China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm’s Justify (Scat Daddy–Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper), ‘TDN Rising Star’ and undefeated winner of the 2018 Triple Crown, has been retired from racing and will have stud plans finalized at a future date, it was announced Wednesday. Bred in Kentucky by Glennwood Farm, the colt, who became the first unblemished Triple Crown winner since Seattle Slew in 1977, retires with a perfect six-for-six record and earnings of $3,798,000.
“Justify had some filling in his ankle, and he is just not responding quick enough for a fall campaign,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “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.”
WinStar Farm’s Kenny Troutt added, “He is an incredible horse and we are very disappointed he can’t run again. All things happen for a reason, and we are blessed to have raced him to be the 13th Triple Crown winner in history.”
Justify’s rise to the top of the game came in a remarkably short period of time. The hulking chestnut captured his seven-furlong debut at Santa Anita Feb. 18 and he quickly added a second win in an optional claimer at the Arcadia track Mar. 11. After that, it was on to the GI Santa Anita Derby Apr. 7, where he scored by an emphatic three lengths as a prep for the Kentucky Derby. On the first Saturday in May, Justify attended a fast pace and kept finding, striding home 2 1/2 lengths in front in the Churchill Downs slop [video]. After a hard-fought half-length victory over Bravazo (Awesome Again) in the GI Preakness S. May 19 [video], Justify ran into the record books, becoming the 13th Triple Crown winner with a comfortable 1 3/4-length win in the GI Belmont S. June 9 [video]. The Bob Baffert trainee returned to his California base and has been residing at Del Mar in recent weeks, where he has been monitored for the ankle filling, which surfaced earlier this month. He is scheduled to parade Saturday at Del Mar after the day’s fourth race.
“To win the Triple Crown is an amazing accomplishment,” said China Horse Club’s Teo Ah Khing. “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.”
While in the immediate aftermath of the Belmont, the door was left open for a potential return to the racetrack, the timing of the ankle filling ultimately led to Justify’s retirement, according to Elliott Walden of WinStar. Justify will return to the farm early next month.
“The timing is bad for another start in 2018, and therefore, we have to retire him,” said Walden. “Like [2015 Triple Crown winner] American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), we can’t take the risk of running Justify as a 4-year-old. We all wanted him to finish his career in the [GI] Breeders’ Cup Classic, 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.”
Justify’s Grade III-placed dam Stage Magic is also responsible for a 2-year-old half-sister to Justify by Pioneerof the Nile named Egyptian Storm, who was purchased by Robert S. Evans and West Point Thoroughbreds for $230,000 from the Glennwood consignment at last year’s Keeneland September sale. Egyptian Storm had her fourth published workout July 21 at Saratoga for trainer Christophe Clement. Stage Magic’s 2017 foal is a colt by Will Take Charge and she produced a colt by Pioneerof the Nile Apr. 19 before being bred back to Quality Road. Her 4-year-old daughter Holiday Music (Harlan’s Holiday) was claimed by trainer Neil Pessin for $30,000 out of a winning effort at the Fair Grounds on New Year’s Day and was subsequently privately purchased by Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm.
Justify’s second dam Magical Illusion (Pulpit) was third in the 2004 GI Coaching Club American Oaks, while third dam Voodoo Lily was a Grade III winner.