Justify stormed into history on Saturday, becoming the thirteenth horse to win the Triple Crown. But before the horse had even finished its cooldown lap, the chatter began: did Justify get a bit of help from its stablemate?
Justify, the theory goes, got a bit of help from stablemate Restoring Hope. In the photo below, you can see Restoring Hope, in pink, coming up strong on the outside of Justify, in red. Restoring Hope, in effect, could have been running interference for Justify, blocking other horses from making a charge.
Mike Repole, co-owner of horses that finished fourth (Vino Rosso) and last (Noble Indy) in the Belmont Stakes, advanced that idea on Sunday. “It definitely seemed to me he was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont,” Repole said, “and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown.”
But Bob Baffert, trainer of both Justify and Restoring Hope, dismissed that theory in an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde:
I asked Baffert if Restoring Hope basically set a quarter-mile moving screen for Justify and he denied it. I very much think he did run interference. But Repole wanted Noble Indy to be a rabbit for Vino Rosso, so not much room to complain. https://t.co/GNaZGC9jc0
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) June 11, 2018
It’s pretty obvious that Restoring Hope did make matters a bit tougher, for a short time, for horses charging upward through the field. Plus, as Forde noted, Repole had sought to employ a little gamesmanship himself, having Noble Indy rabbit — i.e. set a fast pace to tire out other competitors — and set the stage for Vino Rosso. (It didn’t work.)
Regardless of how it happened, Justify is now a Triple Crown champion, and Restoring Hope has a future as an offensive lineman.
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