07.25.2018 | 2:14pm
Justify, undefeated winner of the 2018 Triple Crown, has been retired from racing, it was announced today.
“Justify had some filling in his ankle, and he is just not responding quick enough for a fall campaign,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “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.”
Campaigned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, and Starlight Racing, Justify dazzled at first asking on Feb. 18, winning his career debut at Santa Anita and proceeded to accomplish many historical feats en route to racing stardom. He broke the “Curse of Apollo” when he won the Kentucky Derby (G1) by 2 1/2 lengths on May 5, becoming the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without starting as a 2-year-old.
“He is an incredible horse and we are very disappointed he can’t run again,” said WinStar Farm’s Kenny Troutt. “All things happen for a reason, and we are blessed to have raced him to be the 13th Triple Crown winner in history.”
Justify went on to capture the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico under the foggiest conditions the race has ever seen. He was pressured every step of the way and fended off all challengers for the wire-to-wire victory.
“When he won the Preakness, I allowed myself to start dreaming about the Triple Crown,” said Troutt. “When we look back on this, we have been a part of an undefeated Triple Crown Champion, and hopefully a Horse of the Year.”
Justify went to New York in pursuit of history in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Sent to the lead by his Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, Justify never looked back, winning the Belmont by 1 ¾ lengths, becoming the first undefeated Triple Crown winner since Seattle Slew.
“Like everyone else, I am disappointed he won’t run again, but I am thankful he came into my life,” Smith said. “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 provided racing international exposure through the Triple Crown, winning the Belmont Stakes in China Horse Club’s red and yellow colors after taking the Derby and Preakness in WinStar’s silks.
“To win the Triple Crown is an amazing accomplishment,” said China Horse Club’s Teo Ah Khing. “The history of the Triple Crown and the difficulty of winning the three legs is not something I take lightly. It has been a great ride for all of us, and I have complete confidence Bob is doing the right thing by Justify.”
Justify will return to WinStar Farm early next month. He won all six of his career starts, amassing earnings of $3,798,000. In addition to his Classic wins, Justify also won the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, the son of Scat Daddy—Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper was purchased by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing for $500,000 out of the Glennwood Farm consignment at the 2016 Keeneland September sale.
“The timing is bad for another start in 2018, and therefore, we have to retire him,” said WinStar Farm’s Elliott Walden. “Like American Pharoah, we can’t take the risk of running Justify as a four-year-old. We all wanted him to finish his career in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), 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.”
The “First Look” will be offered to WinStar StableMates members on Aug. 10th and 11th and can be scheduled through https://stablemates2.winstarfarm.com/. Complete tour schedule available at https://visithorsecountry.com/winstarfarm/.
Justify will also parade at Del Mar on Saturday, July 28, before traveling to WinStar.
“The parade at Del Mar will be a great opportunity for the fans in the San Diego area to come out and see him,” said Baffert.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association released the following statement in response to the news:
“Justify’s extraordinary racing career – from maiden to Triple Crown winner in less than four months – was as brilliant as any our sport has seen. We can’t wait to have his first runners hit the track in 2022.”
– Alex Waldrop, President and CEO, National Thoroughbred Racing Association