Breeder says Jus­tify can win Triple Crown

Horse is the early 1-2 favourite for the Preak­ness with Bel­mont in sight

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Sports - DAN RALPH

There’s no doubt in Cana­dian John Gun­ther’s mind Jus­tify will cap­ture the Amer­i­can Triple Crown.

The im­pres­sive three-year-old won a soggy Ken­tucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5 to im­prove to 4-0 life­time. Jus­tify is the early 1-2 favourite for the Preak­ness on Satur­day at Bal­ti­more’s Pim­lico Race Course.

But Gun­ther, who bred Jus­tify, is con­vinced the horse will not only win the Preak­ness but be­come the 13th horse to cap­ture the Triple Crown, and just the sec­ond since 1978.

“What hap­pens is the horses that were beat in the Derby, their train­ers and own­ers don’t want to run them in such a short pe­riod of time be­cause the Preak­ness is only two weeks af­ter the Derby,” Gun­ther said. “Also, ev­ery time (trainer) Bob Baf­fert has won the Ken­tucky Derby and gone to the Preak­ness, he’s won the Preak­ness ev­ery time so the chances of Jus­tify win­ning are highly favourable.

“The Bel­mont is three weeks af­ter the Preak­ness but this horse is bred to get the (1 1/2-mile) dis­tance ... Put it this way, if he gets into the start­ing gate for the Preak­ness and Bel­mont, I think he’ll win the Triple Crown.”

Jus­tify was bred at Glen­nwood Farm in Ver­sailles, Ky., which is owned by Gun­ther, of Lan­g­ley, B.C., and run by his daugh­ter, Tanya. Scat Daddy, a Grade 1 win­ner, was bred with Stage Magic, a mare owned by Gun­ther, to pro­duce the even­tual Derby cham­pion.

Jus­tify was a $500,000 US Keeneland Septem­ber year­ling pur­chase by China Horse Club and Mav­er­ick Rac­ing. Gun­ther said Jus­tify looked ev­ery bit a cham­pion.

“When Jus­tify was a year­ling, he was a big, strong in­di­vid­ual with a great walk,” Gun­ther said. “He al­most looked like a two-year-old.

“He’s like 17 hands high, he’s a very big, strong horse and has ter­rific ath­letic abil­ity. If you looked at hun­dreds of year­lings you could see that just by look­ing at him. He had “it,” that was very ev­i­dent.”

Jus­tify is Glen­nwood Farms’ first Derby win­ner but joins a long list of suc­cess­ful horses bred or co-bred by the op­er­a­tion. Some no­ta­bles in­clude: First Samu­rai (Grade 1 win­ner, $915,075 earn­ings); Mo Town (co-bred, Grade 1 win­ner); My Miss Sophia (sec­ond ’14 Ken­tucky Oaks); Stay Thirsty (co-bred, Grade 1 win­ner, $1.936 mil­lion earn­ings); Ste­vie Won­der­boy (co-bred,’05 Breed­ers’

Cup Ju­ve­nile cham­pion, $1.059 mil­lion); and Ta­markuz (’16 Breed­ers Cup dirt mile win­ner, $1.84 mil­lion).

Gun­ther said his daugh­ter puts a lot of time and ef­fort into the match­ing of stal­lion to mare.

“She looks at the stal­lions stand­ing in Ken­tucky and has stud­ied pedi­grees since she was eight or nine,” he said. “She delves into that pedi­gree go­ing back sev­eral gen­er­a­tions and does the same with the mares.

“She’ll spend sev­eral hours plan­ning the mat­ing with just one mare and it was her hard work and dili­gence that picked Scat Daddy to breed to our mare.”

Cana­dian-bred North­ern Dancer, who died in 1990 at age 29, is the most pro­lific stal­lion ever but Gun­ther said Scat Daddy, who died in 2015 at age 11, had a very bright fu­ture.

“If he was still alive to­day he’d be the hottest and high­est-priced stal­lion in North Amer­ica,” Gun­ther said.

Scat Daddy fetched up to $150,000 for stud fees by his death but Glen­nwood re­port­edly only paid $35,000 be­cause Tanya Gun­ther spot­ted the stal­lion early.

On May 4, Cana­dian filly Won­der Gadot was sec­ond in the pres­ti­gious Grade 1 Ken­tucky Oaks. The horse’s breeder, David An­der­son of An­der­son Farms On­tario Inc., in St. Thomas, Ont., said the Gun­thers are de­serv­ing of their suc­cess.

“John has al­most per­fected breed­ing Grade 1 win­ners and now Ken­tucky Derby win­ners,” An­der­son said. “He and his daugh­ter have done just an ex­em­plary job with a rel­a­tively small brood­mare band.

“They’re a real study of pedi­gree. They un­der­stand it and the proof is in the pud­ding.”

An­der­son said much goes into the cre­ation of even­tual cham­pion horses.

“The sim­ple one is you breed the best to the best and hope for the best,” he said with a chuckle. “But there’s rais­ing the an­i­mal prop­erly, there’s proper nu­tri­tion for the mare while the foal is in utero.

“You need to raise your an­i­mal on proper farm­land and what’s the proper hay and wa­ter and feed and black­smiths and vets? There’s just so many vari­ables.”

A sta­ple of the breed­ing busi­ness is the sell­ing of promis­ing year­lings for top dol­lar. There­fore, it’s im­per­a­tive the breeder not get too at­tached to the young horses, although Gun­ther said that’s eas­ier said than done.

“You do get at­tached, my daugh­ter gets at­tached,” he ex­plained. “She’s down there, she helps with the foal­ing and is in­volved in the rais­ing of them right through to their year­ling years so she def­i­nitely builds an at­tach­ment to them in that process.”

Gun­ther said Jus­tify’s suc­cess means a lot for Glen­nwood.

“It does be­cause we own the mare, we own the half-brother who’s now a year­ling,” he said. “All (Stage Magic’s) progeny is very valu­able at this point.

“The mare is worth a lot of money but I don’t plan on sell­ing her.”

‘‘ The mare is worth a lot of money but I don’t plan on sell­ing her. JOHN GUN­THER Jus­tify’s breeder


Ken­tucky Derby win­ner Jus­tify stands out­side a barn af­ter a work­out Thurs­day at Pim­lico Race Course in Bal­ti­more. The Preak­ness Stakes horse race is sched­uled to take place Satur­day

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