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Popularity surge rockets Triple Crown hero Justify to top of the Keeneland pile

Both session-toppers, including Take Charge Brandi, were sold in foal to him

Justify is proving as alluring to breeders and buyers as he was to racefans
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Just as he did on the racetrack, undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify has rocketed away from his rivals in his debut as a covering sire at the November bloodstock sales.

With a total of 21 mares sold through the single-session Fasig-Tipton auction and the first two sessions of the marathon Keeneland sale, Justify has established his own bull market within the overall commercial marketplace.

Aided by Coolmore’s entry in the catalogues of several Galileo mares with globally attractive pedigrees and in foal to the statuesque son of Scat Daddy, Justify had generated total gross of $16.23 million as a covering sire for an eye-catching average of $772,857.

Both session-toppers at Keeneland, including the overall sale leader at $3.2m, champion Take Charge Brandi, were sold in foal to Justify.

“There’s no surprise but it’s nice to see it,” said Dermot Ryan, manager of Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky, in reflecting on Justify’s position atop the Keeneland rankings of leading covering sires. Ashford stands Justify alongside his fellow Triple Crown winner and now North America’s leading freshman sire American Pharoah. 

“Justify was an amazing racehorse and I’m pretty confident he’s going to be an amazing stallion,” said Ryan. “We’re thankful to all the breeders for the great support they have given him - and he deserves it.”

While comparisons are not always parallel as the mares visiting stallions and subsequently offered for sale can vary greatly, Justify stood ahead of even established star sires such as War Front and Into Mischief in the Keeneland rankings by average price through the first two sessions.

Also notable is the fact that his numbers eclipse the buyer reaction to the first mares that were sold in foal to American Pharoah. Overall at Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland in 2016, ten mares were sold among the first group bred to that son of Pioneerof The Nile for a total of $4.4m and an average of $440,000.

Justify’s performance in the current November sale standings received a huge boost when champion Take Charge Brandi, in foal on an April cover, sold to John Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms to top all others at Keeneland.

Sikura’s purchase allowed Hill ‘n’ Dale to retain the mare, who had been owned in the Elevage partnership that included Glen Hill Farm.

Take Charge Brandi initially had been bred to Tapit this spring, but did not get in foal. Sikura said the decision was made to switch her to Justify.

“I think Justify is a great mating for that mare - he gives some leg, some stretch," he said. "She’s a bit compact. Hopefully, the foal will take the best of physiques between sire and dam. Justify was a great racehorse, so we’ll see what happens.”

Galileo never far from the conversation

Three other mares in foal to Justify were also sold for over $1m at both November auctions, with that group including a pair of four-year-olds by Galileo who possess stellar pedigrees and are carrying their first foals. Both were bred and raced by Coolmore partners and were sold at Keeneland.

Erdenheim Farm, represented by James Wigan of London Thoroughbred Services, paid $1.25m for Conquest, a sister to European champion Minding and a daughter of Coronation Stakes winner Lillie Langtry. 

“It’s a wonderful cross - she’s in foal to a good stallion - and from one of the strongest pedigrees in the book,” said Wigan. “We’re very happy to get her.”

China Horse Club, which raced Justify with partners including WinStar Farm, purchased Hourglass, a Galileo half-sister to top sire Shamardal who is carrying a Justify foal from an early February cover, for $1.1m, with plans to send the mare to its broodmare band in Ireland. 

Michael Wallace, bloodstock and racing manager for China Horse Club, said that foals sired by a horse of the calibre of Justify and from such a well-bred mare “will light the place up” when offered in the commercial marketplace.

Coolmore has revealed that 59 mares currently in foal to Justify are Grade 1 winners or producers, with 104 being graded/group stakes winners or producers. 

“We couldn’t have hoped for a better response,” said Coolmore America’s Adrian Wallace in reflecting on the initial book for Justify, who covered 252 mares while standing for an advertised fee of $150,000.

“Coolmore and our partners have also sent some wonderful mares to Justify, considering how well he should cross pedigree-wise and, indeed, physically with Galileo-line mares. Mares of the quality of Ballydoyle, Curvy, Found, Immortal Verse, Rumplestilskin and Turbulent Descent were all part of his first book, to name but a few."

Justify is currently on shuttle duty to Coolmore’s Australia stud.

“He has been received very well in Australia and has gotten the reception we had hoped for,” Wallace said. “The Coolmore Australia team have assembled a great book of mares for him, including the likes of Grade 1 winners Srikandi, Streamer, Global Glamour, Foxplay, Loving New and Cat Moves, among many others. Our commitment to the Australian market has never been stronger.”

Read Michele MacDonald's other stories from this week here...

Clarkland Farm reinvest after selling $8.2m filly

Take Charge Brandi tops Keeneland Book 1

John Sikura reveals exciting plans for historic Xapala

Breeders' Cup winner Blue Prize lights up Fasig-Tipton

Kent auctioneer hangs up his gavel

Justify was an amazing racehorse and I'm pretty confident he's going to be an amazing stallion
E.W. Terms