Cambridge bloodstock agent Michael Wallace has played a prominent role in American racing history with the win of Justify in Sunday’s (NZ time) Gr.1 Belmont Stakes (2400m).
The unbeaten three-year-old son of the ill-fated US sire Scat Daddy became just the 13th winner of America’s famed Triple Crown, having won the Gr.1 Kentucky Derby (2000m) on 5 May and backed that victory up in the Gr.1 Preakness Stakes (1900m) later in the month.
Trained by the legendary Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, Justify was purchased at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for the China Horse Club & Maverick Racing for $500,000 by their buying team that consists of Wallace, the China Horse Club’s racing and bloodstock manager, along with Mick Flanagan and Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners, Justify led from wire-to-wire in the Belmont to defeat Gronkowski by just on two lengths with Hofburg back in third.
It was the second Triple Crown for Baffert who broke a 37-year hoodoo with American Pharoah in 2015 who became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to take out the Triple Crown.
"I wanted to see that horse's name up there because we know he was brilliant from Day 1," Baffert said. "And I am so happy for Mike Smith. There is no more deserving (jockey) than him."
Wallace was still pinching himself hours after the race as the team around Justify set out to celebrate the unique achievement.
“It is such a surreal feeling and one that I’m still trying to take in,” he said.
“The crowd was in excess of 100,000 so the noise was unbelievable and when they started to roar as he got near the finish it just got even louder.
“After the race so many people wanted to shake your hand and congratulate you. It’s an experience I will never forget and will be hard to top in the future.
“To become just the 13th winner of the Triple Crown is amazing and even more special is the fact that he is only the second Triple Crown winner to be bought at public auction after Seattle Slew in 1977.”
Remarkably Justify is one of only two horses to have won the Triple Crown while having been undefeated in any previous race; the other is Seattle Slew who feature’s in the pedigree of Justify through his dam Stage Magic.
Justify has won all six of his career starts, four at Grade One level. Remarkably, Justify did not have his first start until February 18th this year and has quickly become the pin-up horse of American racing. – NZ Racing Desk
Michael Wallace in New York celebrating Triple Crown success