The success of Triple Crown winner Justify seems almost to have been fated. After coming in first in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, despite rainy weather and mud, the three-year-old colt faced the last challenge separating him from a coveted Triple Crown victory: the Belmont Stakes. Hooves pounded packed dirt under a sunny June sky. The rain predicted days before had, thankfully, failed to materialize. Enthused shouts rung from the bleachers along Belmont Park’s race course, and as the first of the thoroughbreds charged across the finish line, the crowd erupted into wild cheers. Justify had just become the thirteenth Triple Crown winner in the history of U.S. horse racing.
The victory, however, is far from the end of Justify’s story. Victorious in his triple crown pursuit, he has quite possibly become the most valuable thoroughbred in the world. Not only has he joined the elite company of only twelve other Triple Crown winners, but he is also only the second among them to keep a perfect record while obtaining that honor. It’s little wonder, however, as Justify is descended from the only other undefeated Triple Crown winner – Seattle Slew. Also running through his veins is the blood of other Triple Crown greats including Secretariat, War Admiral, Crown Fleet, Omaha and Gallant Fox.
His pedigree, combined with the recent wins, explain why Justify’s worth has climbed so high. As an undefeated Triple Crown winner, his breeding rights have become even more valuable. In fact, the Irish thoroughbred program Coolmore Stud recently purchased said rights for an incredible $75 million – setting a new record – allowing them to breed Justify 250 times during his first year with them. This, along with Justify’s current winnings, comprises a huge return on his owners’ comparatively small initial investment of $500,000.
Of course, important though pedigree is, bloodlines are not the only ingredient that makes a champion thoroughbred. Training is also key, and Bob Baffert, who trains Justify, is among the top trainers in the U.S. Baffert praised Justify, saying that he immediately recognized the thoroughbred’s raw talent, and soon realized he was training a potential Triple Crown winner. Nonetheless the training was key to developing the thoroug
hbred’s natural abilities. All the hard work is paying off, and Baffert now dares to hope that Justify might even follow in the footsteps of another great champion he trained, American Pharoh, by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic this season for a Grand Slam.
Training two Triple Crown winners in four runnings is impressive, and Baffert is understandably pleased, but he attests that the accomplishment also has had an important affect upon attitudes surround horse racing in general.
For years now, critics have claimed that the demands of winning a Triple Crown title are simply too much for the modern thoroughbred. After all, it had been 36 years since the last time a racehorse became a Triple Crown champion. More than a few critics pushed for the program to be changed to make it easier. Those protestations were quieted by American Pharaoh’s win in 2015 and have now been essentially silenced by this year’s Triple Crown winner, Justify. The success of these two champion thoroughbreds, both honed and polished by Baffert, has made it clear that with the right training a Triple Crown win is still well within the realm of possibility.
With a record-setting breeding rights contract, a chance to become the next Grand Slam champion, and changes in attitudes about training, it’s clear that this race horse’s success story is far from over. Equestrian enthusiast across the U.S. will continue to watch Triple Crown winner Justify as he takes his place in racing history and we here at Horse, Hound and Hunt hope to see more of Justify’s magic in the future.