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Homeracing

10 interesting facts about Justify, the legendary horse and Triple Crown winner

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

May 18th, 2022

Justify is the 13th and most recent Triple Crown winner, having achieved his milestone in 2018 in remarkable circumstances.

Below are 10 interesting facts about Justify.

1. He was an expensive buy at auction for owners that included a Chinese sports club: Justify was bought at auction for $500,000 by Maverick Racing, which buys horses for big Kentucky breeding operation WinStar Farm, and China Horse Club — a sporting and leisure club put together by Teo Ah Khing, a billionaire from Malaysia who wants to build a large horse racing operation in China.

2. His ownership group included a group linked with a well-known financier: WinStar and China Horse Club continued to own Justify as he raced, but they also sold 15% of Justify to SF Racing, a company controlled by employees of hedge fund operator George Soros, known for his financial support of liberal causes — making him unpopular with many conservatives. SF Racing later sold racing rights to Justify prior to the Triple Crown to Starlight Racing and Head of Plains, though SF retained breeding rights.

3. He didn’t start his training with Bob Baffert: After his purchase, Justify was sent to expat Frenchman Rodolphe Brisset, who opened a training establishment in April 2017. He pre-trained about 20 WinStar Farm horses in the understanding they would be sent to other trainers. After breezing three times at Keeneland in October and November of that year, Justify was sent to Baffert in California.

4. He broke a 136-year-old curse: Before Justify, no horse had won the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a two-year-old since Apollo in 1882. None had done so before Apollo either. Justify didn’t make his debut until February 18, 2018, less than three months before the Derby.

5. Only two horses headed him in the entire Triple Crown series: Jockey Mike Smith’s tactics were pretty simple with Justify: go out fast, contest the lead, and dare the others to stick with him. Promises Fulfilled led him narrowly in the Kentucky Derby before he took over with three furlongs to go; Justify went head-to-head with Good Magic in the Preakness before taking the lead near the final bend; and he was never headed in the Belmont.

6. His Triple Crown victory made him one of the most expensive horses in history: Justify’s breeding rights were sold prior to the Belmont S. to Irish breeding giant Coolmore Farm, which runs Ashford Stud in Kentucky. ESPN reported the sale price as $60 million, with a reported extra $25 million to be paid if he completed the Triple Crown.

7. He is the only Triple Crown winner that didn’t race again after the Belmont Stakes: Connections had hoped Justify could emulate American Pharoah and win the “Grand Slam” by taking out the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in November. But after some filling was noticed in the ankle of his left front leg a month after the Belmont, he was examined by medics and retired to stud at the end of July.

8. He is the only Triple Crown winner to retire unbeaten: Before Justify, only Seattle Slew among Triple Crown winners was undefeated when completing the Triple Crown. However, Seattle Slew raced on. Though he continued to be outstanding, he was defeated three times in his remaining eight races. Every other Triple Crown winner was defeated prior to the Kentucky Derby.

9. Justify shares his home with another Triple Crown winner: Ashford Stud in Kentucky, where Justify was retired to, is also the breeding home of 2015 Triple Crown hero American Pharoah. Both horses were also trained by Bob Baffert, though they were not in his stable at the same time.

10. His first progeny begin racing in 2022: Justify was understandably popular at stud, given his racing record and the fact his outstanding sire, Scat Daddy, had died two years previously. He began with a service fee of $150,000, which has since been reduced to $100,000. His first yearlings sold up to $1.55 million in the United States in 2021, and some of them are ready to hit the track.

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