Wheels up! Triple Crown winner Justify comes back to Louisville

Wheels up! Triple Crown winner Justify comes back to Louisville
Justify the morning after snagging the Triple Crown. (Source: Doug Druschke/WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Like a king, Justify made his way back to where the Triple Crown dream started. Undefeated triple crown winner Justify left New York Monday morning and landed at Louisville international Airport around 12:50 p.m. Monday afternoon.

There was a special water cannon welcome for the champ at the airport. Justify was loaded onto a van and made a three mile trip to Churchill Downs with a police escort.

Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said Justify will be taking it easy the next few days at Churchill. Barnes said the colt did great on the flight.

"Amazing trip, amazing horse," Barnes said

That may be an understatement.  When you think about it, Justify racing career started in February of this year. He's proven he can do it all.

"To do that and six starts," Barnes said. "Wet track, fog, dry track it was surreal. One of the most exciting things to experience again."

In 2015, trainer Bob Baffert broke the Triple Crown drought with American Pharoah. Three years later, another victory with Justify but, assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes admits there was a different feel to this one.

"American Pharoah was very special because it because it hadn't been done in so long," Barnes said. "This was special in its own way. There was a different buzz in New York over the whole thing when American Pharoah won compared to this one. It was still exciting."

Both horses have to be great to be Triple Crown winners, Barnes says the one thing they both have in common they like the to be the center of attention in front the cameras.

Rick Clemons had spent a lot of time at barn 33 doing security for Churchill Downs. Clemons has watched over American Pharoah and now Justify .

"Being around one is an amazing thing," Clemons said. "To be able to be around two, is unbelievable."

So unbelievable that Janet Shulthise whose family business has been providing feed for Justify was face timing her daughter in Florida to see this unique opportunity.

"Just on pins and needles," Shulthise said. So what's next for Justify?

"We haven't decided," Barnes said. "Next is hopefully a parade and decide what his next start after that."

More than likely, the public may be able to see Justify during Saturday's Downs After Dark event, when trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith will also be here.

Justify will be under heavy security 24/7 at barn 33.

Baffert was asked on Monday on the Today Show if American Pharoah and Justify were in a race together...who would win? He said he couldn't answer, it was like saying which child you loved more.

Churchill Downs said on June 16, Downs After Dark will feature a Winner's Circle ceremony where Justify's owners, trainer Bob Baffert and hall of fame jockey Mike Smith will receive their engraved Kentucky Derby trophies.

Justify is tentatively scheduled to return to his home base at Santa Anita Park in Southern California on Sunday, June 17.

This story will be updated.

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