Justify completes Kentucky Derby-Preakness Stakes double
Justify is being spoken of as a potential modern day great of US racing after taking last Saturday’s 143rd Preakness Stakes by a half-length at Pimlico after his even more impressive victory in the preceding Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs two weeks earlier.
The big, handsome chestnut colt was unfazed by the sloppy dirt tracks encountered in both Classics and will bid to complete the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 9, a feat last achieved by now Coolmore sire American Pharoah in 2015.
Justify is the seventh horse to complete the Kentucky Derby-Preakness Stakes double since 2004 but in that time only American Pharoah has had the opportunity, class and stamina required to go on to Triple Crown glory. Justify’s front-running style and sprint-oriented pedigree suggest the Belmont Stakes will be the unbeaten colt’s greatest challenge.
A US$500,000 buy from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Justify is trained by Bob Baffert for a group of owners, among them the China Horse Club and WinStar Farm, both of whom have equine interests in Australia.
The emergence of Justify as a superstar and other recent stakes winners underlines the extent of the loss to the international breeding industry from the early death of Scat Daddy, who died suddenly at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky in December 2015 when only 11 years old.
Scat Daddy’s major wins came in the 2006 Champagne Stakes and the following season he captured the Florida Derby but he broke down at his next start in the Kentucky Derby and never raced again. Beginning his stud career at a modest fee in 2008, Scat Daddy became the leading first crop sire in the US in 2011, while three seasons (2009 to 2011) shuttling to Chile were enough to make him champion sire in that country four times.
Just before his unexpected death, Scat Daddy had been advertised to stand the 2016 season at a fee of US$100,000, a figure justified not only by his success in Chile but also by his many stakes winners in the US and on turf in Europe.
Last season, Coolmore Australia introduced Scat Daddy’s sire son No Nay Never, the champion two-year-old colt in France in 2013 and, like Lady Aurelia and this season’s Coolmore Australia newcomer Caravaggio, a Group 1 winner and successful at Royal Ascot.
No Nay Never on Sunday became the first Europe-based first season sire to be represented by a stakes winner this year when his two-year-old daughter Servalan won the Listed EBF Fillies’ Sprint Stakes at Naas.
Sire of champions in Chile and Venezuela, Scat Daddy now has 100 stakes winners worldwide, 25 Group/Grade One winners, 64 Group/Graded winners and an outstanding nine per cent black type winners-to-foals ratio.
Justify’s female pedigree is quite strong without being exceptional. His first two dams, Stage Magic and Magical Illusion, were stakes-placed winners.
Voodoo Lily, third dam of Justify, was a Grade 3 and Listed winner in the US before going to stud to breed no fewer than ten winners, five of them stakes-placed.
Overall, Justify has an extremely well-constructed and balanced pedigree and it is one worthy of close study showing striking similarities between the breeding backgrounds of both parents.
Linebreeding to favourites like Mr Prospector, Northern Dancer and Nijinsky is complemented by a double of Honest Pleasure and a line of his seldom-encountered brother For The Moment, plus duplications of Secretariat and Hawaii.
For me, though, the 4x4 cross of full sisters Yarn and Pleach is the most interesting aspect of Justify’s intricately woven pedigree, as these two mares trace to Monarchy, a sister to champion racehorse and sire Round Table.
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