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Belmont Stakes takes on added significance as Justify makes bid for Triple Crown

Jose Otriz is up on Tapwrit leading to

Jose Otriz is up on Tapwrit leading to victory as Irish War Cry with Rajiv Maragh up is second in The 149th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 10, 2017 in Elmont, New York. Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

BALTIMORE — When a Triple Crown is on the line, the Belmont Stakes becomes a happening and a magnet for mainstream media. When the Kentucky Derby winner doesn’t repeat in the Preakness Stakes, the 1½-mile “Test of the Champion” can’t crown one.

Thanks to the undefeated Justify, the eyes of the racing world and millions of other people will focus on what happens in Elmont late in the afternoon on June 9.

When Justify held off late-running Bravazo by a half-length Saturday at rain-drenched, foggy Pimlico, it was great news for the New York Racing Association. For the second time in four years, Belmont Park will be the venue for the ultimate equine drama. On the Tuesday before the race, the post-position draw will be held for the first time at Citi Field, starting at 5 p.m., before the Mets host the Orioles.

In a statement, NYRA CEO and president Chris Kay said: “Congratulations to Justify and his connections for what they already have accomplished, and we look forward to welcoming them to Belmont Park for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes.”

The chestnut colt will be the fifth horse trained by Bob Baffert to go for the Triple Crown. Baffert swept the 3-year-old classics in 2015 with American Pharoah after coming up short on Long Island with War Emblem (2002), Real Quiet (1998) and Silver Charm (1997).

Ben Jones (1882-1961) and his son, Jimmy Jones (1906-2001), each made two Triple Crown bids, the only other trainers with more than one. Ben Jones won the 1941 Triple Crown with Whirlaway, and Citation did it for Jimmy Jones in 1948. Like Baffert, R.W. Walden (1843-1905) won the Preakness seven times. Walden also took four Belmonts but never had a starter in the Derby.

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