"It is what it is, and I'm really proud of his effort", said Brown, who voiced his frustration that the other jockeys in the race didn't challenge Justify on the front end. In that case, the last Triple Crown victor came when Jimmy Carter was in the second year of his Presidency, the Shah of Iran was still in power, and the Soviet Union still existed and had not yet launched what would become a disastrous war in Afghanistan, and Grease had not yet been released in theaters. "He's my champion", the smiling, ageless jockey added.
It worked to perfection as Smith put an exclamation point on his illustrious career, guiding Justify to victory in the 1½-mile race that was over with an eighth of a mile to go.
Concern over Justify's No. 1 position was eliminated right away, as Smith recalled the start. "He left there today very good which was very important". Justify's owners neither confirmed nor denied those reports.
"He was standing so good, nearly too good", Smith revealed.
Gunther guesses Justify's next race will be $1.25-million Grade 1 Travers Stakes on August 25 at Saratoga, with an eventual appearance at the Breeder's Cup.
Smith was calm and confident before and during the race, so much so that he told a story about how Baffert told him the night before that if he had to whip Justify at the top of the stretch that they'd be in trouble.
"It is such a surreal feeling and one that I'm still trying to take in", he said.
After a 37-year drought in which the feat seemed impossible to achieve again, Justify became the second horse in four years to do it, schooled - like his 2015 predecessor, American Pharoah - by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Yet while happy for Smith - a close friend - Espinoza couldn't help but remain biased.
"They're two different type of horses, Pharoah and this guy", Baffert told the AP after Justify won the Preakness. But he likely won't be lauded as horse racing's history savior, like American Pharoah. He was also only three-quarters of a length behind Triple Crown contender Justify so keep him in mind when filling out your tri-fectas.
"This horse ran a tremendous race", Smith said.
"He knows when he sees me it's time to do something serious, you know? I took that same approach". Justify gave Baffert his 16th victory as trainer in the Triple Crown series - five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preaknesses and three Belmonts - breaking a tie with D. Wayne Lukas for tops all-time.
"The only way we can be competitive with the big boys of the breeding world is by backing ourselves and finding these horses as yearlings", Field said.
WinStar has stood some of its stallions in the Southern Hemisphere but does not own a stud farm in Australia.
Justify isn't done just yet. "You can't find horses like this; they find you".
From early on, Baffert said it was clear that Justify was special. "And I thought maybe, because I could see Gronkowski flying, but he just couldn't get to that horse".