Justify Arrives At Ashford Stud

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Justify arrives at Ashford | Jon Siegel photo

By Kelsey Riley

The rain clouds that followed Justify (Scat Daddy) during his Triple Crown sweep once again opened up as the unbeaten 3-year-old arrived at his new home at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud on Monday. The rain couldn’t dampen the sunny spirits of the horse’s connections, however, as they prepare to settle him into his new life at stud.

“It’s a great day,” said Coolmore’s Adrian Wallace. “To receive a horse like Justify back here, he’s by Scat Daddy who we stood here throughout his career and sadly we lost him too early. But this is an able replacement for Scat Daddy. He’s a very, very classy horse. He had a stellar career, 112 days, six races undefeated and an undefeated Triple Crown winner. To come here to the same farm where American Pharoah stands is a huge honor for us, and a huge responsibility to this industry and it’s one that we don’t take lightly.”

Coolmore becomes the fourth stud in history to stand two American Triple Crown winners.

“To fall into the same bracket as Claiborne, Calumet and Spendthrift is a great honor for us and one we don’t take lightly,” Wallace said.

Justify will spend the next few weeks settling in and meeting breeders before visits are opened to the public. While Justify will see plenty of new faces, there were a few familiar ones on hand to greet him Monday: trainer Bob Baffert and breeders John and Tanya Gunther and some of their staff from nearby Glennwood Farm.

Baffert, who was seeing the horse for the first time since he departed California on Aug. 1, said, “He looks beautiful. He’s always been, to me, the ultimate-looking Thoroughbred. He almost looks like a big quarter horse. Physically and mentally he’s everything we look for in a horse.”

“It was a pretty sad day when he left but it’s good to see him again,” Baffert continued. “He hasn’t changed, he’s full of himself; he’s always been that way. He’s always been a happy horse. Wherever he goes, he just has that dominance. He walks into the barn and he lets all the horses know. I’m sure if he was in a field with a bunch of stallions, he’d be the guy. He would rule the paddock.”

While he has certainly earned a paddock all to himself, Justify will be joined in the barn at Ashford in late December by American Pharoah when he returns from his latest Australian sojourn. It has been just short of three years since Baffert stood in the same barn to greet the 2015 Triple Crown winner, and it’s likely he didn’t envisage himself back in the same position so soon.

“It’s pretty wild to think that two Triple Crown winners would end up at the same farm,” he said. “Pharoah, he’s our all-time favorite just because he was a brilliant, elite horse like Justify, but he had the demeanor where he loved human contact. His foals are the same way.”

Baffert has been shopping at Keeneland September over the last week, where the first yearlings by American Pharoah have been on offer.

“One thing he is stamping on them is not only his physique but his mechanics,” the trainer said. “American Pharoah was a walker, and a lot of the Europeans especially really rely on the walk, the over stride, and he has that. It’s been tough to buy one because everyone wants them. I’m sure Justify will be the same. It’s like going and buying a souped up sports car; we all want to drive a Ferrari.”

American Pharoah has been received with enthusiasm at stud and in the sales rings in Europe and Australia as well, and Baffert said he predicted the same international appeal for Justify, who has a head start in being by a sire that has been prolific on both dirt and turf.

“He’s bred for turf and he has it on both sides, so dirt, turf; I think he’s going to be like Scat Daddy,” he said. “He’s a pretty freaky kind of horse but he has the pedigree to back it up.

Coolmore has pinned a lot of hopes on sons of its late Scat Daddy, and the experiment thus far has worked out about as well as could be hoped, with No Nay Never being the leading first-crop sire in Europe with four high-class stakes winners.

“It’s very early days, but No Nay Never has got off to a stellar start on our farm in Ireland,” said Wallace. “We also stand Caravaggio at our farm in Ireland, another horse with great credentials, and we hope to stand Mendelssohn either at this farm or in Ireland next year. Scat Daddy died at only 11 years old, his final crop are now 2-year-olds, so what he’s achieved in a very short period of time is phenomenal.”

“As MV Magnier was quoted as saying a couple weeks ago at the sales in France, Ballydoyle and our business model was founded on American Thoroughbreds and American speed,” Wallace added. “I really think a horse like him, if we breed him to our good Galileo mares, our good Montjeu mares, our good Danehill mares, I think he’s got a lot of options. He’ll suit American mares, but he’s a horse who gives us a lot of options for our European mares as well. A lot of our good European mares will come over and visit him as well.”

Wallace said Justify will be supported by “40 or 50 of [Coolmore’s] best mares.” Breeders John and Tanya Gunther have also pledged their support.

“I have a couple [mares] already in mind; I’ve been thinking about that since he hit the track,” Tanya Gunther admitted. The Gunthers brought some of their staff with them to welcome Justify to Ashford, and Tanya said, “It’s a huge deal for us. We’re a small farm with 20 to 30 mares so to have bred a Triple Crown winner on our farm, which is just around the corner from here is amazing. For everyone at the farm, I wanted them to be here to see him. It’s like he’s coming home. The mare was mated in this shed and we’re just kitty corner to Ashford so we’re delighted to see him come here and to be able to come visit him.”

The Gunthers employ an international mindset to their program and they have been rewarded heavily this year with not only Justify, but with Royal Ascot-winning homebred Without Parole (GB) (Frankel {GB}). It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, then, to hear Tanya Gunther lauding the international appear of Justify’s pedigree.

“We had been watching Scat Daddy for a while and I’d pegged him as an up-and-coming horse,” she said. “Seeing him on turf and dirt didn’t deter the mating because it was an interesting mating regardless and we try to breed good racehorses irrespective of turf or dirt. We did the mating and we’re excited to see Scat Daddy take off again this year not only with him but so many other horses. It’s just a shame that they’ve lost him and we hope Justify can carry on where he left off.”

At Ashford, alongside fellow Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Justify will get every chance to carve his own legacy.

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