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Cabo’s Rumor First Stakes Winner for Amanecer de Oro

By BloodHorse Staff

 

Colt also represented first winner for his sire.

Northpointe Thoroughbreds’ homebred Cabo’s Rumor wore down rivals in the final furlong and drew off for a three-length victory in the $60,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Stakes at Louisiana Downs Aug. 4 to become the first winner and first black-type winner for his sire, Amanecer de Oro.

Sent off at 9-1 odds in the eight-horse field, Cabo’s Rumor stalked the early pace from the outside in fifth and fourth through fractions of :22.59 and :45.23 and steadily advanced on the turn. The 2-year-old bay colt responded when set down for the drive by jockey Emanuel  Nieves and covered the six-furlong distance in 1:13.01 over a track rated fast.

Trained by Steven Duke, Cabo’s Rumor was making his fourth career start. Out of the Kafwain mare The Rumor’s True, Cabo’s Rumor broke his maiden at second asking June 18 at Louisiana Downs.

Amanecer de Oro was a multiple stakes winner, with all his black-type victories coming in the state of Louisiana. The son of Afternoon Deelites retired with seven wins from 31 starts and $401,193 in earnings. He is a half brother to stakes winners Dynamic Time and Tactical Brush.

Amanecer de Oro stood the 2018 season at Holly Hill Farm in Louisiana for an advertised fee of $1,250. He has two starters from his first crop of racing age.

Illinois Racing Board Moves Ahead on Historical Racing

Board accepted report that defines historical horse racing as pari-mutuel.

The Illinois Racing Board agreed at its July 26 meeting to move forward with planning for implementation of wagering on historical horse racing terminals through the state’s three remaining racetracks.

Without objection, the full board accepted a report from a committee headed by commissioner Thomas McCauley that found historical horse racing is pari-mutuel wagering, as defined under Illinois law, and could be implemented without legislative action.

By accepting the report, the board also agreed that staff “be directed to draft suggested rules to be considered by the board, whereby organization licensees could lawfully and permissibly conduct historical horse racing.”

Before historical horse racing can become a reality, those rules would have to be approved by the IRB and the governor’s staff, then submitted to and approved by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. A court challenge also would be likely, as anti-gambling groups steadfastly oppose any expansion.

McCauley and chairman Jeffrey Brincat emphasized historical horse racing—a slot machine-like game with pari-mutuel pools and payouts based on results of previously run races—is the industry’s second choice to legislation that would authorize full casino gaming at tracks. A gaming expansion bill was left pending in Springfield, Ill., at the end of the spring legislative session but could be revived in the post-election veto session.

“Were that to happen, the HHR committee suspects that HHR might then be dropped for the much more lucrative games, which the casinos have,” McCauley said. “But that is speculation, and we have to deal with the reality that confronts us.”

Asked whether HHR rules might be ready to roll out in November, absent legislative action on gaming expansion, Brincat said he believes the process will be “expeditious.” But he warned delays are possible in a complicated legal and political environment.

Fairmount Park in downstate Collinsville, Ill., and Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago actively support the historical horse racing proposal. Arlington International Racecourse, the report noted, is neutral.

McCauley said the Illinois horse racing industry “is in a desperate economic condition. It is not hyperbolic to say that its viability is in doubt. Two of five tracks have closed in the last several years. The live dates of certain Thoroughbred race meetings have declined by 40% or more.”

The report noted that Illinois racing has not been allowed to compete with tracks that have gaming in nearby states.

“This may seem shocking at first blush,” the report said, “but for those of us who have witnessed the industry’s steady downward spiral, caused almost entirely by the state government’s refusal over the last 17 years to allow meaningful competition (with other states), that tragedy does not shock. Indeed, it undoubtedly was inevitable.”

Lagartijo is Real Solution’s First Winner

Real Solution
Real SolutionCourtesy Calumet Farm/ThoroStride

Won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden claimer by 3 1/4 lengths.

Blue Star Racing’s freshman sire and grade 1 winner Real Solution  picked up his first winner July 7 when his son Lagartijo won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden claiming race in his third start at Hipodromo de las Americas in Mexico City.

The colt out of the winning Danehill daughter Keeping Watch had been making steady progress since he debuted June 1, when he finished third, four lengths behind the winner. In his next start, Lagartijo was second by only a half-length. Then, in breaking his maiden, he won in near gate-to-wire fashion by 3 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:07.20 for owner Cuadra San Jorge.

Lagartijo is the fourth winner produced by Keeping Watch from four foals to race. The mare’s most recent trip through an auction was at the 2017 Keeneland January Winter Mixed Sale where Sycamore Shade Racing bought her for $10,000 in foal to Kitten’s Joy .

Ken and Sarah Ramsey bred Lagartijo in Kentucky. The Ramseys also bred and raced Real Solution, who won the Arlington Million Stakes (G1T) and Knob Creek Manhattan Stakes (G1T). Real Solution placed in the Man o’ War Stakes (G1T), Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (G1T), and Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (G1T).

The son of Kitten’s Joy entered stud at Ramsey Farm with $1,374,175 in earnings. After one breeding season, the stallion was transferred to Calumet Farm, where he stood two seasons before being shipped to Blue Star Racing in Louisiana. The stallion stands at Blue Star Racing for $5,000.

Goldencents, Apriority Get First Black-Type Winners

Pickett and Atchata won editions of the D.S. Shine Young Futurity July 14.

Spendthrift Farm’s Goldencents  was represented by his first black-type winner July 14 when his son Pickett scored a nine-length, gate-to-wire romp in the D.S. Shine Young Futurity for colts at Evangeline Downs.

Trained by Glenn Delahoussaye, the 2-year-old gelding broke sharply in the 5 1/2-furlong sprint, shook free from the rest of the pack as they hit the turn, and drew off in the stretch under a brisk drive to finish in 1:05.37.

Saturday’s win was the second for Pickett, who broke his maiden May 30 with an equally speedy 6 1/2-length win going 4 1/2 furlongs.

Goldencents, whose three grade 1 wins included consecutive Breeders’ Cup Dirt Miles, is the son of fellow Spendthrift stallion Into Mischief . The now 8-year-old horse broke his maiden on debut at Del Mar and competed in graded stakes races for the rest of his career.

Goldencents retired in 2014 with a record of 7-7-0 from 18 starts and career earnings of $3,044,000. His advertised fee for the 2018 breeding season was $12,500.

Also taking home the first black-type win for her sire Saturday was Atchata, a 2-year-old daughter of Apriority. Competing in the filly division of the D.S. Shine Young Futurity for Louisiana-breds, she dueled for the lead and kicked away in the lane to win by 6 1/2 lengths.

The win was the second in three starts for the bay filly, who debuted May 24 on grass for trainer Steve Asmussen. She finished third in that maiden special weight debut at Belmont Park. Atchata won next time out going six furlongs on the Belmont inner turf but was switched to the dirt for the Futurity.

Bred in Florida out of the Storm Bird mare Midway Squall, Apriority was his best at 4, when he won the Mr Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park for trainer David Fawkes. The Donald Dizney homebred started 36 times and retired at 7 with a record of 6-9-3 and earnings of $525,829.

The son of Grand Slam entered stud in 2015 at Elite Thoroughbreds in Louisiana, where he stands for a fee of $2,000.

Recovering Corey Lanerie Returns to Winner’s Circle

Jockey credits support of friends, family since June 22 death of his wife, Shantel.

By Jennie Rees, Ellis Park track publicist

Corey Lanerie rode at Ellis Park July 13 for the first time this summer, as the four-time meet titlist resumed riding regularly following the June 22 death of his wife, Shantel Lanerie.

With his third mount of the day, Lanerie was back in the winner’s circle for the fourth race, with track announcer Jimmy McNerney saying, “Hide the Honey with Corey Lanerie on her back, and an angel on his.”

“It feels great to be back riding, doing what I love,” Lanerie said before the first race. “Kind of get life moving forward again, because it’s hard. I think when I get back to riding, it will kind of get my mind freed and back to normal life. It’s going to be weird. I really don’t know what I’ll feel like out there. I actually rode last weekend, and it was pretty good. Once I get on the horse, I focus on the race and my job, whatever I have to do. I think I’ll go out there and do my job and just let it go as it is, and I think I’ll be fine.”

Lanerie rode in four stakes July 7 at Arlington International Racecourse near Chicago and came away with a pair of fourth-place finishes. Those were his first mounts since June 17.

Shantel was undergoing treatment for stage 1 breast cancer when she underwent emergency surgery for an infected colon June 21. She died the next day.

Lanerie wears an undershirt with “Fight with Shantel” on the collar embroidered in pink, as well as a bracelet.

“Before it happened, we’d ordered these shirts to ‘Fight with Shantel,’ so I’m going to just keep wearing them in honor of her,” he said. “The bracelet is the same thing. A bunch of us are wearing them, and we won’t forget her.”

The Laneries have a 10-year-old daughter, Brittlyn. Shantel and Brittlyn were regular fixtures at the racetrack, known for their splendid attire when Lanerie received an award or reached a milestone victory.

“There will be an empty spot for sure,” Lanerie said. “Because she supported me through thick and thin. She was there when I wasn’t doing any good and at my best moments.”

The jockey said his daughter is doing well. He said Brittlyn is with family in Louisiana and will be doing some traveling with close friends. But he acknowledged that facing life as a single parent is daunting.

“I think it’s sunken in,” he said. “Now I’m just scared of whatever the future has in store and whatever I’m going to have to do. I was lucky. She did everything, so it’s going to be a learning process for me. That’s kind of where I’m at, and I’m just going to take it day by day.

“It will be hard. With my career, to be honest, I don’t think I can do it as a single parent. I’m going to have to get some help. Shantel’s parents are going to come for a couple of weeks, and after that, my parents are going to come, my mom for sure, for at least three weeks, maybe a month so we can get Brittlyn settled in. Then I’m probably going to have to end up hiring a nanny or somebody. Because she likes to dance and all that, and to get her to and from practice with the hours I work, it just wouldn’t be possible.”

Lanerie said he greatly appreciates the outpouring from the racing community.

“The support and the family love has been great. Everybody has reached out to me and offered their help, anything they can do. We’re a big family here, and it really showed. A lot of people have stepped up and just gone above and beyond, just with phone calls and stuff to do. It was amazing, so heart-warming.”

Lanerie, a 43-year-old native of Lafayette, La., who has made Louisville home since moving to the Kentucky circuit in 2005, has won the last two Ellis Park training titles, as well as in 2013 (a tie with Roberto Morales) and 2010. The winner of more than 4,400 races, Lanerie is a 15-time meet leader at Churchill Downs.

Lanerie and Brittlyn were part of the award presentation when the jockey’s good friend Brian Hernandez Jr. was honored as leading rider for Churchill Downs’ spring meet. Hernandez held a one-win margin over Lanerie when Shantel was hospitalized on June 21.

“That was pretty special because Brian worked really hard and is a really good jockey,” Lanerie said. “He deserved to be leading rider. He came down (to Louisiana) for the wake. He was going to stay if I wanted him to, but I said, ‘If anybody is going to get it, Shantel would want you to have it. So go there and do what you do.'”

Lanerie said he made the decision to return to riding because “It’s not going to get any better. Life has to go on, and I figure the sooner we go and start doing things and trying to get normalcy back in our life, things will be better.”

Mott Reaches Settlement With NY In Medication Case

Four-year-old dispute over alleged positives changed how state handles samples.

 

Trainer Bill Mott has reached a court settlement with the New York State Gaming Commission after a nearly four-year legal battle concerning a disputed medication overage from September 2014.

Mott agreed to take a seven-day suspension, effective July 5-11, and pay a $1,000 fine to end the case, which began when Saratoga Snacks, a horse he trained, was found to have two alleged medication overages in tests conducted after an allowance race at Belmont Park on Sept. 20, 2014. The NYSGC originally imposed a 15-day sanction against Mott for overages of Banamine and Lasix that were for such excessive amounts that they seemed to defy logic.

Mott steadfastly claimed the testing, conducted by New York’s contract lab at Morrisville State College, was incorrect, and he was backed by testimony from the two veterinarians who administered medication to the horse the week of the race.

Further, Mott raised as a central issue the failure of the lab to provide him a sample of the horse’s blood (plasma) with which to do a “split sample” test at an independent laboratory. Mott sued state regulators and stewards, claiming he was denied his constitutional right to challenge the alleged overages. In subsequent testimony, evidence was introduced showing a continuing pattern of New York regulators denying samples to horsemen for split-sample testing for two decades. As a result of the Mott case, a new agreement was reached at the beginning of this year guaranteeing that a second dose of blood would be pulled from horses and kept in a separate refrigerator, making split samples available to horsemen who want to challenge called overages.

“A settlement doesn’t make either side happy,” said Drew Mollica, Mott’s attorney. “But Bill changed the way they do business by holding their feet to the fire. Split sampling is now in New York because of Bill Mott. Off all his accomplishments in his Hall of Fame career, this is his shining hour because he didn’t wage this battle for himself, but for other horsemen.

“We exposed the failure of the prior New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association administration, which let this due process travesty go on, knowing its membership was being prosecuted without the ability to challenge evidence.

“This case could have gone on another three or four years, and we believe in our hearts we would have won.”

Said Mott, “I settled this last week just to get the thing behind me. The testing was flawed, the overages were excessive, and we didn’t get the right to defend ourselves. That’s what the fight was about, them saying you had a right to a split sample when you really didn’t.

“I’ll take a few days away from training and do some work around the house. It’s good to get this behind me, and I’m hoping the horsemen’s group takes the initiative to work on these issues as a group instead of people having to do it individually.”

Atchata First Winner for Louisiana Sire Apriority

The 2-year-old filly broke her maiden June 15 in her second start.

Heiligbrodt’s Atchata overcame a stumble at the start to score by 1 1/2 lengths in a June 15 maiden special weight on the turf to become the first winner for freshman sire Apriority.

Despite the stumble, the 2-year-old filly settled just off the pace behind Too Foofoo for You, who took the field through a quarter-mile in :22.08. Coming off the turn in the six-furlong race, Atchata rolled to the front unchallenged and caught the timer at :44.77 for the half-mile. Pulling away in the stretch, she finished the distance in 1:08.75 over the firm turf course.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Atchata was purchased under Heiligbrodt’s East Hickman Racing for $85,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale, where Robert Brewer consigned her. She was bred in Louisiana by 4M Ranch out of the Stormy Atlantic  mare Sweet Jackie Jo.

Apriority raced from age 3 to 7 and won the 2011 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) as a 4-year-old. The son of Grand Slam retired with a record of 6-9-3 from 36 starts. Four of his second-place finishes were in stakes, including a nose difference in the 2011 Churchill Downs Stakes (G2). He also finished second to Morning Line  in that year’s Carter Handicap (G1).

Standing at Elite Thoroughbreds in Louisiana, Apriority has a 2018 stud fee of $2,000.

Victory Trip First Winner, Starter for Guilt Trip

The 2-year-old colt won by 7 3/4 lengths June 13.

 

Victory Trip went gate-to-wire June 13 to represent Guilt Trip‘s first winner from the stallion’s first starter.

Victory Trip, a 2-year-old colt bred by Terry Adcock in Louisiana, broke on top to set fractions of :23.06 and :46.71 through a half-mile and finished out the 4 1/2-furlong maiden test in a final time of :53.17 over a fast track.

With no challengers in the remaining field of four, Victory Trip sped to a 7 3/4-length score.

The colt was purchased at the 2017 Equine Sales of Louisiana yearling sale by his connections for $20,000. He is out of the Songandaprayer mare Anne Margaret.

Guilt Trip, a 9-year-old son of Pulpit, was campaigned by Gary and Mary West and trainers Chad Brown, Bob Baffert, and Wayne Catalano. After breaking his maiden in his second start with Brown and following it with an allowance-level score, he was unable to make the grade as a 3-year-old. But he returned the following year to take the Strub Stakes (G2) with Baffert.

Bred by Winsong Farm in Kentucky, Guilt Trip is out of the Quiet American mare Mysterieuse Etoile. From two crops the stallion has 67 registered foals to date.

Guilt Trip stands at Jay Adcock’s Red River Farms in Louisiana for $2,500.

Study Narrows Focus on How Furosemide Works

Learning how the medication works could lead to alternative treatments of EIPH.

A recently published study in Comparative Exercise Physiology found a relationship between the administration of the medication furosemide, used to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, and an enzyme that affects the pressure within the blood vessels in a horse’s lungs.

The relationship potentially points toward new avenues to explore regarding the treatment of EIPH in Thoroughbred racehorses.

The study, conducted at Gávea Racecourse in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, analyzed post-race blood samples from 73 horses over eight race days. Of the 73 horses, 47 had been treated with 250 mg of furosemide before their race and 26 were not medicated.

These samples were then tested for levels of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), a potent vasoconstrictor that when active contributes to higher blood pressure. Several studies have affirmed furosemide’s effectiveness in reducing incidences of EIPH, but how the diuretic drug actually works is still unknown. This study showed ACE activity was significantly reduced in the horses that had been treated with furosemide.

“Multiple regression analysis demonstrated that pre-race furosemide significantly influenced ACE activity post-race, while distance raced, temperature, humidity, and hematocrit did not,” the study concluded. “This is a novel finding which might impact on the search for the exact implications of furosemide use, and its effects on physiology and performance of Thoroughbred racehorses utilizing loop diuretics as treatments for EIPH.”

The horses used in this study were already stabled at Gávea and the treated horses were part of the racetrack’s established protocol on managing EIPH. At Gávea, a horse is entitled to pre-race furosemide if an official racetrack veterinarian has documented a bleeding episode through tracheobronchoscopy exam. A registered bleeder can receive furosemide four hours prior to post time and must continue to receive treatment for every race within 90 days from diagnosis. Horses that are younger than 3 1/2 years old are not allowed to receive pre-race furosemide, and any medicated horse is prohibited from competing in a group 1 or group 2 race.

While furosemide has proven to be the most effective method of reducing EIPH, the medication still does not entirely prevent its occurrence. In the Gávea study, 36.2% of the non-medicated horses showed some degree of post-race bleeding compared with 76.9% of the treated horses.

“This study confirms that, although furosemide might reduce EIPH severity after a single bout of exercise, it does not abolish or reduce its occurrence,” wrote the study’s authors. “This conclusion does not argue against the use of furosemide as a treatment for control of EIPH, but indicates the continuing need for better alternatives to limit the progressive and deleterious effects of repeated episodes of EIPH on the lungs of horses, and that further research into the possible role of renin-angiotensin aldosterone system components (like ACE) in developing new treatments is needed.”

The study was published by Dr. Maria Fernanda de Mello Costa, Dr. Fernanda Aparecida Ronchi, Dr. Yoonsuh Jung, Dr. A. Ivanow, Dr. Juliana Braga, Dr. M.T. Ramos, Dr. Dulce Elena Casarini; and Dr. Ronald F. Slocombe.

Justify 13th Triple Crown Winner After Belmont Victory

Undefeated chestnut set the pace and held off multiple challengers.

 

The trio of tests is designed to expose chinks in otherwise strong armor, missteps in well-thought-out game plans, holes that even those closest to the horse going through the gauntlet didn’t even know were there.

It is the whole reason the five-week exercise that is the American Triple Crown remains the most heralded achievement in a sport that counts its age in centuries—because unlike any other challenge, it separates those who almost can from the select few who refuse to be denied.

Since the start of his career 112 days ago, Justify has been jumping through hoops that horses with his experience, or lack thereof, should never be able to handle. He went from maiden winner to grade 1 victor to classic hero in just over 70 days. He went into a quagmire two weeks after shoving history aside on the first Saturday in May and emerged more tested and hardened than ever. He arrived in New York to try his hand in a race that has flattened horses whose plaques hang in the Hall of Fame, while only serving as a coronation on 12 exceptional occasions.

And so it was in the 150th edition of the final leg of the Triple Crown that the son of Scat Daddy, already deemed a prodigy, became racing’s newest living legend. At the end of a five-week odyssey logic says should have taxed his chestnut frame to detrimental levels and highlighted the foundation that was poured in at an accelerated rate, he managed to redefine what those of his ilk can achieve.

Three years after a Bob Baffert-trained freak ran right on through the most heavily guarded club in racing, the velvet rope dropped once more for another prodigy from the barn of the man who himself keeps raising his own ceiling on greatness. Justify, the horse who didn’t make his first start until Feb. 18 and, thus, should have cracked under the strain that has undone many of an all-timer before him, captured the June 9 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) by 1 3/4 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion over the Chad Brown-trained Gronkowski to become just the 13th horse in history to sweep the Triple Crown.

The list of barriers that have gone down since Justify first announced himself at Santa Anita Park are as notable as the colt’s unprecedented ascension into racing’s annals. When he captured the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), he became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to take the 10-furlong test without having raced as a 2-year-old. When he turned back Eclipse Award winner Good Magic in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and then held off late-running Bravazo to prevail by half a length, he gave his Hall of Fame conditioner what was then a record-tying 14th victory in a Triple Crown race and put himself in position to join Seattle Slew (1977) as the only undefeated horses to take all three classics.

In equaling Slew’s feat with a sublime triumph Saturday that never saw him get seriously tested, Justify not only gave Baffert his record-breaking 15th Triple Crown race win, he put the white-haired savant alongside the great “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons as the only trainers to condition two Triple Crown heroes, with Baffert also having guided American Pharoah , who famously ended the 37-year drought between feats in 2015.

Justify also provided his 52-year-old legendary jockey Mike Smith—pilot of such Hall of Famers as Zenyatta, Holy Bull, and Inside Information—the one accomplishment that was missing from his résumé.

“I’ve been through it and … if he was great, he was going to do it. And that’s what it’s about,” an emotional Baffert said of Justify. “To me, I wanted to see that horse, his name up there with the greats. If they’re great, they’re going to win the Triple Crown. It takes a great horse to win the Triple Crown.

“I don’t have to really compare (Justify and American Pharoah) because if they make it on that wall (of Triple Crown winners), that’s all you need to say.”

That Baffert has been dropping Justify’s name in the same breath as American Pharoah’s since his 2 1/2-length victory over juvenile champion Good Magic in the Kentucky Derby was a shot across the bow of what would be coming down the pike heading into Belmont Park‘ssignature 1 1/2-mile test.

Where American Pharoah proved the game hadn’t passed the current-day Thoroughbred by in terms of being able to thrive during the Triple Crown grind, Justify illustrated that superior talent can get a late start and still run every obstacle into the ground. In his first career outing, Justify set testing fractions of :21.80 and :44.37 and still drew off to win by 9 1/2 lengths going seven furlongs. That display of speed and stamina proved to be just the tip of the iceberg of what he was about to become.

Following an equally handy 6 1/2-length, optional-claiming allowance win March 11, Justify was in a progress-or-bust situation where his Kentucky Derby prospects were concerned. He needed a top-two finish in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (G1) to ensure himself a shot to make history beneath the Twin Spires. As has become his trademark, he took it to the more seasoned members of his class—besting multiple grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro by three lengths—in an effort Baffert didn’t even think was emblematic of the colt’s upside.

“When we came with this horse, when he won his second out, I was thinking, ‘I think this is a Derby horse. He could be a Triple Crown horse, man,'” Baffert said. “He just showed us that raw talent was there. He’s like a walk-on. He just came on there and he broke every curse there was. It was just meant to be.”

After chasing a hot pace in the Kentucky Derby and after Good Magic tried to put the heat on him in the Preakness, the only vulnerability anyone could come up with when forecasting a dismal Belmont scenario for Justify was if the strain of packing five races into just over 90 days hit him between the ears when he had to stretch himself for 12 furlongs over a track whose surface can sap form from even the fittest of runners.

Even before the field of 10 was drawn, that notion took a hit when the colt campaigned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, and Head of Plains Partners threw down a pair of impressive works at Churchill Downs—most notably a four-furlong sizzler in :46 4/5 May 29 that had a look of a horse going through a routine gallop.

When he leaped out of post 1 Saturday and began his devastating rhythm before he even reached the first turn, the gauntlet was effectively thrown down.

“I knew if I jumped out well, he’s just faster than they are,” Smith said. “He was about a neck to a head in front the first couple of jumps, so I was really happy with the way he got away from there.

“Some horses just stay on, or some just completely stay off. But he just listens to everything I say. Every time I want him to just take a breather, I just put my hands back down and he’d settle right back down. And if I wanted to squeeze him a little, he’ll jump right back again.”

Smith is savvy enough to know not to get in the way of a great horse doing his thing. Making his life even easier was the fact none of Justify’s nine rivals bothered to press his tactical speed.

With his stablemate Restoring Hope going wide around the first turn and moving into second position, and Bravazo settling in third, Justify ran the opening quarter in an honest :23.37 but was allowed to back things off a bit through a half-mile in :48.11. As Smith and his partner reached the final turn after clocking a mile in 1:38.09, the Todd Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso loomed to his outside just a half-length behind.

Where that challenger and the rest of his brethren were coming under a ride, however, Smith was still sitting in statue mode, yet to call upon all the gas in the tank.

“I just wanted to wait as long as I could before I really put the pedal to the metal,” Smith said. “He dug back in, and I felt at that point he would hold off anybody that was coming.”

“Down the backside, I figured it would be nearly impossible for (Justify) to get beat by anyone when I saw 1:13 and change (for three quarters),” Brown added. “I changed my mind a little at the quarter pole when I saw Gronkowski saved every bit of ground because … (jockey) Jose Ortiz gave me a million-dollar ride today.”

As Justify hit the top of the lane with history within his grasp, Gronkowksi—who was last in the early going, several lengths behind the field after breaking slowly from post 6—indeed tried to do what his stablemate Good Magic had done before him and inject some drama into the outcome. The son of Lonhro whipped up the inside rail in his first Stateside start and first try on dirt and came with a rally that in most years would have been good enough to make him a stunner of a classic hero.

This was no ordinary season, however. And Justify reaffirmed in the stretch he was no ordinary athlete. As the crowd provided an emphatic soundtrack befitting the achievement before them, the big red specimen dug in gamely to hit the wire in 2:28.18 over a fast track, with Gronkowski besting the Bill Mott-trained Hofburg by 1 3/4 lengths for place honors.

“It was no fault of Jose that the horse didn’t break well,” Brown said of Gronkowski. “From there, he got everything out of this horse. He did a great job for me. (Baffert) did a training job that is one of the greatest of all time. The pace might have been a little slow, but this horse (Justify) ran in three Triple Crown races, and he showed up and earned it.”

“You can’t doubt Justify now,” Mott added. “There’s no way. You’ve got to give him credit.”

Vino Rosso faded to fourth, with Tenfold rounding out the top five. Bravazo, Free Drop Billy, Restoring Hope, Blended Citizen, and Noble Indy completed the order of finish.

With his record a spotless 6-for-6 and his place among the best of the best secure, it is a wonder what the colt bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther could do next to add to his level of acclaim. A summer campaign was mentioned in the aftermath of his trek into the history books.

The most pressing thing all involved wanted to focus on, however, was giving themselves the proper time to soak in the achievements of the horse who took on a most improbable task in the most improbable of fashions and made it all look normal.

“To have the opportunity to be here and to make history like this is an incredible feeling,” said Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm. “These horses just … you buy them or whatever, but a horse like this just kind of happens. You can’t find these horses. They find you.”

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