Will Justify be racing's 13th Triple Crown winner?

Will Justify be racing's 13th Triple Crown winner?
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Justify's connections went out of their way not to mention a potential Triple Crown, as "it's one race at a time," Hall of Famer Bob Baffert often says. But leading up to Saturday's 2018 Preakness Stakes, Baffert openly likened his horse to his past trainee, American Pharoah, who in 2015 ended a 37-year drought between sweeps of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

“What he has done since February, you have to be a superstar,” Baffert said of Justify, who's 4-for-4 since debuting three months ago. “He’s like Pharoah. They are superstars.”

Now it's time to ask: With the Belmont Stakes set for June 9, is Justify destined to claim one of his own?

Triple Crown Winners
A few facts to know...

 Twelve horses have won the Triple Crown, and they seem to do so in bunches. Three horses accomplished the feat in the 1930s; four did it in the 1940s; and Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978) followed.

 Since American Pharoah won his Belmont, the 2016 Derby winner Nyquist and 2017 winner Always Dreaming went without wins following their scores the first Saturday in May.

 Justify would be up against it at Belmont Park, as some promising runners who missed over the slop in the Derby are expected to return in the Triple Crown series' third leg. Among them, according to Horse Racing Nation's Stakes Tracker, are known late runners Hofburg and Vino Rosso, who should like the increased 1 1/2-mile distance.

 There have been 23 near-Triple Crown misses, with California Chrome in 2014 the last horse to win the Derby and Preakness before defeated in the Belmont. Thirteen horses, most recently Afleet Alex in 2005, won the Preakness and Belmont after beaten in the Derby. And 11 horses, most recently Thunder Gulch in 1995, won the Derby and Belmont, but missed in the Preakness.

Should Justify take the Preakness, he'd look to join this esteemed group:



Sir BartonJohn LoftusH. G. BedwellJ. K. L. Ross
1930Gallant FoxEarl SandeJames FitzsimmonsBelair Stud
1935OmahaWilliam SaundersJames FitzsimmonsBelair Stud
1937War AdmiralCharley KurtsingerGeorge ConwaySamuel D. Riddle
1941WhirlawayEddie ArcaroBen A. JonesCalumet Farm
1943Count FleetJohn LongdenDon CameronMrs. J. D. Hertz
1946AssaultWarren MehrtensMax HirschKing Ranch
1948CitationEddie ArcaroBen A. JonesCalumet Farm
1973SecretariatRon TurcotteLucien LaurinMeadow Stable
1977Seattle SlewJean CruguetWilliam Turner, Jr.Karen L. Taylor
1978AffirmedSteve CauthenLazaro S. BarreraHarbor View Farm
2015American PharoahVictor EspinozaBob BaffertZayat Stables

Won Derby and Preakness, but not Belmont

YearHorseBelmont Result (Winner)
1932Burgoo King(Did not start)
1936Bold Venture(Did not start)
1944Pensive2nd (Bounding Home)
1958Tim Tam2nd (Cavan)
1961Carry Back7th (Sherluck)
1964Northern Dancer3rd (Quadrangle)
1966Kauai King4th (Amberoid)
1968**Forward Pass2nd (Stage Door Johnny)
1969Majestic Prince2nd (Arts and Letters)
1971Canonero II4th (Pass Catcher)
1979Spectacular Bid3rd (Coastal)
1981Pleasant Colony3rd (Summing)
1987Alysheba4th (Bet Twice)
1989Sunday Silence2nd (Easy Goer)
1997Silver Charm2nd (Touch Gold)
1998Real Quiet2nd (Victory Gallop)
1999Charismatic3rd (Lemon Drop Kid)
2002War Emblem8th (Sarava)
2003Funny Cide3rd (Empire Maker)
2004Smarty Jones2nd (Birdstone)
2008Big BrownDNF (Da'Tara)
2012I'll Have AnotherDid Not Start (Union Rags)
California Chrome
4th (Tonalist)

Won two Triple Crown legs, but not in order

YearHorseRaces WonOther Result
1920Man O'WarPreakness/BelmontDid Not Start in Kentucky Derby
1922PilloryPreakness/BelmontDid Not Start in Kentucky Derby
1923ZevDerby/Belmont12th Preakness (Vigil)
1931Twenty GrandDerby/Belmont2nd Preakness (Mate)
1939JohnstownDerby/Belmont5th Preakness (Challedon)
1940BimelechPreakness/Belmont2nd Derby (Gallahadion)
1942Shut OutDerby/Belmont5th Preakness (Alsab
1949CapotPreakness/Belmont2nd Derby (Ponder)
1950MiddlegroundDerby/Belmont2nd Preakness (Hill Prince)
1953Native DancerPreakness/Belmont2nd Derby (Dark Star)
1955NashuaPreakness/Belmont2nd Derby (Swaps)
1956NeedlesDerby/Belmont2nd Preakness (Fabius)
1963ChateaugayDerby/Belmont2nd Preakness (Candy Spots)
1967DamascusPreakness/Belmont3rd Derby (Proud Clarion)
1972Riva RidgeDerby/Belmont4th Preakness (Bee Bee Bee)
1974Little CurrentPreakness/Belmont5th Derby (Cannonade)
1976Bold ForbesDerby/Belmont3rd Preakness (Elocutionist)
1984SwaleDerby/Belmont7th Preakness (Gate Dancer)
1988Risen StarPreakness/Belmont3rd Derby (Winning Colors)
1991HanselPreakness/Belmont10th Derby (Strike the Gold)
1994Tabasco CatPreakness/Belmont6th Derby (Go For Gin)
1995Thunder GulchDerby/Belmont3rd Preakness (Timber Country)
2001Point GivenPreakness/Belmont5th Derby (Monarchos)
2005Afleet AlexPreakness/Belmont3rd Derby (Giacomo)

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