Of the 292 horses that have won a single leg of the Triple Crown, 52 horses have won two of the races (23 the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, 18 the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, and 11 the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes), and 12 horses have won all three races.
So, let’s jump into the fray today, and check in with the odds-makers and a multiple of other factors to see if we can’t find determine what chances Justify has to win the next and final leg of the Triple Crown - making him the 13th horse to do so — the “Baker's Dozen” champ.
The Triumphant Dozen
For starters, our two-time winner has to match up to only 12 other horses who have successfully achieved this major accomplishment.
The first winner of all three Triple Crown races was Sir Barton in 1919. Some journalists began using the term Triple Crown to refer to the three races as early as 1923, but it was not until Gallant Fox won the three events in 1930 that Charles Hatton of the Daily Racing Form put the term into common use.
In chronological order and including Sir Barton and the Gallant Fox, the top dozen are: 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).
Decades to wait . . .
As you can see, the chances for Justify to win the Triple Crown are greater when we factor in the number of decades it takes for the next Triple Crown winner to emerge. Aside for the 1930’s and 1940’s, from 1919, in most cases it takes at least two decades before we see another. In modern times, we had a drought of Triple Crown winners — almost 4 decades from Affirmed in 1978 to American Pharaoh victories in 2015.
However, having a previous winning trainer might tip the odds in favor of Justify to pull it off. Bob Baffert as American Pharoah’s trainer is looking to redo that triumph with Justify.
Injuries also need to be factored into the equation for a Triple Crown win. According to CBS Sports correspondent Hank Goldberg, Justify was given a patch for a bruised hind leg after the Kentucky Derby.
“It looked like his two hind legs were a little out of sync,” Goldberg noted on CBS Sports. “He might have a quarter crack and they put a patch over it, but a quarter crack could cause an infection. It would feel like his hoof is in a pressure cooker if he ran in the slop and got something lodged underneath it. There’s enough suspicion there.”
Goldberg later noted Justify looked in top form on May 19, and worried fans should not be too concerned about Justify not performing at 100 percent.
“Nobody gets a horse ready after a two-week layoff than Bob Baffert,” Goldberg explained on CBS Sports. “I trust Baffert implicitly. He’s not worried about it. He wouldn’t risk the horse if it were something serious.”
It looks like Baffert was right on the money, because Justify did win the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
According to odds-maker reporter Joe Tansey with the Bleacher Report, he notes, “it’s hard to ignore the dominance displayed by Justify in the first two Triple Crown races.”
“Although Justify will be under the most pressure of his career, the team behind him, including Baffert and jockey Mike Smith, should be able to guide him to the winner's circle once again,” adds Tansey.
Hall of Famer Mike Smith is a major factor. Smith, who at the Preakness got his sixth win in a Triple Crown race on the same grounds [Pimlico] where he captured his first 25 years ago with his horse "Prairie Bayou." He acknowledged after the second leg that Justify, the colt with a perfect record in often imperfect conditions, was a little tired.
“A good kind of tired,” he said.
Smith, 52, was a good kind of tired, too, but he said he had more left to accomplish. “At my age, man, what a way to ride off into the sunset,” he said, “although I don’t plan to retire anytime soon.”
Secretariat holds the stakes record time for each of the three races. His time of 2:24 for 1 1⁄2 miles in the 1973 Belmont Stakes also set a world record that still stands. So not only does Justify have the challenge of winning the Triple Crown, he might also want to buck Secretariat’s record of being the fastest horse in Triple Crown history.
So can Justify become the “Baker's Dozen” winner of the Triple Crown? Can the “12 horse historical record" be beat? My money’s on Justify, his trainer and jockey doing just that. They have 3 full weeks to rest up and based on the factors noted above, the odds are in his favor? Don’t you think?