It’s easy, in the excitement of the Triple Crown Trail, to get lost in the deep brown eyes of one large, sweaty, hunk as he flexes his muscles for another morning’s work….
Oh, sorry, there I go again getting carried away…
Point is, it’s easy to get swept up in the dream of another Triple Crown winner, but let’s all take a minute to step back and think about this logically. It took 37 years the last time, what are the chance we see it happen again just three years later? Seriously, these are the most grueling, trying three races and we’re looking at a horse who, for so many reasons, should NOT defy the odds.
For the first two races on the Triple Crown Trail, I made my predictions for who would top the field, but for this race, it’s far more entertaining to examine my top five reasons Justify won’t win the Triple Crown.
Number five: “ScratchesGate”
As we all know, Justify suffered from a brief bout of the often fatal condition of Scratches, where moisture irritated his leg to the point that – I heard- they were considering running him as a three legged horse. Three legged horse, three legs of the triple crown…makes sense to me.
Thankfully, he’s a colt, which means he just over exaggerated the whole thing (Boys will be boys).
But still, after that deadly encounter who knows if he’s ever truly recovered – even mentally.
Number four: Experience – or lack thereof
As we all know, Justify just does not have the experience to handle this situation. He’s proven that the noise, the crowds, the pressure and – especially – the opinions of the media and the keyboard warriors are all too much to handle for the big red horse. You can just see it in how he shies away from the cameras that he is not a fan of this spotlight. Poor, sensitive, soul.
(Either that or it’s the Mariah Carey diva move of “only get me from my good side.”)
By the time the Belmont is run, it will have only been something like 2668 hours, six minutes and 45 seconds since his first race…but who’s counting?
Number three: Pedigree and distance
We all know that somewhere way, way, way, way, way back in Justify’s pedigree is Secretariat. But not so far back (aka, his sire) is Scat Daddy, and he never went any distance with any success. So because his Daddy never did it, he’ll never do it.
Sounds like a logical argument to me.
And if that didn’t sway you – the Belmont is a long way, like a LONG way. There’s no way a three year old who’s only been racing for 2668 hours, six minutes and 45 seconds (and counting) can make it that long way.
Again. Logical argument.
Number two: “And may the odds be ever (not) in your favor.”
Yeah, so he beat the “Curse of Apollo”. Yeah, so he’s an unbeaten three year old who never raced at two. Yeah, so he had never faced more than a six horse field before the Derby. Yeah, so he won on the wettest track in history.
But at some point your luck runs out, and mathematically speaking, you can’t keep beating the odds… and he drew the rail spot…need I say more?
Number one: Fatigue
If I’ve ever seen an exhausted horse, it’s Justify. I mean, after the Preakness he basically pulled his groom back to his stall just to get a good rest, and he hasn’t looked quite right since. He only barely towers over pony horse Sunny, and his exercise riders seems to be asleep at the very exhausted wheel.
I just don’t think this horse has anything left in the tank. Poor kid.
Now, if you’ve made it this far – past some of the junk I’ve heard lately about why Justify won’t win the Belmont and become our newest Triple Crown winner – I both applaud you and wonder about your mental state (as well as mine.) And you’ve, hopefully, also realized it’s all in jest; seriously, all of it. None of this is a true representation of the horse or how I feel about him.
Of all the things I’ve heard, the horse I’ve seen working over the track the last couple weeks has shown me that no conditions, no lack of experience, no pedigree or distance concerns, no odds, and no fatigue is going to have any bearing on this big hunk of Chestnut love on Saturday.
When he won the Kentucky Derby I turned to two very knowledgeable, horse playing, friends of mine and said “that, right there, is your next Triple Crown winner. Mark my words.” At that moment, with both of them staring at me shaking their heads in disagreement, I proudly jumped into the engine of the Justify Express where we have been chugging merrily along ever since.
And though there is less adrenaline, and far less alcohol, running through my blood since I made that statement, I stick by it still.
Mark my words: “choo! choo!”
Header photo by Alex Evers and our friends at Eclipse Sportswire