Triple Crown Connection -July 2018

by: Dean Geddes

When Justify came barreling around the final turn at the Belmont Stakes with the lead, just a few hundred yards from immortality, Sol Kumin had a different feeling than usual. Normally one to jump up and down and scream with joy when a horse he owns wins, Kumin realized the gravity of the moment.

Justify was about to become the 13th Triple Crown winner in history, and only the third to accomplish horseracing’s ultimate feat since 1978.

Justify, with jockey Mike Smith aboard, in the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, at Belmont Park.

“I was nervous, but I got emotional, which was surprising,” the island summer resident said. “When he was crossing the (finish) line, I started to tear up. I was with my kids so I held it together. My daughter was on my lap, my boys were next to me and I didn’t even scream, I just hugged them all.”

Kumin’s ownership group Head of Plains Partners purchased a 15 percent ownership stake in Justify this winter, when the thought of competing for the Triple Crown was a pipe dream.

Having never raced as a 2-year-old, Justify was green. But after winning two qualifying races with ease, Justify turned heads when he won his third race in as many tries: the Santa Anita Derby in early April. It was a Grade 1 stakes race, the major leagues of horseracing, and it earned him just enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

“If he missed one race, one week of training, he doesn’t go to the Derby, and eventually win,” Kumin said. “One out of the 20 horses in the Derby every year gets a fever (and can’t race). So to win these races, everything has to go well. They have to ship right, they have to eat right, they have to have no fever, no bumps or bruises, and then they have to fire three times at three different distances in three different cities in a short period of time. That’s why it’s so hard.”

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