What a ride it's been for Canadian John Gunther and Glennwood Farm.
It hardly seems like three years since the world witnessed American Pharoah capture the first Triple Crown in 37 years, but here we are again with Justify, as he attempts to become the 13 horse in history to win all three jewels - the Kentucky Derby (GI), Preakness Stakes (GI) and, now, the Belmont Stakes (GI).
"It was such an unbelievable experience, everybody was in tears, the staff at Glennwood were crying, my daughter was crying".
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the horse crossing in second.
Those are the concerns, but for betting purposes, I truly think Justify is a freak of a horse and will contend in this race.
"It's such an fantastic horse", said Gunther from Elmont.
The Gunthers knew shortly after Justify's birth he was something special.
He conquered the slop on May 5 to become the first horse since 1882 to win a Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old and followed that feat with a damp and daring Preakness victory through soupy fog on May 16 that sent him to NY with the crown on the line. He took his hand away to give Justify a periodic breath, then gave him a squeeze when he wanted more. "You look at 170,000 people yelling and screaming at the Kentucky Derby and he doesn't even turn a hair".
Justify is a massive horse.
Some had wondered whether the colt might show signs of fatigue following a busy schedule but that was not the case as he broke from his number one post position and was never seriously challenged by any of the other nine horses.
Chris Mara has won two Super Bowl championships with the Giants and now he is a Triple Crown champion, too. After not racing as a 2-year-old, Justify has made up for lost time.
Justify's pedigree features plenty of Canadian content.
Just 12 horses have swept the Triple Crown, one of the rarest feats in sports.
The season-ending Breeders' Cup world championships are in Louisville on November 2-3.
Justify, the Triple Crown victor, will get a well-deserved break before racing again this year, although no date or location has been targeted.
Justify was purchased at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for the China Horse Club & Maverick Racing for $500,000 by their buying team that consists of Wallace, the China Horse Club's racing and bloodstock manager, along with Mick Flanagan and Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock. His mounts have earned more than $310 million.
With rain and mud a strong possibility again, in NY on Saturday, the question was which Justify would we see?
"He just puts an old man out there to sit still, who stays out of the way and lets a good horse be a good horse", Smith said, crediting Baffert for using him.
"The crowd was in excess of 100,000 so the noise was unbelievable and when they started to roar as he got near the finish it just got even louder".
Justify was sired by Champagne Stakes and Florida Derby champion Scat Daddy and was born at Glenwood Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.
Gunther said he's now eyeing the future, looking at breeding plans for Justify's mother.
In 2015, the previous year with a Triple Crown on the line, all-sources handle on Belmont Stakes Day was $135,790,321.
"He was calm", said Gunther.
"I swear I thought of that, I did", Smith said when he turned for the home stretch.