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Local woman in the stands as Justify takes Triple Crown

SALISBURY — Janet Barnes likes to call herself the dreamer of her family.

At 48 years young, she’s been there and seen a little bit of everything. She’s graced the stage at local and statewide beauty pageants, winning the Miss Cabarrus County title at 19 and winning talent competition and placing as fourth runner-up in Miss North Carolina.

She’s worked in Nashville, Tennessee, in the music industry, spending years singing and traveling to places like Las Vegas and the Caribbean.

On Saturday, a new and developing dream led her to the Belmont Stakes, where she watched as Justify, a 3-year-old horse, took the Triple Crown.

“To watch a horse achieve racing immortality and to know that I was standing there, 10 feet from the finish line, was just unbelievable for me,” Barnes said. “I got to witness history.”

Barnes’ affinity for racehorses goes back to her childhood, when her family kept and showed quarter horses.

Her love for the animals took a back burner as she pursued a career as a singer out of state.

The passing of her grandfather and a health crisis inspired her to return to her early love.

“After that, I said to myself, ‘Yep, it is true. I’m only gonna get one life,'” she said. “A big item that I had on my bucket list was to own a racehorse.”

After much research, Barnes traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to buy her first shares in racing syndicates. Today, she owns shares in four horses: Sergios Pride, Warrior Prince, Close the Gap and High Powered.

It was this insider perspective on what makes for a good racehorse that led her to expect big things from Justify when she watched him win the Santa Anita Derby.

“He had this great big butt. We call it the power train, and it’s just muscles I’ve never seen,” she said. “… I said, ‘That horse is going to win the Triple Crown.'”

As a horse-racing enthusiast, Barnes explained just why Justify’s win was so miraculous. Not only does he have a straight win record, she said, but he was never raced as a 2-year-old.

Most horses along the road to the Triple Crown will need to run at two to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, she said.

By taking the crown, Justify has broken the “Curse of Apollo.” No other horse has won without racing as a 2-year-old since the horse Apollo took the Kentucky Derby in 1882.

Barnes also stressed the physical difficulty of the Triple Crown: most thoroughbred racehorses never run more then once in a six-week period, she said.

“When fresh horses are sent out, it makes it extremely hard for a horse that has competed in the previous two jewels for the Triple Crown, just because the horses that competed are worn out,” she said.

Barnes said she is still in shock over witnessing Justify’s win in person.

“My heart is overflowing,” she said. “I’m 48 years old, and I just witnessed something I never thought I would.”

Barnes said her shared horse, 2-year-old High Powered, will start racing this summer. The hope? To earn enough points for the Kentucky Derby in 2019.

High Powered’s sire, Shanghai Bobby, ran eight races with six first-place finishes and one second, earning $1.8 million on the track.

Justify’s sire, Scat Daddy, had nine starts with five first-place wins and one second, earning $1.3 million.

Will the similarities between sires bode well for High Powered?

We’ll keep an eye out.

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