Justify to run on dry track in Triple Crown bid

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Jockey Mike Smith kisses the August Belmont trophy after winning the Triple Crown aboard Justify in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y. Owners Kenny Trout, second from left, and Teo Ah Khing, third from left, and trainer Bob Baffert, right, looked on.

American Pharoah ended a 37-year drought in 2015 and now just four years later, racing is celebrating another sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

Superior: Justify carries the China Horse Club silks to victory in the Belmont Stakes to complete the Triple Crown.

Justify's jockey is Mike Smith, and at 52 years old he is still considered a big-money rider.

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Justify will try to immortalize his name and join such horses as Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Citation and Secretariat when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Network coverage on NBC Sports begins at 4:00 p.m. ET with undercard races and commentary on NBC Sports Network starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Among the possibilities: the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park in Nw Jersey; the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar outside San Diego on August 18; and the $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga in NY on August 25. That said, in nine starts he only has two wins and has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a two-year-old.

Baffert had fretted after Justify drew the No. 1 post, a spot he detests for his horses. Owners, fans and even rival trainers stopped by to sneak a peek at the undefeated victor of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He slogged through muddy conditions to win the Kentucky Derby and then emerged from a dense fog to capture the Preakness Stakes.

The 24-1 long-shot Gronkowski battled from the back of the pack to cross the line second, nearly two length's behind Justify, while the 5-1 Hofburg finished third. Justify was the first colt to win the Derby without racing as 2-year-old in 136 years.

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In 2004, Smarty Jones put away two rivals early and was ahead by four lengths in his bid for Triple Crown immortality.

Save for a news helicopter circling during training hours, the scene was as mellow as could be - three years between Triple Crown attempts will have such an effect.

"He just came on there, and he broke every curse there was", he said. "I thought maybe he's not going to break today". Justify has now raced six times in 112 days, and has come out the other side of the Triple Crown unscathed. Restoring Hope, who like Justify is trained by Baffert, last ran May 5 but not in the Derby.

With Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski screaming in the stands, his namesake colt surged to third at the 11/4-mile mark, then unseated Vino Rosso for second as the field turned for home.

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"For him to close up that much ground off a really easy pace, it was a remarkable race that he ran".

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