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Belmont Stakes celebrates 150 runnings as Justify looks for Triple Crown

Justify looks to become the 13th Triple Crown winner at the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes. Rami Niemi

On Saturday, history will be made in Elmont, New York. The Belmont Stakes will celebrate its 150th running -- this we know. But what else is at stake? Just the potential for a Triple Crown win by Derby and Preakness winner Justify.

We had ESPN horse racing expert Chris Fallica weigh the favorite's pluses and minuses:

Justify has run five races in his life and has won them all. His biggest challenger, Audible, with whom he shares ownership, won't be running in the Belmont -- why risk spoiling the party? -- nor will Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Kentucky Derby runner-up and Preakness pacesetter Good Magic. Even better news for the 3-year-old: Each of the past five horses to win the Triple Crown led at every point of call and was an odds-on choice in the Belmont. Justify is (natch) the favorite this year and likes to be on the lead. So put your money on him, right?

Hold on. A metric called the Beyer speed figure represents a horse's performance relative to the speed of the track. According to it, Justify had the worst race of his career at the Preakness. That might be a result of his fatigue: The Belmont will be his third race in five weeks, and Justify ran three times in seven weeks leading up to the Derby. History stacks up against Justify, too. Only one of the 12 horses that have won the Triple Crown did so undefeated -- the legendary Seattle Slew in 1977. Justify might not have much competition flanking him but that won't make for a certain win.

Triple Crown winners

Of the 35 horses that have been eligible for the Triple Crown after winning the first two legs, 12 have succeeded. Triple Crown-winning jockeys have mostly been American, but winners have also come from Canada, Mexico, France and England.

Secretariat holds the fastest finishing time at 2:24.00. In 1973, the Triple Crown-winning horse set a world record that still stands for a race on a mile-and-a-half dirt track. The horse reached a top speed of 49 mph. Here are other notable facts about winners and near-misses:

  • Gallant Fox is the only Triple Crown winner to sire another Triple Crown winner (Omaha)

  • Real Quiet was the closest Triple Crown miss -- in 1998, he came in second by a nose behind Victory Gallop

  • Previously undefeated Big Brown finished last in 2008

Eyes on the prize money

The total purse of Triple Crown winners has changed in the past 99 years since Sir Barton won $57,275 in 1919 ($828,481 in today's world). If Justify wins the Belmont, he would earn the second-highest prize money all-time behind American Pharoah in unadjusted dollars.

The purse for the 2018 Belmont Stakes stands at $1.5 million. How does it compare to other purses from the past year?

Spring and summer events to watch

The Belmont was one of the earliest sporting events, and the first of the three Triple Crown races.

Long odds

The favorite has won the Belmont -- the Triple Crown's longest leg at 1½ miles -- only four times in the past 25 years. Justify powered through 1¼ miles of rainy muck at the Kentucky Derby and charged in the fog to claim the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, winning the slowest race of his life by half a length.

Belmont's largest crowds

The largest Belmont crowd was in 2004, when Smarty Jones lost his Triple Crown bid. In 2015, when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, the crowd was capped at 90,000. That same year, an estimated 22 million viewers watched as he became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. The first Belmont Stakes to be broadcast was in 1948, when CBS viewers watched Citation win the Triple Crown.

Did you know?

Plenty has happened in the previous 149 races of the Belmont Stakes. Here are five facts you might not know:

1. Julie Krone, who rode Colonial Affair to a Belmont win in 1993, remains the only female jockey to win any of the Triple Crown races.

2. Nine horses bred outside of the United States have won the Belmont: England (6), Ireland (2), Canada (1) .

3. Triple Crown-winning jockey Johnny Longden (Count Fleet, 1943) came to the United States from England and was originally supposed to come over on the Titanic as a child with his mother -- but had a late train and missed the boat.

4. "C" is the most popular first initial of Belmont-winning horses (20 wins).

5. The slowest time for a winner is Echelon in 1970 at 2:34.00 -- still only 10 seconds slower than Secretariat's record time.