Justique Is Lead In Last Sunday's Triplet of Rising Star Fillies


Justique strolls home to an effortless win and 'Rising Star'-dom Benoit Photo


In the same way which astronomical stars largely form in groups, so too did the 'TDN Rising Stars' this past Sunday. Not one, not two, but three leading ladies emerged from the nebulae of Del Mar and Saratoga, each with her own brand of brilliance. Chief among the splendor, and the last to show her shine, was Justique (Justify), whose brilliant turn of foot and effortless dismissal of rivals summoned forth comparisons to another glorious 'Rising Star' in her hayday–a John Shirreffs masterpiece, Hall of Famer Zenyatta (Street Cry {Ire}). Since then, she's come out “bright and hungry” and the focus shifts to what her enormous potential signals for the future.


Justique marks her conditioner's first debut winner in three years. John Shirreffs is a man famous for his patience, and keen intuition toward what his horses need on a personal level. Much like the breed he loves, his training style has shifted and changed through the years. The focus on his firster record might be a bit too much research on some of our parts.

“Personally, I don't want to win first-time out,” said Shirreffs in a text. “You never much learn about a horse's style when it is chased. When I trained for [Marshall Naify's] 505 [Farms], we won first-out quite often. I try not to make speed the priority [anymore].”

With his newest budding star, the focus was confidence building and not so much where she'd be early on. They had to give her someone to follow in the mornings, Shirreffs reported, and he was careful not to upset her by asking for something she didn't understand. And to address the big mare in the room, he maintains an accurate comparison is impossible off a single maiden win.

“Justique has the ability to make running appear effortless with her huge stride. Zenyatta had the ability to lengthen as she ran, getting longer and lower.”

Part and parcel with that huge stride, there was a lot to like about her long before her eye-catching first start. Her intelligent eye and quiet, steady demeanor made quite the impression at the September sale, especially so on Shirreffs's wife, Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs. Justique was her favorite horse.

“It is interesting how much sale yearlings change from September to July. At the sale, she had the classic Thoroughbred appearance; long, great underline, clean legs, sharp intelligent eyes…I can still see her standing quietly, waiting as we inspected her. 'One more walk, please.' I bet she knows those words!”

Beyond her impressive physical, Justique gains the benefit of potential versatility hinted by her 'Rising Star' half-brother Mo Town (Uncle Mo), who successfully reinvented himself as a turf horse later in his career. In his sole start at the same venue as his half-sister's coming-out party, Mo Town ran down and out-kicked Channel Maker (English Channel) at the head of a salty GI Hollywood Derby field. To complete the circle, her connections won the 2021 edition of the race with Beyond Brilliant (Twirling Candy). Justique already shouldered the weight of expectation with her royalty-befitting price tag, but unlike many who share auction amounts in the high six-figure range, she's shown that there just might be something there.

Shifting focus to the East Coast, and from the faithful, fruitful grounds of Champions past, present, and future–known as Saratoga–emerged Prank (Into Mischief) for the partnership of StarLadies Racing, LNJ Foxwoods, and Gainesway Stable. The half-sister to GI Belmont S. winner Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo) gave her sire another monumental mark to his already legendary career by becoming his 33rd 'Rising Star', and the second on the weekend behind Newgate at Del Mar July 30. The 9 3/4-length gap on rivals, after burning through :21.91 and :45.11 fractions, further emphasized the ability running in the family, and she'll be the flag bearer for the moment with Mo Donegal on the sidelines to recover from bone bruising.

Earlier, on the same card, and more than able to hold her own on raw ability, came the aptly-named Be Your Best (Ire) (Muharaar {GB}). Sent away in a competitive field, and never in any hurry early, she certainly caught the eye as she cruised passed rivals into a six-furlong 1:14.29 split. Try as they might, the field could not catch her as Be Your Best bounded home as easily as she pleased for owner Mike Ryan and conditioner Horacio De Paz. The filly hails from an incredibly deep female family with no less than 10 graded stakes winners in it, including five filly Grade I winners and Canadian Champion 3-year-old filly Munnyfor Ro (Munnings). The latter recently placed in the GII Dance Smartly S. at Woodbine.

Saratoga and Del Mar in the summer are famous for attracting deep, talented fields of young horses. Be their beginnings humble or worthy of a throne, there is no greater thrill than seeing a runner justify the faith they've been entrusted with; solidified by recognition from peers and industry experts. It's not every day the TDN gives out three 'Rising Star' nods, but when there's talent, one cannot ignore the siren song.

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