It was Justify's moment after all.
Smith has never been aboard a Triple Crown victor, but at 52 he has the shrewdness and knowledge from regularly riding at Belmont Park years ago to rely 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. Smith faced the pressure of helping Justify take that final step to become the sport's 13th Triple Crown victor. "A Triple Crown victor is rare enough; an undefeated Triple Crown victor is rarer still". "This effort has reinforced our belief that America is a great place to do racing", said Teo Ah Khing, founder of the China Horse Club that is a co-owner of Justify. And he did it with a show of versatility, mastering a dry, fast track that represented a far different test than the slop he'd slogged through at Churchill Downs and Pimlico Race Course.
"He probably broke better today than he has out of the other two (Derby and Preakness), to be honest with you", Smith said.More news: Manchester United make a Positive Start in the Transfer Window
He won his first three races by a combined 19 lengths and made his trainer Bob Baffert a believer.
In any case, congratulations to jockey Mark Smith, trainer Bob Baffert, who is only the second trainer to win two Triple Crowns, and, obviously to the horse that did most of the work.
Three years later, a strapping chestnut colt named Justify, with a white blaze, a sweeping stride and an unblemished record, came back to the site where American Pharoah had vanquished horse racing's ghosts - with the same trainer, but his own shot at making history. "He is a magnificent animal".
Hall of Fame jockey Smith - the oldest rider to win the Triple Crown - said: "This horse is so gifted". I tell you, it's just fantastic. Horses had come close to breaking it in recent years but it wasn't until Justify arrived that the superstition was put to rest. "So far he hasn't gotten overheated or get too anxious about things". Turning for home with a date with immortality awaiting him in the winner's circle, Justify bounded home with Gronkowski (Lonhro ) giving belated chase to the wire.
Behind him horses diced for position. The lightly regarded Gronkowski, dead last through the first half-mile, fittingly played the role of lead disrupter.More news: Thiem stands between Nadal and his 11th French Open title
Among those expected to be on hand is New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
"Justify, you can walk up to him and he might give you three, four, five seconds and then he's done with you".
"It is such a surreal feeling and one that I'm still trying to take in", he said. "I mean, they're a good combination and they got the job done".
"Fifty-two years old. Think about that accomplishment, winning a Triple Crown at 52 years old?"More news: Kim summit 'may not have happened without Otto Warmbier'