Triple Crown Winner Justify Retired
by Fairway JayThe news broke last week that Triple Crown winner Justify was being retired from racing. His last appearance at the racetrack was Saturday in the paddock at Del Mar and then paraded onto the track in front of the grandstand. Fans and connections could see the tremendous Thoroughbred that won 6 races in 6 starts one last time before he ships to Coolmore Farm in Kentucky to retire from racing as an undefeated Triple Crown champion.
Here are six things we’ve learned about Justify and his abrupt retirement from the race track.
- Justify is the 13thTriple Crown winner in the history of the sport and the second undefeated Triple Crown champion and first to retire undefeated. He became the first Kentucky Derby winner in more than 130 years to win the Run for the Roses without racing as a 2-year-old. He compiled an unbeaten record in six races over 112 days, a remarkable feat, and joined Count Fleet (1943) as just the second of those Triple Crown winners to retire without competing further.
- The decision to retire Justify was apparently made by his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, but I can think of 75 million reasons why Baffert was told what to do by majority owner WinStar Farm. Justify developed filling-swelling in his left front ankle shortly after returning to his home California base following the Belmont Stakes. WinStar Farm had stated after the Belmont that the plan was to race Justify two or three more times including his sendoff in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November. Retirement was to follow, although the lure of another big payday could have been enticing with the $16 million Pegasus World Cup in January.
- Justify had not trained since winning the Belmont Stakes. The ankle issue was apparently keeping the Triple Crown winner out of training too long for him to get fit, run a prep race or two and them be in form and at his best for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Baffert said he needed 60 to 90 days off, but how serious was the swelling, really? Previously the president and CEO of WinStar Farm Elliott Walden had said it was not practical to think about racing Justify as a 4-year-old.
- WinStar Farm is in line to make approx. $75 million on the transfer of Justify to breeding behemoth Coolmore, who is paying monster money for the rights to Justify’s stallion career. Coolmore Stud reportedly plans to breed him to 250 mares in his first year at a cost of $150,000 per live foal, for a take of more than $37 million. The economics of racing almost demand that a healthy, accomplished colt be retired sooner than later. It’s an expensive game that has sent many owners out of the business or into bankruptcy.
- The retirement of Justify, for whatever reason is given, is the sad reality of the ‘Sport of Kings’, as the owners have a business to run and the breeding rights to a superstar on the track are too enticing to turn down. Race fans and outsiders can question the decision and motives, but the risk of loss or backlash on a trainer or owner if Justify was to have returned to the track and suffered a severe or fatal injury would be more devastating.