Belmont Stakes 2018: Is Justify Related to Secretariat?

Spectators at Belmont Park Saturday will show up rain or shine in the hopes of seeing a new Triple Crown winner named. Justify won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes this year, and come Saturday, will make an attempt at winning the third leg of the series and securing the Triple Crown title.

The last horse to win the Triple Crown was American Pharoah in 2015. The horse and jockey, Victor Espinoza, broke a dry spell that lasted 37 years. Prior to that win, the winners were Affirmed, Seattle Slew and perhaps the most famous, Secretariat.

Secretariat was a record-breaking horse on and off the track. He won the Belmont, and the Triple Crown in just 2:24 minutes when he crossed the finish line with 31 lengths separating him from the second-place horse. But physically he was also an extraordinary horse, with an exceptionally large heart.

After Secretariat died, a necropsy revealed that the horse's heart was far larger than that of an average horse. It wasn't that the heart was swollen, or that it was enlarged due to disease, it was just overall larger. The veterinarian who performed the procedure said Secretariat's heart was twice the size of an average horse's heart and then some, Sports Illustrated reported.

That massive heart is part of what made Secretariat so good. It helped pump more blood and oxygen around his body while he raced. Some people have wondered whether Justify might have the same genetic advantage.

"Does he have a superheart? Nobody knows that," Sean Tugel, director of bloodstock services and assistant racing manager at WinStar Farm, the farm that races Justify, told Newsweek about Justify. But he does believe that Justify "absolutely" has a larger heart than an average horse, just not as big as Secretariat's.

"I'm gonna tell you right now, he does not have a heart as big as Secretariat's," he said.

While the two horses share relatives, "in the horse world we wouldn't say they're related," Tugel said. Justify's pedigree, essentially the family tree of the horse, can be traced back to Secretariat.

Justify's sire, or dad, is Scat Daddy,

"Scat Daddy is [of] a Storm Cat line and Storm Cat is a Secretariat mare," Tugel explained. This means the horse that fathered Justify had a mother who was a descendant of Secretariat. But Secretariat sired hundreds of horses in his time, so Justify's connection isn't all that uncommon.

"You have to go back several generations, but you will find Secretariat," said Tugel. "You could technically say Secretariat does have an influence on him, but we wouldn't call them relatives."

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Justify runs on the track during his morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 2. The racehorse is distantly related to Secretariat. Andy Lyons/Getty Images