Bob Baffert-Trained Restoring Hope Accused of Being Justify's 'Bodyguard'

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2018

Justify, right, ridden by Mike Smith, leads the field around the far turn during the Belmont Stakes horse race, Saturday, June 9, 2018, at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Justify won the race, to claim horse racing's Triple Crown (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Justify completed his Triple Crown with a win at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, but trainer Bob Baffert might have given him an assist with his other horse in the race.

Both Justify and Restoring Hope were trained by Baffert, and the latter played a big role in Saturday's outcome by breaking out into second place and blocking other horses.

"It baffled me," Mike Repole, who owns fellow competitors Vino Rosso and Noble Indy, said, per David Grening of Daily Racing Form. "I would have thought Baffert would have wanted Restoring Hope nowhere close to the pace. When Geroux broke next to last I would have thought that was a great scenario, he doesn't have to worry about him. We watched him rush up like he was a Quarter Horse, make a quick right-hand turn, then turn left, pinned [Bravazo] on the rail.

"He looked like a bodyguard making sure nobody got close to Justify."

Restoring Hope finished in eighth place out of 10 horses, while Justify won the race.

John Velazquez, who finished in fourth place on Vino Rosso, also saw the move as questionable.

"Why would you send a horse that breaks bad and take everybody out, then come back in?" the jockey questioned. "That's his job, to protect the other horse and it worked for them. You have to give it to them."

Meanwhile, if Restoring Hope really was there only to help complete the Triple Crown, it was news to his owner. Gary West was upset at the decision-making of jockey Florent Geroux after the run.

"I have no earthly idea what Florent was thinking or what his race strategy was," West said, per Tom Pedulla of the New York Post. "Had I known better, the first eighth of a mile I would have thought it was a quarter-horse race, not the mile-and-a-half Belmont. Maybe the horse was completely out of control and Florent had no choice. I will never know."

Restoring Hope didn't compete in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes and was one of the biggest long shots in the field at 33-1, per OddsShark.

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