true champion putting on a tour de force showing at the end of an incredible run. I mean, just 111 days ago the horse had never run a race, and now he is a Triple Crown winner. THat can't be fiction because no one would believe it if it was written.
Gronkowski, the horse named after the player, deserves a lot of credit — far more than I thought I would be giving him. He was miles back early, but closed strong and wound up a convincing second. Before people get crazy, though — no, he wasn't going to beat Justify if he got a better start. That horse gave it all to get to second, and Justify had plenty left to give. But in a race that he was barely even an afterthought he ran one heck of a race.
Hofburg was solid in third, and proved that he was mostly worthy of the praise he got heading into the race as the second choice. He just wasn't quite ready for prime tie, though. Look for him down the road, though.
But 2018 is the year of Justify. And deservedly so. I have been a huge Bob Baffert fan for a long time — since Cavonnier made a nice move to finish second in the 1996 Derby with me in attendance. I've felt deep love for many of his horses — from Silver Charm up to Arrogate, with many stops in between. But in the hours and days after the Preakness when people were doubting this horse and questioning whether he had anything more to give, I realized that I loved this horse more than any other Baffert runner, and that he was right up there with Cigar and Curlin in my pantheon of all-time favorites. And with this outing he, if you will excuse the pun, justified every bit of my affection. We saw something today that will stand the test of time.