Watch: Triple Crown hero Justify returns home as new stallion career looms
Triple Crown winner Justify had a homecoming on Wednesday at WinStar Farm, where the three-year-old son of Scat Daddy arrived to begin his transition to a stud career at a farm yet to be announced.
Still fresh and buff from his racing days, the striking chestnut colt walked off a van that delivered him from a cross-country trip to Blue Grass Regional Airport and onto the farm where he once got his first lessons about being a racehorse.
"We're delighted to have him back," said David Hanley, general manager of WinStar Farm, which co-owns Justify with China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing, and SF Racing.
"We are going to give him a week to settle in, and then we'll allow the public to come see him, probably for the next month or month and a half," Hanley said.
The colt will be shown to the public only as part of WinStar Farm's scheduled tours through the Horse Country program. Additional WinStar tours have been added to the Horse Country schedule, but they have all sold out.
Though no stud plans are final, WinStar president and chief executive officer Elliott Walden noted when the colt's retirement was announced that a possible deal with Coolmore is in place. Coolmore operates Ashford Stud near Versailles in Kentucky and has 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah on its roster.
WinStar and China Horse Club were the colt's original partners, having bought him from breeder John Gunther's Glennwood Farm for $500,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Justify was then sent to WinStar's training centre, which built the foundation for 112 days of unprecedented athletic performances. In six races, Justify broke his maiden, became a Grade 1 winner on his third start in the Santa Anita Derby, and roared like the Santa Ana winds through the Triple Crown. He became the second undefeated Triple Crown winner alongside Seattle Slew and the second Triple Crown winner for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
While a campaign through to the Breeders' Cup Classic had been planned, that dream vanished when Justify developed filling in an ankle that derailed his training. The decision to retire him was made July 25.
"We feel incredibly privileged to have been a part of Justify and his amazing career," Hanley said. "He is just the most wonderful horse, and it's unlikely we'll see another like him in our lifetime. To be close to him and see what he's been through in 112 days from February 18 through the Belmont Stakes has been an amazing ride.
"In the Derby, he went 45 and change, and no horse has done that and still won. In the Preakness, you see how good of a horse Good Magic is, and they went head-to-head for seven furlongs, and he still won like he did. Then, his two works before the Belmont were incredible - just, 'Wow'. Everything he has done has been jaw-dropping. Coming up to the Belmont, you could just tell what he was going to do.
"He had done what no other thee-year-old has done, and with every question, he's stepped up above and beyond what was expected."
For the next week, Justify will start his transition to farm life. Hanley said the horse will initially be turned out in a round pen and hand-walked until his team believes the colt can be safely turned out in a paddock.
"He's a very smart horse. I expect him to adjust quickly," Hanley said.
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