Bob Baffert says it’s on to the Belmont for Preakness winner Justify
Two weeks before he attempts to become the 13th member of horse racing's Triple Crown club, Justify's future as a stallion is the subject of conflicting reports.
Not so fast, said WinStar, which issued a statement on Thursday night:
"We have had numerous inquiries into the breeding rights of Justify, including from Coolmore. Nothing is finalized at this time and won't be in the foreseeable future. We are focused on the Belmont Stakes (G1) and his racing career at this time."
Justify, who won the Kentucky Derby in the slop and the Preakness in the fog, is owned by the partnership of WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing. Head of Plains and Starlight own racing rights, but not breeding rights. SF Bloodstock owns a percentage of breeding rights, but not racing rights.
Justify's sire Scat Daddy stood at Coolmore before his sudden and untimely death in 2015. Scat Daddy sired four entries in this year's Kentucky Derby — Justify, Combatant, Flameaway and Mendelssohn. Though he finished last in the Derby, Mendelssohn was a $3 million yearling purchase.
Coolmore also stands American Pharoah, who in 2015 became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Why would WinStar sell the breeding rights of a potential Triple Crown winner it could stand at its own Woodford County farm? Owner Kenny Troutt may want to reduce risk by taking Coolmore's reported offer. And Coolmore may be betting on Scat Daddy's recent success as a sire.
WinStar had another decision to make before the Belmont. The same group that owns Justify also owns Florida Derby winner Audible, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby before skipping the Preakness. WinStar CEO Elliott Walden told the Blood-Horse on Friday that Audible would skip the Belmont and take aim at the Haskell Invitational or the Jim Dandy Stakes next.
Justify's trainer, Bob Baffert, may have a second entrant in the Belmont. Baffert told the Daily Racing Form that owner Gary West is considering running Restoring Hope in the New York race on June 9. Restoring Hope finished third in the Wood Memorial before running 12th out of 14 on a sloppy track in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
My Boy Jack, who was a fast-closing fifth in the Derby, will not run in the Belmont. He will point toward the Belmont Derby in July in preparation for the Travers at Saratoga.
"Just giving him more time to freshen up so he can compete better in the big summer races," part owner Kirk Godby told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "then target the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 3."