Undefeated Triple Crown Champ Justify Retired


Mike Smith aboard Justify after winning the Kentucky Derby (photo by Jordan Thomson).

WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing’s Triple Crown winner Justify has been retired after a perfect record of six wins from six starts and earnings of $3,798,000.

The handsome son of Scat Daddy developed some filling in an ankle following his June 9 Belmont Stakes victory and only trained a handful of times since returning to his home base of Santa Anita.

The son of Scat Daddy will parade before fans one final time at Del Mar on Saturday, after which stud plans will be finalized.

“Justify had some filling in his ankle, and he is just not responding quick enough for a fall campaign,” trainer Bob Baffert said in a press release. “We all wanted to see Justify run again, but ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure he is perfect. Without 60-90 days, I can’t be definite.”

Though co-owner and managing partner WinStar is also a thriving thoroughbred breeding operation, rumors of a potential sale to various other entities have swirled about the colt for months and his future at the Kentucky nursery is questionable. Some of the names believed to be interested in Justify for stallion purposes include John Magnier’s Coolmore Stud division in Lexington, Ashford Stud.

Justify held on to win the Preakness Stakes and will now seek to become the first undefeated Triple Crown winner since Seattle Slew in 1977 (photo by Danielle Ricci).

Justify winning the Preakness Stakes (photo by Danielle Ricci).

“He is an incredible horse and we are very disappointed he can’t run again,” WinStar Farm’s Kenny Troutt said. “All things happen for a reason, and we are blessed to have raced him to be the 13th Triple Crown winner in history.

“When he won the Preakness, I allowed myself to start dreaming about the Triple Crown. When we look back on this, we have been a part of an undefeated Triple Crown Champion, and hopefully a Horse of the Year.”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith expressed his disappointment, but also his gratitude for being a part of the colt’s historic run.

“Like everyone else, I am disappointed he won’t run again, but I am thankful he came into my life,” Smith said. “There was never a time when I rode him that I felt like I was going to get beat. There was no horse who could run with him without sacrificing themselves, and there was no horse who could come get him. He truly is a gift from God.”

China Horse Club’s Teo Ah Khing also expressed his immense pride at his group’s connection to the 13th Triple Crown winner.

Justify in the winner's circle after becoming the 13th Triple Crown winner (photo by Jordan Thomson).

Justify in the winner’s circle after becoming the 13th Triple Crown winner (photo by Jordan Thomson).

“To win the Triple Crown is an amazing accomplishment,” Khing said. “The history of the Triple Crown and the difficulty of winning the three legs is not something I take lightly. It has been a great ride for all of us, and I have complete confidence Bob is doing the right thing by Justify.”

Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, the son of Scat Daddy and the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic was purchased by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing for $500,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September sale. In addition to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, Justify captured the Santa Anita Derby, an optional claiming event at Santa Anita and his maiden score. All six of his victories happened in the span of just more than four months.

“The timing is bad for another start in 2018, and therefore, we have to retire him,” WinStar Farm CEO Elliott Walden said. “Like American Pharoah, we can’t take the risk of running Justify as a four-year-old. We all wanted him to finish his career in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), but it was not meant to be. As has been reported, there is a possible sale to Coolmore in place, but that won’t be finalized until a later date. We are excited to share him with our fans starting the middle of August after he gets acclimated.”

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