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It's refreshing to note that attention--the good kind--is focusing on a public figure who's not a liar, cheater, abuser, flip-flopper, blamer, insulter, or self-praiser.

Obviously, this figure is not a politician or a Hollywood celebrity.

This figure is Justify, a strapping 3-year-old colt whose talent and heart made him the latest of only 13 horses to win the coveted Triple Crown.

A handsome guy at 16 hands, 3 inches tall with a gleaming chestnut coat and white blaze on his face, Justify knocked out the competition at each of racing's pinnacle for thoroughbreds--the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and Saturday's Belmont Stakes--with what appears to be surprising ease.

Credit is due to 52-year-old jockey Mike Smith--known for coming through when it counts--as well as trainer Bob Baffert. "Justify is a very straightforward horse," the jockey said. "When you have horses with this kind of ability, you try to do everything you can to make them happy and comfortable . . . Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stay out of a horse's way."

Fans of horse racing and heroic feats in general have been treated to the Triple Crown phenomenon twice in the past three years, with American Pharoah (also trained by 65-year-old Baffert, who at the time claimed the champion was "the greatest horse I'll ever see") accomplishing the feat in 2015. That horse, his trainer said, "loves human contact. He loves people, will put his head in your lap. I'm probably closer to that horse because of his temperament."

The situation is different with Justify. "Justify, you can walk up to him and he might give you three, four, five seconds, and then he's done with you," Baffert told the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. "He'll try to bite your head off. It's not in a mean way. He's just a big, tough horse."

That toughness is paying off in the horse's accomplishments, especially in the Belmont, a grueling 11/2-mile race that has been the downfall of many Triple Crown contenders who have already mastered the 11/4 mile Kentucky Derby and 1 3/16 mile Preakness.

What a pleasure to run across an athletic star who, at least at this point in his 3-year-old life, shows no sign of letting everybody down.

Editorial on 06/14/2018

Print Headline: A worthwhile winner

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