The chestnut colt trained by Bob Baffert and rode by Mike Smith galloped to his fifth victory in five tries in an all-enveloping fog without precedent at Pimlico to keep alive his bid for one of the rarest feats in all of sports.
Justify rounded the final turn and hit the top of the stretch winded but with the lead. "I knew this was not going to be easy".
"Oh man, it was a nail-biter", said Baffert, whose seventh Preakness victory saw him tie 19th-century trainer Robert Wyndham Walden for the all-time record.
Those possibilities inspired trainer Chad Brown to give Good Magic another chance after he ran a solid second in the Derby and for D. Wayne Lukas to believe Bravazo, after a troubled sixth in Louisville, could possibly serve as a spoiler in a smaller field.
Now he will go into Belmont Park as America's next great equine sensation as he looks to enter a storied roll of thoroughbreds to sweep America's three most celebrated races, joining Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).
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Justify showed more evidence of being the same kind of super horse as American Pharoah, and Baffert has repeatedly drawn comparisons between them. Bravazo edged Tenfold for third, and Good Magic was fourth, running out of gas at the end of the 1 3/16-mile race. But in terms of the $2 exacta, $1 trifecta and $1 superfecta, which dished out $69.60, $141.40 and $19,618.20 for the Kentucky Derby, respectively, the totals weren't as eye-popping from the Preakness Stakes. With Baffert praying for the wire at Pimlico, Justify won by a half-length after completing the race in 1:55.93.
"This was his hardest race that he's had", Smith said.
Justify's record now stands at 5-0 as he looks on to the Belmont Stakes in NY on June 9. "I'm just glad, I'm happy for the horse, Mike (Smith) and all the connections, and we pulled it out". "I've never had one run that fast here".
Baffert has won this race seven times, tying the record.
"He got a little exhausted", Smith said. "He just showed not only is he a big, beautiful, gorgeous horse, but he is all racehorse, and that's what it took to win".