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Triple Crown 2018 Recap

The Triple Crown 2018 series might be in the rear view mirror, but Justify’s improbable sweep is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Justify only had three races under his belt heading into the Kentucky Derby, and none as a 2-year-old, but that lack of experience hardly slowed him down on the first Saturday in May. He did not run his best race and clearly got away with one in the Preakness, and he controlled the pace and kept on finding to complete his Triple Crown journey in the Belmont Stakes. Similar to Bob Baffert's 2015 Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, look for Justify to show up in races like the Haskell, Travers, and/or Breeders' Cup Classic later this year.

Justify Triple Crown Winner Horse Racing Handicapping Past Performances 
  

What should we expect from the current sophomore class during the second half of the year? At this point, Justify is the clear leader of the division, and nobody has emerged as a viable alternative. Can anyone step up and give the 2018 Triple Crown hero a run for his money later this year?

Maybe one of the Triple Crown 2018 participants can turn the tables on Justify this summer and fall. That is a definite possibility, but it should be noted that 13 of the 20 Kentucky Derby entrants have run since the first Saturday in May, and Justify is the only one to emerge victorious. That means we have seen a dozen next out losers (Good Magic, Bravazo, Hofburg, Lone Sailor, Vino Rosso, Solomini, Bolt d’Oro, Flameaway, Promises Fulfilled, Free Drop Billy, Noble Indy, and Combatant). Also, the horses behind Justify in the Preakness have not had any luck in their next starts either (Bravazo, Tenfold, Lone Sailor, Diamond King). Some of these runners lost their next starts in a Triple Crown race, while others flopped in races like the Woody Stephens, Met Mile, Matt Winn, and Ohio Derby. 

New shooters ran extremely well in the Preakness and Belmont. Tenfold was only a neck away from the place in Baltimore, and Gronkowski ran huge in the Belmont Stakes to land the place following a very slow start. Both of those runners are worth following this summer and fall.

Tenfold Horse Racing Handicapping Past Performances 
The 2018 Triple Crown races did not break any stop watches, and Justify was best of a below par group. It did not look that way heading into the 2018 Triple Crown. Many experts, including myself, thought that this was a very deep, talented group of sophomores, but now that the Triple Crown series is in the books, there is mounting evidence that Justify reigns over a modest cast.

Out of all of the horses exiting the Triple Crown series, the two I like the most are Good Magic and Hofburg.

Good Magic may have been compromised by the wet tracks in the Derby and Preakness, and he was hardly disgraced while trying hard throughout in both races. He chased the pace and just held the place under the Twin Spires, and he dueled with Justify for much of the running at Pimlico before weakening to 4th in late stretch. He is a dangerous stalker in upcoming fast track races up to a mile and an eighth, and the Haskell looks like a perfect fit for the 2-year-old champion.

Hofburg is a lightly raced late runner with plenty of upside. The Kentucky Derby was just his fourth lifetime start, and the Florida Derby runner-up finished a credible 3rd in the Belmont Stakes despite a lack of pace. The Travers could be his coming out party!

 


King Zachary and Core Beliefs are a couple of late bloomers to keep an eye on. The former, trained by Dale Romans, was not ready for prime time in the Wood Memorial. He followed up a confidence building score in an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 5 with a career best win in the Grade 3 Matt Winn at that same venue on June 16. He is expected to wade into deeper waters in upcoming races like the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga.

Core Beliefs graduated in his third lifetime start in a dirt route at Santa Anita Park on March 8, and finished a more than respectable 3rd behind Justify and Bolt d’Oro in his first start vs. winners in the SA Derby. He finished a game 2nd in the G3 Peter Pan at Belmont Park on May 12, and broke through with his first stakes victory in the G3 Ohio Derby on June 23. In the latter race, he was wide throughout from post 10 and got his nose down on the line to defeat 3-2 favorite Lone Sailor. Based on the wide trip, he ran even better than it appears on paper.

I will be back to check in with the sophomore set in the coming weeks in this Beyond the Crown blog series.  

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