NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Just after 6 a.m. Thursday, several 3-year-old thoroughbreds that will race in the Belmont Stakes took a mile-and-a-half practice gallop around the Belmont track: Hofburg, considered a dark horse contender, and Queens native Mike Repole's Noble Indy and Vino Rosso.
A few hours later, Justify, the undefeated favorite to win the Belmont Stakes, which would mean a Triple Crown, entered the track via the gap, stepping foot on the Belmont surface for the very first time.
After getting used to the "Big Sandy" dirt track, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner came blazing by the finish line, impressing early morning spectators with his size and speed.
Bob Baffert, Justify's trainer, said then horse looked happy, a little aggressive, and a little fresh. Baffert won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah and had three other opportunities to claim the prestigious title.
Co-owner Elliot Walden, who won the Belmont Stakes with Victory Gallop in 1998 as its trainer, knows the variables that will come into play for Justify to fend off competitors.
As many as 90,000 fans are expected to be at Belmont Park for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes. Each one likely hoping to "justify" their chance at seeing the second Triple Crown winner in the last three years.