As expected, undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify’s meteoric career has officially concluded, with his connections announcing his retirement on Wednesday.
The chestnut son of the late Scat Daddy won all six of his starts in a period spanning 111 days, concluding with the Belmont Stakes on June 9, when he became the 13th American Triple Crown winner. The colt was taken out of training with filling in an ankle earlier this month, and the window of time to get him back in training in time for a prep race prior to his scheduled career finale in the Breeders’ Cup Classic rapidly closed.
“Justify had some filling in his ankle, and he is just not responding quick enough for a fall campaign,” trainer Bob Baffert said in a press release. “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.”
Justify, who was campaigned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, and Starlight Racing, is stabled at Del Mar, where he is scheduled to parade for fans on Saturday. He will then head to WinStar Farm in Kentucky. The colt has not officially been sold for stud duty, but the worst-kept secret in the sport is that he is ticketed to head to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky. The international operation also stands 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who was also trained by Baffert.
Coolmore stood Scat Daddy until his sudden death from a cardiac event in December 2015, when he was only 11. At the time, the stallion’s star was on a rapid ascent, and that has continued posthumously with runners such as European champion Lady Aurelia, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and United Arab Emirates Derby winner Mendelssohn, and Group 1-winning sprinters Caravaggio and No Nay Never, along with Justify, who is from his penultimate crop.
“The timing is bad for another start in 2018, and therefore we have to retire [Justify],” WinStar chief executive Elliott Walden said in a release. “Like American Pharoah, we can’t take the risk of running Justify as a 4-year-old. We all wanted him to finish his career in the 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, out of the Grade 3-placed Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic, was bred in Kentucky by John and Tanya Gunther’s Glennwood Farm. WinStar and China Horse Club purchased him for $500,000 out of the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt debuted on Feb. 18, winning a Santa Anita maiden special weight by 9 1/2 lengths under Drayden Van Dyke. Mike Smith took over for Justify’s next start, a 6 1/2-length allowance/optional-claiming victory on March 11, and would remain aboard for the rest of the colt’s career, which was spent in Grade 1 company.
Justify defeated Bolt d’Oro by three lengths in the Santa Anita Derby, earning a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 107, one of five triple-digit figures in his six starts. Justify then splashed home in a sloppy-track Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths over champion Good Magic, becoming the first horse to win the famed classic without having raced as a juvenile since Apollo in 1882.
Justify won the Preakness Stakes by a half-length two weeks later on another sloppy track, setting him up for his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes. The colt coasted down the lane of the massive oval to a deafening roar from the crowd, hitting the finish post for the final time in his career 1 3/4 lengths in front.
“Like everyone else, I am disappointed he won’t run again, but I am thankful he came into my life,” Smith said in the release. “There was never a time when I rode him that I felt like I was going to get beat. There was no horse who could run with him without sacrificing themselves, and there was no horse who could come get him. He truly is a gift from God.”
Justify joined Seattle Slew as the only unbeaten Triple Crown winners; the latter was 9 for 9 in his career through the 1977 Belmont Stakes before tasting defeat. Justify now joins Count Fleet in another club as the only Triple Crown winners never to run again. The 1943 victor was injured in his Belmont.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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