Watch Justify's Run for the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Justify runs for history at the 150th Belmont Stakes on Saturday, as he aims to be only the 13th Triple Crown winner and only the second Thoroughbred in 40 years to accomplish the feat (American Pharoah in 2015 being the other).
"I’m certainly looking forward to this chance to call another Triple Crown," says NBC's race caller Larry Collmus. "It will be the second opportunity for me, and having gone through it with American Pharoah, I’ll know what the sense of place is going to be at Belmont Park that day, because it was just so electric that afternoon that you just couldn’t believe, the place was shaking, it was so, so exciting. And here we are with another chance to do it with Justify."
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The forecast calls for rain Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., and a sloppy track would make for an unusual but fitting finale to the Triple Crown.
"The weather that we've had is completely unprecedented for the Triple Crown," says NBC and TVG reporter Britney Eurton. "There's never been three races in the same year all with sloppy tracks. The amount of rain that we got for the Kentucky Derby was unheard of."
Justify starts the race on the rail, which isn't the ideal situation for most trainers, but Eurton thinks the longer distance at Belmont makes starting gate position less of a factor.
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"Going a mile and a half, I don't truly believe that post position really matters, because you have so much time to get into good positioning," Eurton says.
Riding Justify is jockey Mike Smith, who at age 52 is getting his first shot at a Triple Crown. Smith is one of the most loved and respected figures in horse racing, and Eurton thinks everyone will be rooting for him.
"Everyone wants to see a Triple Crown for Mike Smith," she says. "At his age, what he is achieving at this point in his career is truly remarkable."
There's also the interesting subplot of Gronkowski, the horse named for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. The horse was a scratch at the Kentucky Derby, and he'll be running in his first race in the U.S., and running in his first race on a dirt track.
"There are so many unknowns with this horse, but so many great storylines surrounding him," Eurton says. "Obviously, the connection with big fans of the Patriots and they feel that the horse resembles Rob Gronkowski in his size and stature. So all of those things are pretty fun."
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Gronkowski the horse is an underdog at the Belmont, but Eurton thinks he shouldn't be counted out. "Chad Brown is an exceptional trainer, especially with horses coming over from Europe, and I don't believe he would be running a horse if he didn't think he had a shot."
NBC Sports' coverage from Belmont Park begins Friday on NBCSN with a one-hour show featuring two live races, a special look back at Justify’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes wins, and an encore of the documentary Dark Horses about the 1989 rivalry between Easy Goer and Sunday Silence.
On Saturday, NBCSN airs prerace coverage beginning at 2/1c, then NBC takes over at 4/3c for the running of the Belmont Stakes.
Belmont Stakes on NBC Sports
Friday, June 8
5/4c Belmont Access, NBCSN
6/5c Kentucky Derby & Preakness Recap, NBCSN
7/6c Dark Horses, NBCSN
Saturday, June 9
8a/7c Dark Horses, NBCSN
2/1c Belmont Prep, NBCSN
4/3c Belmont Stakes, NBC
Belmont Stakes Post Positions & Odds
1 Justify 4-5
2 Free Drop Billy 30-1
3 Bravazo 8-1
4 Hofburg 9-2
5 Restoring Hope 30-1
6 Gronkowski 12-1
7 Tenfold 12-1
8 Vino Rosso 8-1
9 Noble Indy 30-1
10 Blended Citizen 15-1