Chad Brown has seen enough of Justify - HORSE RACING, – BELMONT, N.Y. - At the moment, the racing world can’t get enough of Justify. But trainer Chad Brown has probably seen all he wants to see of the Triple Crown champion for the time being.
For the second time during this year’s Triple Crown series, Brown came out second-best to Justify after Gronkowski’s late rally fell 1 3/4 lengths short of the favorite in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Five weeks earlier, it was Good Magic who finished second behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby. And it was also Good Magic who took the race right to Justify right from the start before succumbing grudgingly from the effort to finish a game but tiring fourth in the Preakness.
“It was one of those Triple Crowns where I had two really good horses, one in which I feel confident I had the second-best horse in each race,” Brown said.
“But we ran into a buzzsaw, an incredible horse, a rare horse and that’s the way it went. It could have been a whole different story for us if Justify wasn’t here, but he was, and you’ve got to run against everybody. It only takes one really good horse to beat you. That’s horse racing.”
Brown said he was extremely proud of Gronkowski’s performance in the Belmont, even in defeat. Gronkowski was transferred to Brown’s barn by his owner, Phoenix Thoroughbreds, just a little over a month ago, shortly after being withdrawn from consideration for the Kentucky Derby due to a mild infection suffered when shipping stateside for the race. Gronkowski had won his last four starts in England, but had never raced on dirt or competed at farther than a mile prior to Saturday.
“He ran a great race, especially considering he had a whole lot of things going against him,” Brown said. “He’s off a layoff, it was his first time going this far, his first time on dirt, then he misses the break and falls so far off a slow pace. I was extremely disappointed to see him so far back. It was no fault of Jose’s (Ortiz). It was his first start in this country and even though we kept blinkers on him and warmed him up well, he still missed the break.”
Gronkowski trailed the field and fell approximately 15 lengths behind Justify after the opening half-mile of the Belmont. He made a strong and sudden move along the inside while picking up horses rapidly on the second turn, got within easy striking distance of the leader nearing midstretch, but could not sustain the bid while racing a bit greenly and failing to change leads until deep stretch.
“He didn’t surprise me he ran this well, after working him a couple of times I was confident he would handle the dirt,” Brown said. “What surprised me was that he ran this well after falling so far back, at which point I truly felt this thing wasn’t going to end well. For him to close that much ground, it was a remarkable race. Turning for home I could see Gronk flying and at that point thought we had a shot to get him if Justify was vulnerable at a mile and one half. But he (Justify) ran the whole mile and one half today, and he earned it (Triple Crown). ”
Brown said he now has a lot to look forward to in the second half of the year, with both Good Magic and Gronkowski.
“The Triple Crown is over,” Brown said. “One chapter ends and another one begins. Now we look at (Gronkowski) as a real quality horse for the future. We have several things to work on, particularly on getting better early position and stuff like that. But he’s really an exciting horse for us to have to look forward to the rest of the season.”
Especially if Brown can find a way to avoid seeing Justify again any too soon.