NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Though Justify won the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes this weekend, the 13th Triple Crown champion in horse racing history was immediately met with controversy.
Restoring Hope, the other horse trained by Bob Baffert, broke out of the gate a few paces behind the leaders but quickly made a move through the middle of the pack as Justify stayed in front.
When the group approached the first turn, Restoring Hope took a noticeably wide path to the right in front of Noble Indy before veering back to the left appearing to push Bravazo to an inside position behind Justify.
Restoring Hope stayed in second place up to the far turn, then began to fall back as Justify and jockey Mike Smith held a two-length lead. They were never really challenged after that.
Restoring Hope wound up finishing eighth, and opponents immediately cried foul.
“It definitely seemed to me he was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont, and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown,” said Mike Repole, co-owner of Noble Indy and fourth-place Vino Ross.
While Justify and Restoring Hope are stablemates and have the same the trainer, they have different ownership groups which makes this apparent strategy even more questionable.
Justify came back home in Kentucky on Monday. He strolled down a carpet of dirt and hay before heading off to Churchill Downs.