By Katie Petrunyak
Tanya Gunther was thrilled to watch the latest 'TDN Rising Star' Justique (Justify) trounce the competition in her breathtaking debut, but the horsewoman admitted that a few thoughts of what could have been flashed through her head as she remembered the promising filly's early days spent at Glennwood Farm.
“I didn't really want to sell her,” Gunther said with an acquiescing smile. “Most of our yearlings do go to the sale, but I was a bit sad when we let her go.”
Bred by Tanya's father John Gunther in partnership with Eurowest Bloodstock, Justique is the sixth foal out of the Gunthers' graded stakes-producing homebred mare Grazie Mille (Bernardini). When the dark bay foal arrived in March of 2020, the Gunthers were caught on the other side of the Atlantic at the start of the pandemic.
Tanya Gunther received regular photo updates of Justique throughout the year. When she finally returned to Glennwood, she made up for lost time with the youngster as she worked with the filly throughout the summer of her yearling year.
“I was down in our filly barn a lot through our prep season, so I spent a lot of time with her,” Gunther explained. “I got to know her very well and she was a favorite of mine. She had a very athletic look about her, sort of the Scat Daddy and Justify aspect coming through.”
Justique would sell for $725,000 at the Keeneland September Sale before joining the John Shirreffs barn to race for C R K Stable.
“I really hoped that she would be something special and so far, she looks pretty interesting,” Gunther said.
Smarty pants filly foal by Justify?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Justify out of Grazie Mille reminding her peeps #sixfeetawayplease 🙃 She's all over it #socialdistancing (with essential care exclusions) & gets her temp taken daily as well w gloves used 🌡🥊👍 #glennwood @johndgunther pic.twitter.com/ReEeNybGMT
— Tanya Gunther (@tanyagun) March 23, 2020
While Gunther may have had to part with Grazie Mille's first daughter of Justify, Justique's full-sister arrived at Glennwood in March this year and Gunther said that this filly will almost definitely stay with their operation.
“She's an exceptional individual,” Gunther reported. “She is very pretty, leggy and has great scope on her. She's just a beauty, much like Justique was as a foal.”
A shiny chestnut with a touch of chrome, this youngster has the definite stamp of her sire who once meandered the very same paddocks at Glennwood before achieving Triple Crown glory. Glennwood Farm is an enthusiastic supporter of the Coolmore sire and Gunther said that she is finding common trends in Justify's progeny.
“I have found that while his offspring may not always be chestnut with the blaze, they definitely have a physique that I see a resemblance of him,” she explained. “While [Justique and her sister] are different colors, they are very much of a similar model.”
Each of these daughters of Justify represent their breeder on both sides of their pedigree. John Gunther purchased their second dam, Molto Vita (Carson City), for $24,000 in 2000. She won the 2004 GIII Thoroughbred Club of America S. and collected over half a million in earnings before retiring to stud. Her third foal, Grazie Mille, broke her maiden impressively for Chad Brown, but was forced to retire prematurely.
“She was a very talented racehorse, but she chipped a knee and we had to retire her early,” Gunther recalled. “I think she would have been a stakes horse and her trainer did as well.”
Grazie Mille's first foal Mo Town (Uncle Mo) earned the 'Rising Star' nod at two and went on to dual-surface success in the GII Remsen S. and GI Hollywood Derby before joining the roster at Ashford Stud. Along with studmate Justify, he is represented by his first crop of runners this year.
With immeasurable upside potential for Grazie Mille and her growing produce record, Gunther has high hopes for the accomplished homebred mare.
“We had the fortune of breeding her to Uncle Mo early on before he had runners and that was how she got rolling as a broodmare with progeny behind her name, so now it's hopefully onward and upward from there.”