The time has come for Justify to prove whether he's got what it takes to win the 2018 Belmont Stakes and thus the Triple Crown, an accolade only 12 other horses in history have achieved.
The three-year-old has already accumulated major purse winnings with victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but much larger plaudits await him if he can triumph at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, on Saturday.
Trainer Bob Baffert could also become just the second trainer to win the Triple Crown more than once, having already scooped the series with American Pharoah in 2015. What's more, he can do it in two years fewer than Jim Fitzsimmons, who won with Gallant Fox and Omaha in 1930 and 1935, respectively.
As was the case last year, runners will compete for their share of the total $1.5 million prize money purse, with the winner claiming $800,000 of that and $280,000 going to the runner-up.
OddsShark provided a breakdown of the 2018 Belmont Stakes odds:
Here's a look at the potential Vegas odds payouts ahead of the 2018 Belmont Stakes based on those odds:
- Justify: $100 at 4-5 would return winnings of $80
- Hofburg: $100 at 4-1 would return winnings of $400
- Bravazo: $100 at 7-1 would return winnings of $700
- Vino Rosso: $100 at 9-1 would return winnings of $900
- Tenfold: $100 at 10-1 would return winnings of $1,000
- Blended Citizen: $100 at 12-1 would return winnings of $1,200
- Gronkowski: $100 at 25-1 would return winnings of $2,500
- Noble Indy: $100 at 33-1 would return winnings of $3,300
- Free Drop Billy: $100 at 50-1 would return winnings of $5,000
Justify Jostling for Vindication
Weeks of buildup and anticipation will culminate in one final shot at the biggest prize in American horse racing for Justify, and he'll get a good sight at an early lead as he starts at the rail (6:46 p.m. ET/11:46 p.m. BST).
Twenty-three horses have previously won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before failing to convert at Belmont Park, the most recent being California Chrome in 2014.
Three years from American Pharoah's rampage through the American series, another Baffert colt is back in contention despite showing some concern over his stamina with his Preakness victory, via NBC Sports:
It was Bravazo who battled back in an attempt to snatch Justify's win, but he fell just short at Pimlico three weeks ago. The D. Wayne Lucas-trained horse is back in the field to challenge him again.
Jockey Mike Smith has now won the Kentucky, Preakness and Belmont Stakes twice apiece, but this is his first time winning more than one in a single year.
Speaking at Churchill Downs, Baffert suggested the mood around his camp was calm:
Justify's imperious form in recent weeks has led to suggestions he could pull it off at Elmont on Saturday. His cause has been further helped after WinStar Farm opted to pull potential contender Audible—WinStar also owns Justify.
It's hard to see who in the field could genuinely challenge Baffert's headliner, although one high-value pick could be Gronkowski, whom Digital Rob of OddsShark noted has an oddly coincidental chance of winning:
This will be Gronkowski's first taste of American horse racing, and what an event to make one's debut in, although he's no sleeper after winning his last four races in England.
Inclement weather conditions have already proved no trouble for Justify, and even a deluge in New York this Saturday shouldn't stop him from posting a powerful performance with the Triple Crown almost within touching distance.