ELMONT, N.Y. (CNN) – It is perhaps the most coveted prize in horse racing, a feat that only 12 thoroughbreds have been able to achieve in the past century.
At this weekend’s Belmont Stakes on Long Island, the 150th anniversary of the New York race, Justify has a chance to join the exclusive club of Triple Crown winners after triumphs at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness earlier this year.
Justify would become just the second horse to win the esteemed Triple Crown since 1978, with American Pharoah as the most recent horse to complete the sweep in 2015.
For Bob Baffert, a victory for Justify would see him become the second trainer ever to have two Triple Crown horses to his name. “This horse is starting to act like Pharoah,” said Baffert of Justify, who recently became the first Derby winner in 136 years that did not to race as a 2-year-old.
“I think I see a lot of resemblance in these two, the way they move,” Baffert said. “When I worked him after the Preakness, American Pharoah, when he would breathe, he was like he was a machine. And this horse is getting there.”
Justify, ridden by 52-year-old Mike Smith, won a rain-soaked Kentucky Derby ahead of Good Magic in May, before handing Baffert a record-equaling 14th race win in one of the Triple Crown events at the Preakness just two weeks later.
While each of the three races date back to the second half of the 19th Century, the concept of the Triple Crown was not conceived until several decades later. Gallant Fox became the first horse to popularize the term with his success in 1930, though it was Sir Barton in 1919 that first won the three races in the same year.
American Pharoah’s 2015 victory put an end to a 37-year Triple Crown drought — a period that saw 13 horses fall short at the Belmont. Smith and Justify, however, are hot favorites to win in New York on Saturday, and write their names into racing’s history books.
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