Taking Stock: Justify Finishing Strong

Justify | Coolmore


With about a month and a half to go to the end of the year, Coolmore America's Justify (Scat Daddy) is in a three-way battle with Spendthrift's Bolt d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro) and Hill 'n' Dale's Good Magic (Curlin) for the freshman sire championship, which is measured by progeny earnings. Through Monday, Bolt d'Oro led narrowly with $2,122,968 to Justify's $2,065,556 in second place and Good Magic's $1,984,069 in third. Within striking distance are Hill 'n' Dale's Army Mule (Friesan Fire) in fourth with $1,762,485 and Three Chimneys's Sharp Azteca (Freud) in fifth with $1,649,351.

The undefeated Triple Crown winner, however, leads them all with six black-type winners, four at graded/group level. No other freshman sire has more than four black-type winners and three graded or group winners so far, and Justify's numbers in these categories equal the yearly totals of Three Chimneys sensation Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}), who finished 2021 with six black-type winners–tied with Coolmore America's Practical Joke (Into Mischief)–and four graded or group winners. Gun Runner, of course, also had two Grade I winners, and he ended the year as the leading first-crop sire with the surreal total of $4,315,980 in progeny earnings. That's why Gun Runner will stand in the realm of three times Justify's 2023 fee of $100,000 live foal, based in part on some shares trading privately in the son of Candy Ride at $2.5 million.

Among the current freshman sires, only Good Magic is represented by a Grade l winner–Blazing Sevens, winner of the GI Champagne S. With the Starlet at Los Al the last Grade l stakes race for juveniles in N. America on the calendar, only Good Magic will have a chance to equal Gun Runner's Grade l total from last year unless the two remaining Grade l races in Japan changes this dynamic for another sire based in N. America. But Justify has a realistic chance to surpass Gun Runner's black-type figures of 2021.

Frances J. Karon, my colleague at Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, first noted this possibility in two succinct tweets shortly after Justify's late-running daughter Justique won the Listed Desi Arnaz S. at Del Mar Sunday. In one tweet, she said: “Justique, half to Justify's roster-mate Mo Town (all bred either alone or in partnership by John D. Gunther), makes it six 1st-crop SWs for the sire. The new SW breaks a tie with Havana Grey (who stands in the UK), putting Justify at the head of the freshman sire list by SWs.” She also tweeted: “Last year's co-leading freshman sires by number of SWs were Gun Runner and Practical Joke, with six each, so with six weeks until the end of the year, Justify has a chance to surpass them.”

Vis-à-vis Gun Runner, that would be an accomplishment, especially for a horse that never raced at two and figures like Gun Runner to have his best success with his 3-year-olds. It also makes Justify's stud fee something of a bargain at the price, if that can be said for a six-figure fee, because there's plenty of demand for nominations. One notable breeder, for instance, recently signed contracts for six mares at the advertised price–there are no group discounts on this horse–and has no qualms about shelling out $600,000 for them if each of his mares delivers a live foal. “He's really doing the job,” he said, “and they should be better next year.”

Over the summer, I wrote a piece here July 19 titled “Justify Moving Early.” At the time, the big chestnut was represented by a Group 2 winner in Europe and a Grade lll winner in N. America. He'd exploded on the scene far faster than expected for a horse of his size and race record, and he'd kept going, regularly churning out winners (he has 23 now) and two more stakes winners, but now he appears to be finishing the season on an even stronger note with two new stakes winners the last two weeks and the potential for more. Until recently, the only asterisk on his resume was a pronounced filly bias–his first four black-type winners were fillies–but in early November, two weeks before Justique's Desi Arnaz score, the colt Champions Dream won the Glll Nashua S. at Aqueduct to break the male schneid.

Champions Dream was a $25,000 Keeneland September yearling who'd been pinhooked for $425,000 at OBS March. He won first out in a maiden special at Saratoga and was then fifth in the Champagne behind Blazing Sevens before accounting for the Nashua. He's a legitimate colt for the Triple Crown trail.

Prove Right, another Justify colt, finished third in the Nashua, and he, too, was a cheap Keeneland September yearling, fetching only $15,000. He'd won a maiden special at Churchill in late June.

Justique, on the other hand, sold for $725,000 at the same Keeneland auction. She won a Del Mar maiden special in her first start, was third in the Gll Chandelier S. at Santa Anita next out, and is now a brand new stakes winner.

Other expensive winners for Justify include several lightly raced runners who project to improve next year, including the promising colt Arabian Lion, a $600,000 OBS April 2-year-old who won his Santa Anita maiden special debut impressively and most recently was second on Breeders' Cup weekend to the talented talking horse Giant Mischief (Into Mischief) at Keeneland in an allowance race in his second start; the European-based Bertinelli, a $750,000 Keeneland September purchase who won a maiden race at Dundalk in his second start in early November; Verifying, a $775,000 Keeneland September yearling and Saratoga debut maiden special winner who was second in the Champagne next out and then unplaced in the Gl Breeders' Cup Juvenile; Rarify, a $750,000 Keeneland September yearling who won a Keeneland maiden special at the end of October in her third start after two second-place finishes in similar races at Saratoga; and Tres Soles, a $400,000 Keeneland September yearling who won a Churchill Downs maiden special weight first out and was the sixth in his next start behind Giant Mischief and Arabian Lion in the aforementioned race at Keeneland.

Aside from Justique and Champions Dream, Justify's other back-type winners are European Group 2 winner Statuette, a homebred who's undefeated in two starts; Aspen Grove (Ire), a European Group 3 winner from four starts; Just Cindy, a winner of two of four starts, including the Glll Schuylerville at Saratoga; and Justa Warrior, also a winner of two of four starts, including the Listed Ellis Park Debutante S.

A Developing Cross

Karon, in a separate tweet, pointed out a developing pattern to some of the Justify black-type winners, namely that the stallion is crossing well with the A.P. Indy line. She wrote: “I must also note that Justify has two SWs (plus one spw) from seven foals out of daughters of Bernardini, as well as a G3SW from a mare by Tapit, another A.P. Indy-line sire.”

The two stakes winners from Bernardini mares are Justa Warrior and Justique, while the stakes-placed winner is Rosie's Alibi, who was third in the Tempted S. at Aqueduct earlier this month. Champions Dream is the one out of a Tapit mare, as is the colt Tres Soles noted above.

Because Justify's second dam, Magical Illusion, is by Pulpit, there's inbreeding to either A.P. Indy himself or to Pulpit, the sire of Tapit, in these pedigrees. Champions Dream and Tres Soles are from Tapit mares and have Pulpit 4×3; and the three listed above who are from Bernardini mares have A.P. Indy 5×3.

Scat Daddy himself had three black-type winners from Tapit mares, including Group 3 winner Sergei Prokofiev, and he had Grade l winner Harmonize from a mare by Sky Mesa, a son of Pulpit like Tapit.

With Bernardini and Tapit mares readily available in the broodmare population in Kentucky, Justify is bound to see more of them in the future, and that's not a bad thing, judging from the early returns.

Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.

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