All eyes will be on the first progeny of American Triple Crown hero Justify when they take to the ring at the upcoming Kentucky winter breeding stock auctions, the Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland November Sales.
After withdrawals, Justify has 19 foals catalogued across both sales, all of whom are extremely well-connected – as to be expected from a group bred off a fee of $150,000.
Justify is the only undefeated Triple Crown winner in history. Remarkably, the strapping son of Scat Daddy was unraced at two but such was his natural talent that he wasted little time in rising to the top of his generation for Bob Baffert, rattling off three wide-margin wins on the Californian circuit prior to his assault on the Triple Crown, among them the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
Justify was just as dominant when it came to those American Classics. He overcame the Churchill Downs slop to run out the wide-margin winner of a 20-runner Kentucky Derby. That superiority was further underlined by a comfortable win in the Preakness Stakes, as it was again with an equally authoritative win in the Belmont Stakes.
Justify never ran again following the Belmont but that fact did nothing to diminish his place as one of America’s modern racing greats.
Justify was retired to stand at Coolmore’s Kentucky arm, Ashford Stud, in a deal that reportedly placed a value of between $75 million and $85 million upon his head.
Coolmore had more reason than most to aggressively pursue Justify, given he was a son of their own Scat Daddy, who died at the age of 11 in December 2015 just as he was on the cusp of breaking through as one of the world’s elite stallions. Hindsight tells us that Scat Daddy was indeed a major loss; five years on from his death and the son of Johannesburg has 31 Group/Grade 1 winners to his credit as well as an exceptionally popular young sire son in No Nay Never.
Justify possesses the good looks to go with his race record (he was a $500,000 yearling purchase by the China Horse Club & Maverick Racing despite the presence of several well documented vet issues) alongside a fine female family (bred by John and Tanya Gunther, he is out of the Grade 3-placed Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper), and so was understandably very busy in his first season, covering 252 mares – 73 of whom were Grade/Group I winners or producers.
It was a roll call of some of the most accomplished mares worldwide, among them the Group/Grade 1 winners A Raving Beauty, Ballydoyle, Brave Anna, Caledonia Road, Clemmie, Curvy, Diamondsandrubies, Grace Hall, Immortal Verse, Moonshine Memories, Take Charge Brandi and Together Forever.
The Group/Grade 1 producers African Jade, Beatrix Potter, Bella Jolie, Bubbler, Diva Delite, Kosmo’s Buddy, Nina Fever and Storm Dixie also featured.
Now the auction place will deliver an early verdict on some of those resulting foals.
Justify has already done his bit to fuel the market. Last winter, 22 in-foal mares sold for an average of $796,418, led by $3.2 million mare Take Charge Brandi.
Then in July, the stallion’s very first foal through the ring, a filly out of the Tapit mare Not Now Carolyn, realised 80 million yen ($477,000) at the JRHA Select Foal Sale in Japan.
Now it is the turn of others to come under scrutiny.
Seven foals remain in Sunday’s Fasig-Tipton November Sale including a half-sister to the Grade 1-placed Conquest Panthera from Four Star Sales (30), a colt out of Grade 2 winner Well Monied from Hunter Valley Farm (104) and a half-sister to top sprinter Lord Nelson from Taylor Made Sales Agency (109).
The latter filly was bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, who paid just 37,000gns for her dam, the Seeking The Gold mare African Jade, through Ted Voute at the 2010 Tattersalls July Sale.
“The filly out of African Jade is a Classic type,” says Mark Taylor, vice president of marketing and public sales operations of Taylor Made Sales Agency. “She has size, length and balance. I love her walk. She is a big filly but also a lovely mover.
“I think this filly will catch the eye of some end users looking for a Classic filly with a top pedigree.”
Brookdale Sales also gets in early on the action with the entry of Lot 7. The filly in question has already hit the headlines as the very first Justify foal to be born when foaled on January 3. She was bred by the Virginia-based Audley Farm Equine LLC out of Foreign Affair, a winning Exchange Rate half-sister to Aidan O’Brien’s high-class sprinter So Perfect.
“This filly is the perfect blend of her gorgeous mother and athletic father,” says Joe Seitz of Brookdale Farm. “She has an incredible walk and impeccable conformation. And the exciting thing is she is the first foal born by Triple Crown-winning Justify.”
He adds: “She was raised at Audley Farm, a top-class breeding operation in Virginia, and her dam is a half-sister to European phenom So Perfect, so she has international appeal.”
Rounding out the Fasig-Tipton septet is Lot 134, a filly from Crestwood Farm who was bred by Rowland Hancock out of the Broken Vow mare Celibataire. The mare is already a stakes producer, having bred Listed winner Stillwater Cove, and possesses the additional allure of hailing from the regal family of champion Personal Ensign.
Unsurprisingly, the filly is another to elicit high hopes from her consignor.
“We are very excited to take her to the sale,” says Marc McLean, farm manager of Crestwood Farm. “She is a well balanced, correct and athletic filly. She has a huge walk and covers the ground with ease.”
He adds: “Celibataire is a promising young mare from a deep family that includes [Grade 1 winners] Miners Mark and My Flag. And her first foal, Stillwater Cove, is a stakes winner at Saratoga.”
Meanwhile, 11 Justify foals remain in the Keeneland November Sale.
They include a half-brother to Gimcrack Stakes runner-up Legends Of War from Hunter Valley Farm (56), a half-sister to Kentucky Oaks heroine Princess Of Sylmar bred by Barronstown Stud and offered through Paramount Sales (129), a half-brother to UAE Oaks winner Divine Image from Four Star Sales (133) and a filly out of Grade 1 winner Emma’s Encore from Lane’s End (612).
Also particularly well-connected is Lot 67, a half-sister to champion sprinter and multiple Grade 1 winner Points Offthebench. Another to be offered by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the filly was bred by Town & Country Horse Farms out of Mo Chuisle, whose four winners also include Grade 3 scorer Bench Points and Japanese Listed winner Molto Allegro.
“The filly out of Mo Chuisle is top class,” says Mark Taylor. “She looks like her sire with size and great muscle.
“Her dam has been a great mare, producing three top-class horses already. I really think the mating with Justify worked as this filly reminds me of the good ones the mare had previously.
“In all, both of our Justify fillies are very nice.”