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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Partners in Justify begin new venture in the wake of Triple Crown triumph

Justify: SF Racing and Starlight Racing were among the Triple Crown winner's owners
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Still riding the Triple Crown wave they experienced with Justify, two of the partners in that now retired son of Scat Daddy are teaming up to begin a new venture, beginning with yearling purchases at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected sale, captained by trainer Bob Baffert.

SF Racing and Starlight Racing formed a plan before the sale began on August 6 to buy horses together, and they emerged from the first session of the two-day auction with a pair of colts costing a total of $1,075,000.

Neither WinStar Farm, a longtime partner with SF, nor China Horse Club, another co-owner of Justify and frequent partner with WinStar, apparently is involved in the new arrangement, at least at this point.

Agent Donato Lanni, who has worked for years acquiring young horses for Baffert and his clients, signed tickets for the colts in the name of SF/Starlight West.

“SF approached us two or three weeks ago and wanted to see if we would join up,” said Starlight Racing co-founder Jack Wolf. “This gives us a little more buying power. We all seem to get along fine, so it’s so far, so good.”

Although speculation has risen that Justify’s partners may not have been in harmony about his retirement and/or expected sale, Wolf said he was not part of those discussions since Starlight did not own breeding rights in the colt.

For Starlight, which forms annual investment partnerships in yearlings and which prior to Justify had campaigned the likes of twice champion Ashado and multiple Grade 1 winner and sire Harlan’s Holiday, the motivation to invest in Justify, as well as Florida Derby winner Audible, was racing.

SF facilitated the connection to Justify and Audible by selling racing interests to Starlight.

Wolf added: “We’ve had some demand from our partners to get involved with some West Coast (racing).” Since Starlight members experienced the highest racing thrills with California-based Baffert and Justify, they decided to proceed with the trainer while teaming again with SF Racing, an offshoot of the George Soros-affiliated SF Bloodstock.

“They enjoy going to the races, they love having horses. They decided to join together as a family and just enjoy it all together,” Lanni said of the new venture, which is to include Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables, a part owner in Grade 1 winners Midnight Bisou and Catholic Boy.

Kumin’s Head of Plains Partners group also was a co-owner of Justify after reaching an agreement with WinStar, announced in March, to buy into that colt.

At the Saratoga sale, Lanni worked with representatives of Starlight and SF to find yearling prospects for the new venture, and then Baffert gave his approval to the final choices. Henry Field, a partner in Australia’s Newgate Farm, which is another affiliate of SF Bloodstock, and Frank Brothers, Starlight’s bloodstock agent, were active in the yearling inspections.

“Every stone was turned. We covered the sale and we expect to go to (Keeneland for the) September (sale),” Lanni said.

The initial purchase made on behalf of SF/Starlight West was a grey colt by Violence, catalogued as Hip 16 in the Saratoga sale. Produced by the Pulpit mare L.A. Devine and bred by Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, the colt is a half brother to stakes-placed Gettysburg and was bought on a bid of $575,000.

Later in the session, SF/Starlight West purchased a $500,000 Blame colt out of My Mammy who is a full brother to stakes winner Sweet Victory from the family of Grade 1 winners Bandini and Hail Atlantis.

That bay colt was bred by Newtown Anner Stud.

While Lanni had never been involved with such a large group inspecting and buying horses, he said “I am not surprised it worked out because everybody came together for the right reasons. We wanted to see everybody succeed.

“It’s all ‘we,’ he added. “It’s a ‘we’ partnership.”

Wolf credited Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock with offering Starlight the opportunity to join in racing Justify. Although Starlight initially was interested solely in Audible, Baffert’s enthusiasm about Justify after the colt won his first race in February convinced Wolf to invest in the eventual Triple Crown winner as well.

At the same Starlight is committing resources to the venture with SF, the group also had Lanni buy a pair of two-year-old colts this spring by Shanghai Bobby and Morning Line, paying a total of $600,000, to give to Baffert for training. However, Starlight intends to continue to send horses to its primary trainer, East Coast-based Todd Pletcher, Wolf said.

“Todd is my main man and we’re still buying stock to send to him,” he said. “We’re just sort of minority partners in this other thing (with SF). It’s pretty much business as usual with Todd and some exposure on the West Coast.”

Starlight bought two yearlings in its own name in the opening session at Saratoga, paying $235,000 for a colt from the first crop by Lea and $210,000 for an Into Mischief filly who is a half sister to Grade 1-placed stakes winner Rattlesnake Bridge.

SF was not listed as the buyer of any yearlings on its own. Also missing from the list of buyers during the opening Saratoga session were WinStar and its affiliate Maverick Racing and China Horse Club.


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