Lucky Number 13

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The Triple Crown has been won and “lucky #13” is in the books. – Justify is undefeated and has done nothing wrong to date. But after the race there’s usually some hullabaloo about something that transpired. – He jumped from the gate, drew off quickly and settled in for a 1 1/2 gallop into the history books. – I can hear the intro music of Law and Order keyed up in the background and that means the talk begins.

According to the New York Post;

Queens native Mike Repole, co-owner of fourth-place Vino Rosso and last-place Noble Indy in the field of 10, hopes Belmont Park stewards will question jockey Florent Geroux about his handling of Restoring Hope, Justify’s stablemate, for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

“Justify is a super horse. He is a Triple Crown winner and he’s undefeated,” said Repole, emphasizing his admiration for the powerful, 6-for-6 colt. “But I can see the stewards looking into this over the next couple of days. I probably expect them to look into reckless riding by Florent and bring him in to question him about what he was thinking and what his tactics were.”

While Justify and Mike Smith, his Hall of Fame rider, smoothly accelerated after breaking from the rail to seize the early lead, Geroux rode vigorously to hustle Restoring Hope toward the front. He soon assumed a position just behind Justify and to his outside.

“It definitely seemed to me he was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont,” said Repole of 37-1 Restoring Hope, “and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown.”

Gary West, who owns Restoring Hope, was livid about the handling of his horse.

Once upon a time this would’ve been called “race riding.” – Jockeys rode in tight company with midnight tales of riders locking boots and using the stick to intimidate other horses. – I guess those times have gone by the wayside for the most part and when we see or read about a questionable tactic. It makes us cringe and wonder if there’ll be an asterisk next to the name of the 13th Triple Crown winner.

When I watched the race I saw a little race riding going on. – I dismissed it, and thought it was me over-thinking the race. So much on the line and history weighed in the balance. – Sometimes we see things that aren’t really there. – We’re not wishing for things, but we can be guilty of watching too closely. – But in this case, maybe my first initial thought held some validity. Take another look and watch them down the backstretch.

Florent Geroux has been the newest name on the up-and-coming rider list. The French-born rider has been as talented as anyone and his talent was garnering him live mounts on some of the big name runners. – D. Wayne Lukas has been the “Coach” for as long as I remember and as the elder statesman of racing his words are gold. – ” D. Wayne Lukas, who trained sixth-place Bravazo, does not believe Restoring Hope’s presence mattered. But he acknowledged: “That was strange the way they sent him up there. I mean, he compromised a few horses with blocking and so forth.”

I guess the New York Post was on to something as I went back and re-thought the entire race. – In the end I came out with this. If the Stewards need to chat with him, so be it. If there is a fine. Pay it. – But the results will remain the same and there is a 13th Triple Crown winner. – In sports there has been numerous plans to gain an edge. – How many “spitballs” were thrown in baseball? – How many unsportsmanlike hits in the NFL? What about NASCAR where teams of racers run “block” for a teammate? – If there is an edge to gain many will take it. Did this happen, you make the call. – In the meantime congratulate Smith and Baffert. They ran a hell of a race and Justify is in the history books.