There will always be detractors from a great story. Justify winning the Triple Crown is a great sports story, but there are some serious allegations that another horse helped Justify get the early lead and conserve energy until the end.
Restoring Hope was entered into the Belmont Stakes by trainer Bob Baffert, who also trains Justify. Restoring Hope is usually a horse that runs up front and pushes the pace, but was clearly the longest shot to win this race.
Mike Repole, the owner of Vino Rosso (finished 4th place) and Noble Indy (finished last), felt like jockey Florent Geroux had Restoring Hope blocking horses to allow Justify a free run to the front early and set the race's pace.
"We watched [Restoring Hope] rush up like he was a quarter horse, make a quick right-hand turn, then turn left, pinned [Bravazo] on the rail. He looked like a bodyguard making sure nobody got close to Justify."
He wasn't the only one who felt that way. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was riding Vino Rosso and said this: "Why would you send a horse that breaks bad and take everybody out, then come back in? That's his job, to protect the other horse, and it worked for them. You have to give it to them."
Here's the full race. Justify is the #1 horse and Restoring Hope is wearing #5. Bravazo, who Repole mentioned as getting pinned to the rail early, is wearing #3. Vino Rosso makes a move later in the race and is wearing #8.
Maybe even more interesting in this story is that Restoring Hope's owner was very upset about the race that Geroux ran with his horse. Gary West had this to say about the ride: "I have no earthly idea what Florent was thinking or what his race strategy was had I known better, the first eighth of a mile I would have thought it was a quarter-horse race, not the mile-and-a-half Belmont. Maybe the horse was completely out of control and Florent had no choice. I will never know."
Florent responded to the criticism from West by saying this: "When [Restoring Hope] broke a step slow -- he's kind of an aggressive horse to ride, he pulls very hard -- I wanted to make sure I put him in the clear," Geroux said.
"I didn't want to break, get the horse covered up and then the horse starts getting aggressive behind horses. It would have been even worse if he was behind horses."
For what it's worth, the New York Gaming Commission has stated they have no plans to investigate the race.
Interesting stuff, to say the least.
You can hear the full conversation as heard on "Have You Seen This?" below: