Earlier this month Justify became the 13th horse to win America's Triple Crown by adding the Belmont Stakes to his earlier victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. That, of course, is an amazing achievement, especially when you consider that he joins American Pharaoh (2015) as the only horse to do it in the 21st century. But in a world where we are quick to anoint the next big thing – how highly should we rate Justify?
When all things are considered, the answer must be very highly. Justify, who is trained by Bob Baffert, is only the second horse in history to win the Triple Crown when undefeated (Seattle Slew also achieved the feat in 1977). There are other records too, including being the first horse since 1882 to break the so-called Curse of Apollo by winning the Kentucky Derby having not raced as a two-year-old.
EXCEPTIONAL DERBY WIN
But it is the nature of those victories that should attest to Justify’s greatness. The Kentucky Derby, for example, had an exceptionally talented field, featuring the likes of Good Magic, Mendelssohn and Magnum Moon among others.
Justify looked at ease throughout the race, with a consummate ride by Mike Smith suggesting the three-year-old could go up another gear if needed. He didn’t really look like breaking into a sweat in the Preakness or Belmont Stakes either, although a sloppy track meant he wasn’t just as imperious in the former.
The question on everyone’s lips though, is what comes next for Justify? Money talks in thoroughbred racing of course, so the desire will be there to get him into stud quickly. His stud prospects are estimated at something between $75 million to $100 million (€64 million to €86 million), so you can see the attraction there.
Indeed, Justify’s bloodline reads like The Beatles of American horse racing: War Admiral, Secretariat, Omaha, Seattle Slew, Count Fleet and Gallant Fox. For good measure, English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky is also a relative. It’s an easy sell.
BREEDER'S CUP AIM
Bookies, however, have priced him up for a handful of races in the summer, late-autumn and next year. You can find him at 8/11 for the Travers Stakes (the race which famously trumped American Pharaoh after his own Triple Crown triumph), 3/1 for the Breeders' Cup Classic and 4/1 for the Dubai World Cup next year.
However, the question mark over whether or not he will run haunts those betting markets. If you are not getting 'non-runner, no bet' odds from your bookmaker, you’re better off spending your money somewhere like Mr Green online casino instead.
While the temptation to retire him to stud now and not risk losing the allure of an unbeaten record should Justify have an off-day, you can also see the attraction of the Breeders' Cup Classic in November.
Justify has already performed heroics, but adding that fourth ultra-prestigious race in the space of six months would propel him into the pantheon of greats. It will be fascinating to see whether his connections stick or twist when playing with his legacy over the coming months.