Justify, the undefeated Triple Crown-winning 3-year-old trained by Bob Baffert, is being evaluated for a condition that could threaten plans for his continued racing career later this summer.
“Justify had some filling in his left front ankle a week ago, which subsided in a couple days,” Baffert said in a press release Tuesday afternoon. “I trained him last week and the filling came back. We want to get him checked out.”
Occasional swelling in joints is not uncommon and usually not a cause for concern, but the racing public has been curious about plans for Justify since he won the Belmont Stakes on June 9 so Tuesday's announcement provided some explanation for the patience with a future schedule for the Triple Crown winner.
Justify returned to Baffert's base at Santa Anita Park in California last month and had been in full training until he was taken off the track at the end of last week. He had been pointed to a possible run in the Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on July 29, but those plans appear to be on hold.
His connections have previously indicated a desire to keep racing the Kentucky Derby winner, perhaps at least through a possible return to Churchill Downs this November for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
“To go from a maiden winner in February to an undefeated Triple Crown winner in June has been an incredible ride,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar Farm’s president/CEO and racing manager. “He is too special to the owners, our team, and all the fans he has around the world to not be 100 percent healthy. As far as any future plans for him, they will be decided after we get him checked out. He is an amazing horse, and we are blessed by his presence.”
Justify has won all six of his starts and has compiled career earnings of $3,798,000. He is owned by China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm. Justify's breeding rights were reportedly sold to Coolmore Stud before the Preakness Stakes, but WinStar later said no deal had been finalized..
Justify was the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at age 2. He went on to become the 13th Triple Crown winner of all time.