Horse racing waited 37 years for a Triple Crown winner before American Pharoah seized all three races in 2015. Justify can prevent another drought by finishing his sweep at Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
The favorite at Churchill Downs and Pimlico Race Course is again the colt to beat at Belmont Park. OddsShark pegs Scat Daddy's son as the considerable favorite, but Hofburg and Preakness runner-up Bravazo could prevent Justify from joining a dozen other Triple Crown champions in the record books.
While the betting odds are in his favor, Justify must overcome fatigue that has befallen past candidates who won the opening two legs. Let's break down the field to appraise his chances.
2018 Belmont Stakes Field
Post — Horse (Jockey; Trainer; Odds)
1 — Justify (Mike Smith; Bob Baffert; 10-11)
2 — Free Drop Billy (Robby Albarado; Dale Romans; 30-1)
3 — Bravazo (Luis Saez; D. Wayne Lukas; 15-2)
4 — Hofburg (Irad Ortiz; William Mott; 9-2)
5 — Restoring Hope (Florent Geroux; Bob Baffert; 33-1)
6 — Gronkowski (Jose Ortiz; Chad Brown; 25-1)
7 — Tenfold (Ricardo Santana Jr.; Steven Asmussen; 10-1)
8 — Vino Rosso (John Velazquez; Todd Pletcher; 9-1)
9 — Noble Indy (Javier Castellano; Todd Pletcher; 28-1)
10 — Blended Citizen (Kyle Frey; Doug O'Neill; 18-1)
It's not rare to enter Belmont with Triple Crown aspirations intact. Between Affirmed and American Pharoah's triumphs, 12 Derby and Preakness winners fell short on the last stage.
No horse is accustomed to racing three times in six weeks, which is why Bravazo is Justify's only Belmont competitor who will run at all three events, the last of which spans 1.5 miles.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who oversaw American Pharoah's Triple Crown success, discussed handling Belmont's extended track, per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press.
"If you're a superior horse, you can do it," Baffert said after Justify's Preakness victory. "I've seen horses go a mile-and-a-half and they never won again. It's a weird, quirky race, but I don't see why though he wouldn't handle it."
Justify has especially worked a busy schedule. This will mark his sixth race—he remains undefeated—since debuting on Feb. 18. He also may have to navigate another messy track, as the forecast anticipates rain at the New York park.
Following a dominant Derby display, he preserved a narrow Preakness win with little room to spare. Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun said Justify "looked worn out" down the closing stretch. A strong start from the gate becomes even more essential after drawing the No. 1 post position, which could box Justify into the rail without a clean break.
He at least has the guidance of jockey Mike Smith, who seeks his third Belmont victory in his 15th appearance. There are nonetheless too many obstacles to bet on the overwhelming favorite finishing in first again.
In just his fourth start, Tenfold garnered notoriety with a third-place Preakness finish. Per Horse Racing Nation's Jonathan Lintner, trainer Steven Asmussen discussed his horse's rising stock.
"I think his Preakness solidified his quality, and the fact that he's continued to train well since has a lot of people talking about him that weren't before," Asmussen said.
Asmussen also oversaw a runner-up showing for his sire, Curlin, at 2007's Belmont Stakes after winning the Preakness. Tenfold has the lineage and distance running to handle the 12 furlongs, making him a top contender to once again settle into the top three.
After finishing seventh at Churchill Downs, Hall of Fame trainer William Mott kept Hofburg out of the Preakness to prepare for this Saturday. Despite the rough Derby outcome, he's a prominent contender behind Mott and jockey Irad Ortiz, who steered Creator to a 2016 Belmont win.
Hofburg's brothers have flourished on the dirt course; three of Belmont's last four winners were also sired by Tapit. The No. 4 post should help the strong closer gain a better start and derail Justify's Triple Crown bid.