Justify favored to win third leg of the Triple Crown

Before American Pharoah won all three races in the Triple Crown series in 2015, it had been nearly 40 years since another horse had earned the distinction. Now, only three years after American Pharoah’s victories, another horse is favored to earn the crown this weekend.

The Triple Crown is a series of three races for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. (Why are the horses three years old? That’s just the way it is.) On June 9, the final race in the series, the Belmont Stakes, is set to take place in Elmont, New York.

Favored to win is Justify, who earlier this year won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — a narrow victory in the face of horrible foggy and muddy conditions. Justify was the first horse since one named Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old, and the fourth horse in 10 years to win both the Derby and the Preakness in the same year.

Both Justify and American Pharaoh were trained by Bob Baffert, who has a five for five record for running Kentucky Derby winners in the Preakness. He’s trained three other horses who have won the first two jewels in the Triple Crown: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).

Jockey Mike E. Smith, who rode Justify during the Preakness, is the oldest jockey to win that race, at 52 years old. It was his second Preakness win — the first was in 1993.

On Saturday, Justify runs against worthy competitors. Behind him, the odds favor Hofburg, Bravazo, and Vino Rosso, who was bred on the same farm. The race will also see the return of Gronkowski, a horse named after the New England Patriots tight end, who dropped out of the Kentucky Derby due to illness.

If Justify defeats his rivals, he will become the lucky thirteenth winner of the Triple Crown.

Update: And he did it! Justify took the third jewel in the crown, making Triple Crown history.

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