2018 Triple Crown Winner Profile
Sire: Scat Daddy
Dam: Stage Magic
Owner: WinStar Farm (Majority Owner), China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing
Breeder: John D. Gunther
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Primary Jockey: Mike Smith
Race record: 6 starts, 6 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds
It can be argued no horse ever accomplished more in the span of four months than Justify, a classy chestnut with an abundance of speed and the stamina to match. Between Feb. 18 and June 9, 2018, the son of Scat Daddy went from an unraced maiden to a Triple Crown champion, defying historical norms through sheer talent.
Bred by John D. Gunther and sold for $500,000 as a yearling, Justify was slow to reach the races. Under the patient care of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Justify went unraced as a juvenile, but made up for lost time during the winter of his 3-year-old year. Heavily favored to win his debut sprinting at Santa Anita, Justify dominated by 9 1/2 lengths in the blazing time of 1:21.86. He would never lose again.
Justify followed up his eye-catching maiden triumph with a powerful allowance victory on Mar. 11, winning the one-mile test by 6 1/2 lengths. This performance made Justify the talk of the town, and he lived up to the hype with a confident front-running victory over Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1).
When Justify entered the Churchill Downs starting gate for the Kentucky Derby, he faced not only 19 talented rivals, but 132 years of racing history. No horse since Apollo in 1886 had won the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old, and many believed the “Apollo Curse” would trip up the lightly-raced Justify on the first Saturday in May. But Justify laughed in the face of history, pressing some of the fastest pace fractions in Derby history before pulling clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths under veteran jockey Mike Smith.
Justify faced additional adversity in the Preakness at Pimlico, where dense fog enveloped the sloppy track. After dueling hard from the start with champion juvenile Good Magic, Justify had every excuse to weaken in the homestretch. Instead, he dug down deep and held off a pair of late-charging longshots to win by half a length.
Ironically, the Belmont Stakes was the least dramatic of Justify’s classic triumphs. Allowed to set an uncontested pace, Justify found another gear when called upon in the stretch and stemmed off all challengers down the lane to win by 1 3/4 lengths in the respectable time of 2:28.18.
A minor injury during the summer prompted Justify’s retirement to Ashford Stud, leaving the Belmont Stakes as his final, glorious hurrah. While the overall breadth of his career might be slim compared to Triple Crown legends of the past, Justify did become the first Triple Crown winner to retire undefeated, a distinction that guarantees he’ll retain a special place in racing history.
Justify Major Race Results
Maiden Special Weight
Allowance Optional Claiming
Santa Anita Derby
1 1/16 m
1 1/4 m
1 3/16 m
1 1/2 m