Forget the Conspiracy, Justify Earned It

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D.S. Williamson

June 12th, 2018

Shortly after Justify won the 2018 Belmont Stakes, taking home the 13th Triple Crown in history, sour grapes came about. Those sour grapes have turned into a flippant conspiracy. The conspiracy is that Restoring Hope served as Justify's offensive lineman to help Justify win the the Belmont Stakes.

Although I wish I could blow up the conspiracy, the truth as that after multiple viewings, I can't. There appears to be some validity to Michael Repole's contention that jockey Florent Geroux aboard Restoring Hope used tactics to help Justify win the Triple Crown.

However, it doesn't mean much.

Forget the Conspiracy, Justify Earned It

The Conspiracy:  Restoring Hope Served as Justify's Offensive Lineman

Repole said that from what he saw Restoring Hope served as Justify's offensive lineman. At first glance, this doesn't seem to make any sense. It sure looked like Florent Geroux aboard Restoring Hope wanted to win the Belmont Stakes. He had Restoring Hope in the perfect position to run past Justify to the wire. The horse appeared to not be good enough.

But, then, after multiple viewings it's apparent that Florent Geroux had a different idea in mind than actually winning the race. He didn't appear to push Restoring Hope along until he was well out of it. He didn't work Restoring Hope towards Justify at the top of the stretch. He didn't attempt to get Restoring Hope back into the race until the rest of the field had passed him by.

Not only that, but at the beginning of the race, Florent Geroux didn't head down to the rail. Instead, he forced his way between horses, then sent Restoring Hope out wide before settling next to Justify.

All of this has leads me to believe that Geroux might have been working to provide Justify a clear path to the Triple Crown. But...

...Were the Tactics Wrong?

Is it inconceivable to believe that one horse trained by the favorite might use tactics to help the other horse? Not really. It happens every day. Trainers often use one of their horses to set up the other horse. The individuals hurt most by such tactics are the owners of the horse being used. In this case, it looks like Geroux attempted to use Restoring Hope as Justify's rabbit. When that didn't work, because Restoring Hope broke too slowly, he went to Plan B.

Plan B was to block as many horses as he could to make it hard for them to get to Justify. Here's the thing...no horse was going to get to Justify. Gronkowski had a clear shot up the rail. Hofburg had to go wide. But, Restoring Hope wasn't the only horse that blocked Hofburg. He probably should have been in a better position before the turn if he wanted a real shot at Justify.

Vino Rosso also had a clear path. Why didn't he beat Justify? He wasn't good enough. As far as Javier Castellano selling out Noble Indy to help Vino Rosso, Castellano wanted to win the race. Testing Justify early wasn't the best way to win the race.

Bravazo could have stolen Restoring Hope's position. Noble Indy could have raced right onto the hip of Justify. There are several other things that could have happened. Even Tenfold, once he got rail position, could have held it by rushing up and in between the rail and Bravazo. Heck, Vino Rosso could have tried to secure the rail position. It worked for Gronkowski.

Justify Earned It

The bottom line is that Florent Geroux's tactics were his tactics. Once the gates open, it's a chess match among jockeys that take place within less than 2 minutes. Decisions must be made on the fly within seconds.

I don't believe Geroux gave as good of a ride aboard Restoring Hope as he could have. I feel bad for Restoring Hope's owners, Gary and Mary West. They deserved better. But, I don't believe Florent Geroux's ride is what led to Justify winning the Triple Crown.

Justify earned his Triple Crown.