Saturday, July 23, 2022

Justifying confidence at the highest levels

***Who’s Hot, Who’s Not looks a little different this time as our host site login page is down, so we’ve resurrected this old blog site and are temporarily publishing it here***

By Frances J. Karon

Three months into a 2yo racing season that’s only just beginning to heat up, Ashford Stud’s 2018 Horse of the Year Justify heads the first-crop sires list by stakes winners with two, both Graded/Group. He’s currently, as of 12:00 PM on Saturday, the leading freshman sire and second leading overall sire of 2yos by earnings, behind Uncle Mo, with whom he’s tied at first with a pair of SWs, one of which is Graded (from only two Graded 2yo races carded so far in N.A.). Freshman Bolt d’Oro has five entries on Saturday to Justify’s none, and he’s only $500 behind, so the two will trade places on the earnings list before the day is over, but for the time being, Justify is safely installed as number one by black-type winners.

That Justify is producing quality is, of course, not a surprise, but that the quality has shown itself this soon in the careers of his juveniles has been something of a pleasant surprise, for a stallion with a sizable physique and who debuted in the third week of February in his 3yo season before ultimately retiring an undefeated Triple Crown winner. Those variables will have been taken into consideration by Coolmore when hand-picking his first book of mares, to ensure that Justify would have a chance to impress early with his first crop, and it’s working.

Justify at Ashford Stud in 2020.

On July 15th, Justify was represented by his second GSW when the Eddie Kenneally-trained Just Cindy made easy work of the G3 Schuylerville at Saratoga. Last month in Ireland, Statuette, who like Just Cindy is undefeated in two starts, had won the Curragh’s G2 Airlie Stud S. on turf for Aidan O’Brien. Justify is one of only two freshman sires standing in N.A. or Europe with at least one GSW — U.K.-based Tasleet (Showcasing), who was a Listed SW and G2/G3 placed at 2 (and a multiple GSW later), has G2 Coventry winner Bradsell.

Just Cindy at Keeneland in April.

From 12 starters, Justify has five winners: Statuette in Ireland, and in the U.S., maiden special winners at Churchill (Just Cindy and Prove Right), Santa Anita (Tahoma, who was second in a stakes race at Santa Anita in his next start), and Ellis Park (Justa Warrior, a five-length debut winner this past Friday). Five others to hit the board have been second in quality maiden special company at Saratoga (Im Just Kiddin) and Churchill (Justafever and Just an Angel) in the U.S. and third at the Curragh (Unless) and Leopardstown (Dame Kiri and Unless).

One thing to take note of here is that despite this early ascendance to Graded/Group success as a sire, none of Justify’s big-ticket sales horses have seen racecourse action yet.

Justify, whose initial stud fee was $150,000, had 81 yearlings go through the ring last year, when he led his classmates by average ($370,329) and median ($310,000). Of his 10 2yos to win or place, six are homebreds with no sales, leaving four who have been through the auction ring. The most expensive of the group is stakes-placed Tahoma, a $160,000 yearling. Justa Warrior was a $150,000 yearling, Just Cindy was a $140,000 yearling RNA, and Prove Right was a $15,000 yearling. A stallion with a yearling sales average of $370,000 currently has the leading 2yo filly in N.A. in a horse whose buy-back amount was $230,000 less than her sire’s average.

In fact, none of the more expensive Justifys — not the $1.815 million Zipessa colt in Japan, nor the $1.55 million son of True Feelings (Nuclear, who recently had his first registered workout for trainer John Sadler at Santa Anita), nor the $1.1 million Fasig-Tipton March 2yo half-brother to Tapwrit, nor the yearlings that sold for $950,000, $825,000, $775,000, $750,000 (x3), $725,000, $700,000, etc. — there were 23 yearlings to sell for at least $500,000 — have started. Tahoma is Justify’s most expensive progeny to race, and there were 55 yearling colts and fillies that brought more than he did at auction.

As we finish out the second weekend of the Saratoga meet, that’s about to change: Rarify, the $750,000 half-sister to Runhappy, is scheduled to debut for the Coolmore partners and Wesley Ward in the sixth race on Sunday.

Rarify breezing at Keeneland.

It’s reasonable to assume that a number of other high-dollar Justifys, such as, perhaps, the half-brother to Midnight Bisou, will be unveiled at Saratoga and Del Mar this summer, and although we know that high sales prices don’t always translate into racetrack success, it’s also reasonable to assume based on the early showing by his early starters that some of them will be very, very good.

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A few notes on the pedigrees of Justify’s GSWs:

Just Cindy, bred and raced by Clarkland Farm, is the first foal from SW Jenda’s Agenda (Proud Citizen), a daughter of G2SW Just Jenda (Menifee). The Scat Daddy/Gone West cross, an A+++ eNick, has previously produced Northern Hemisphere G1SWs No Nay Never and Dacita (also a G1SW in Chile), plus a further six G1SWs in South America, and Just Cindy is bred similarly to No Nay Never’s G2SW Zain Claudette (dam by Speightstown, a son of Gone West from a Storm Cat mare; Zain Claudette 4x3 to Gone West and 5x4 to Storm Cat).

While duplicating Storm Cat on a sire/broodmare sire pattern has not been a huge success in NoHem countries (despite some high-class individuals, such as Lady Aurelia, who is by Scat Daddy from a Forest Wildcat mare and therefore 4x3 to Storm Cat), introducing Storm Cat relatives with Scat Daddy on top via a non-broodmare sire strain in the dam, as in the cases of Just Cindy (5x5) and Zain Claudette, is something that will likely continue to yield positive results as we see more runners by Scat Daddy sons, who contribute Storm Cat in the fifth generation of foals, hit the track. It’s also likely that the Scat Daddy/Storm Cat cross will also improve since Storm Cat is so far back now in pedigrees. Justify’s fellow Coolmore-owned freshman sire Sioux Nation (standing in Ireland) has G2sp Matilda Picotte from a mare by a son of Storm Cat (5x3).

Statuette, Justify’s G2SW, is bred on a cross that’s been attracting some attention recently: her G1SW dam Immortal Verse is by Pivotal, who is also damsire of Statuette’s G1SW half-sister Tenebrism (by Scat Daddy son Caravaggio) and Listed SW Nymphadora (by Scat Daddy son No Nay Never), as well as being the sire of the second dam of Blackbeard (No Nay Never), who won the G2 Prix Robert Papin last Sunday. Unfortunately for the Scat Daddy sons at stud in the U.S., there is not a lot of Pivotal blood in that part of the world, but as Sadler’s Wells is also prominent in the pedigrees of many of those SWs and there’s easy access to him in the U.S. through El Prado.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Man o' War feature in North American Trainer

The year's first issue of North American Trainer is now available online (and will soon be out in print):

Features include my profile on Man o' War (direct link to article), my favorite racehorse of all time and one who needs no introduction to any follower of racing. Next month marks the 100th anniversary of his birth, so what better time could there be to revisit and celebrate his life?

I've been learning about Man o' War since I first read Walter Farley's book on him, but I officially began researching him last May. It eventually got to a point where I had to stop poking around the archives because I had more information than I would ever be able to use for the magazine. As it is, the article is over 7,000 words long. I'm still not sure how my publisher and friend, Giles Anderson, let me get away with that... I had so much fun and feel like I got to know "Red" on a personal level, and I hope a little of that translates to everyone who reads the article, whether or not they already knew a lot about Man o' War.

If you are in Lexington and have not already done so, take the time to visit his grave at the Kentucky Horse Park. And if you are in Lexington in 2017, plan accordingly -- the Horse Park has some Man o' War-related events scheduled.

Herbert Haseltine's statue over Man o' War's grave at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

This issue of NAT also has articles on Arnaud and Leigh Delacour, Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally and his buddy Murray Friedlander, five little-known trainers who have saddled the winners of more than 3,600 races each, a compelling read about contamination on the backstretch, a Q&A with Brisnet's Happy Broadbent, and Sid Fernando's regular column on the last page.