The reason so many horses fall short at the Belmont after fantastic runs through the first two races of the Triple Crown is the combination of the extra distance and the exhaustion carried over from the previous two races.
The 37-year wait for the Triple Crown of horse racing, mercifully ended three years ago when fantastic American Pharoah crossed the finish line first at the 2015 Belmont Stakes, was at the same time exasperating, demoralizing, and borderline comical. A flop at the track might make Coolmore, whose US business Ashford Stud also has American Pharoah's breeding rights, more cool on a Triple Crown winner's stock. At Preakness Stakes, the "Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown", $2.5 million is given out in prize money over the course of a 14-race program, including a $1.5 million purse in the main race and roughly $900,000 for that race's top finisher.
Had the Preakness been another tenth of a mile, a hard-charging Bravazo might've passed Justify and ended the Triple Crown bid on Saturday. Behind those three, Noble Indy, Vino Rosso and Tenfold were stalking the leader, while the relatively unknown Gronkowski was initially last of the 10-horse field.
The thoroughbred now has won six races in as many tries.
Being that valuable might make it hard for the horse to get back on the track again, though ownership seemed optimistic after the win that it was possible.
Baffert joined "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons as the only trainers to produce two Triple Crown winners.
Earlier, Baffert and jockey Mike Smith teamed to win the $750,000 Ogden Phipps with Abel Tasman. Though it served Secretariat well, it posed a concern for Baffert, who anxious his muscular colt might get pinned against the rail if he didn't break well.
"I wanted to see that horse's name up there because we know he was brilliant from Day 1", Baffert said.
"First and foremost, I want to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for blessing me with this wonderful day".