Justify won the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes and became the 13th horse to earn the coveted Triple Crown. The stallion has some strong Canadian connections — namely his breeder and the great stallion, Northern Dancer.
The blaze-faced chestnut colt was bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, who runs Glennwood Farm in Versailles, Kentucky with his daughter, Tanya. Gunther grew up on a Calgary-area farm before buying his own in Langley, B.C. He bred his first foal in 1970 and took over Kentucky-based Glennwood Farm 19 years later. He regularly commutes between Langley and Versailles.
The Gunthers small operation also bred Vino Rosso, who raced against Justify in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, and bred Justify’s dam, Stage Magic.
Sold as a yearling for $500,000 in 2016, Justify now stands 16.3 hands (67 inches, 170 cm) at the withers and weighs 1,380 pounds (630 kg). After recovering from a minor injury, Justify was sent to trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita early in 2018.
Baffert also trained American Pharoah, the last Triple Crown winner in 2015, and he says the difference between the two champs is their attitude — Justify is very dominant. “You have to watch him,” said Baffert. “He likes to push you around. He’s not a mean horse, but his patience level with people is, like, five seconds.”
Justify’s pedigree contains multiple crosses to some of the greatest sires of the twentieth century, including Northern Dancer, Native Dancer, Nearco and Man o’ War. He is a fifth-generation descendant of Seattle Slew and a sixth-generation descendant of Secretariat.
In three races, the three-year-old colt earned big cheques for his vast consortium of owners: $800,000 from Belmont, $1.24 million from the Kentucky Derby and $900,000 from the Preakness Stakes, a total of $2.94 million. Jockey Mike Smith (52) became the oldest jockey to ever win the Triple Crown. The winning rider gets 10 per cent, which means that Smith earned $294,000 from the three races.