It’s Post Time by Jon White: Triple Crown Winner Justify Has Setback

We find out things in oh so many different ways these days. I learned about Justify’s current plight via a BloodHorse “News Alert” email. When I read the following in the subject line of the email, I immediately thought, “Oh no.”

Subject: Justify to Undergo Evaluation, Racing Plans on Hold

The BloodHorse in the email reported that “undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify will be evaluated after some filling in his left front ankle was discovered, his connections announced July 10.”

Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing, Justify became the toast of the sport when he registered a 1 3/4-length victory in the Belmont Stakes on June 7. He was the 13th horse to sweep the Triple Crown.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Justify has not had a workout since the Belmont. The Scat Daddy colt was paraded at Churchill Downs on June 16 and at Santa Anita on 23.

In a press release issued Tuesday by WinStar, Baffert said: “Justify had some filling in his left front ankle a week ago, which subsided in a couple of days. I trained him last week and the filling came back. We want to get him checked out.”

Justify will remain in California for his physical evaluation, according to WinStar president, CEO and racing manager Elliott Walden.

“He’ll stay there with Bob and see what he can figure out, and see if the ankle goes down,” Walden said. “To go from a maiden winner in February to an undefeated Triple Crown winner in June has been an incredible ride. He is too special to the owners, our team and all the fans he has around the world to not be 100% 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.”

In a sense, Justify defeated the calendar when he became the first Triple Crown winner in history who did not start at 2. He was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing at 2 since Apollo in 1882.

Now it seems the calendar once again is something of a foe for Justify. Sure, there is time for him to run in a race somewhere and use that as a springboard to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. But it’s tight. Even if all were to go well with the physical evaluation and the ankle returns to normal, time will be tight to train him up to a race before the BC Classic. And I seriously doubt they would decide to run him in the BC Classic if they did not get a start into him between now and Nov. 3.

Maybe Justify will race again. But at this point I’d say it’s doubtful. Do you really think they are going to push him when the undefeated Triple Crown winner now already is worth multi-millions as a sire?

After news broke that Justify had a filling in an ankle and would be evaluated, future book wagering on the 2018 BC Classic was suspended at the Wynn in Las Vegas, according to Racebook and Sportsbook director John Avello.


Who doesn’t love to see an “equine senior citizen” win a race?

Fans who get a kick out of seeing an elderly racehorse win a stakes race were smiling when 10-year-old Soi Phet won last Saturday’s $100,000 Bertrando Stakes by a nose at Los Alamitos.

Soi Phet made his first career start on Jan. 28, 2012. He finished eighth for trainer Gary Stute in a six-furlong maiden special weight race for California-breds at Santa Anita.

At Hollywood Park on May 23, 2013, Soi Phet was claimed for $16,000. Leonard Powell has trained him ever since.

Soi Phet ran in a stakes race for the first time in the Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita in 2013. Sent away at 22-1, he finished third behind Mucho Macho Man and Paynter. Mucho Macho Man would go on to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic that year.

The following year, Soi Phet became a stakes winner. He won the Bertrando at Los Alamitos by nearly four lengths. When the son of Tizbud (a full brother to 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow) won his second Bertrando last Saturday, it was the eighth stakes victory of his career and increased his lifetime earnings to $1,015,250.

Since being claimed for $16,000, Soi Phet has earned $978,170. Talk about a terrific claim.

By the way, the most lucrative claim in the history of the sport was, like Soi Phet, a Cal-bred. Lava Man was claimed for $50,000 in 2004 at Del Mar and subsequently earned $5,170,103 when trained by Doug O’Neill.

Soi Phet’s success this year at age 10 rekindles memories of the oldest horse I ever saw win. I was working for the Daily Racing Form at Yakima Meadows when Snappy Nashville prevailed by a half-length in a 4 1/2-furlong race for $1,600 claimers at the age of 15 in 1979.

Earlier in his career, Snappy Nashville was good enough to finish second in the $20,000 All American Handicap at Golden Gate. He won 39 of 123 career starts and earned $90,318.

And then there was Maxwell G., who won even more races than Snappy Nashville.

I was at Yakima Meadows in 1965 the day that Maxwell G. earned his maiden diploma in a 5 1/2-furlong race. Maxwell G. would eventually make his way to California. He raced without much success at Bay Meadows, Golden Gate, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.

Maxwell G. was claimed for $6,250 in 1970 at the age of 9. Richard Hazelton became the old gelding’s new trainer.

Before Maxwell G. joined the Hazelton barn in 1970, the Washington-bred son of Author had come close to beating the Hazelton-trained Fleet Wing. That, Hazelton would later explain, was the main reason he claimed Maxwell G. for the first time.

“The careers of both horse and trainer would never be the same,” Gene McCormick wrote in a story about Maxwell G. in the 2004 Illinois Racing News.

Maxwell G. would win a whole bunch of races for Hazelton. From time to time, someone would claim Maxwell G. away from Hazelton. But Maxwell G. never would do all that well for his new connections. Eventually, he would end up back in Hazelton’s barn. When reunited with Hazelton, Maxwell G. would regain his good form.

An article about Maxwell G. appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal when he was 13.

Like Snappy Nashville, Maxwell G. still was racing and winning at the age of 15. But Maxwell G. did not stop at 15. Early in 1977 at Turf Paradise, 16-year-old Maxwell G. won a $2,000 claiming race. But after Maxwell G. then did not run well a couple of times that year at Sportsman’s Park, Hazelton felt that the time had come for the grizzled veteran of the racing wars to be retired.

According to McCormick’s story, Hazelton “made certain Max had a good retirement home. The old horse was sent to the 26,000-acre McGregor Ranch near Wichita Falls, Texas.” At that ranch, Maxwell G. spent the final five years of his life surrounded by other Thoroughbreds and Texas Longhorns.

Maxwell G. made at least one start every year from age 4 through 16. He won 47 of 234 career starts and earned $181,420. By doing so well at such an advanced age when racing at Turf Paradise, Arlington Park, Hawthorne and Sportsman’s Park, Maxwell G. became a huge fan favorite at all of those tracks.

Evangeline Downs paid tribute to one of the most popular Thoroughbreds of all time last Saturday with the $50,000 John Henry Stakes. Big Changes won the 1 1/16-mile grass affair by one length as the 2-5 favorite.

John Henry rose from obscurity to become one of racing’s greatest geldings. He was voted Horse of the Year in 1981 at age 6. And then John Henry again was voted Horse of the Year in 1984 at age 9, a tremendous achievement. There have been 13 Triple Crown winners. There has been only one Horse of the Year as old as 9, a tribute not only to the cantankerous son of Ole Bob Bowers, but also to his trainer, Ron McAnally.

John Henry and McAnally both were voted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.


It appears that Baffert has a pair of promising 2-year-old fillies in Chasing Yesterday and Der Lu. I was at Santa Anita on June 28 when the pair worked four furlongs together. Chasing Yesterday was timed in :48.80, while Der Lu was clocked in :49.00. They should be debuting soon, probably during the Del Mar meet that kicks off on July 18.

A portion of that June 28 team drill was shown on the NBC racing telecast last Saturday. While Laffit Pincay noted that Chasing Yesterday is a half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, there was no mention either verbally or graphically as to which of the two fillies coming down the stretch was Chasing Yesterday. For the record, it was the filly on the outside. There also was no mention that “the other filly” was Der Lu.

Chasing Yesterday is by premier sire Tapit. Der Lu is a daughter of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb.

Also during last Saturday’s NBC telecast, Randy Moss said during the post parade for the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational that Paved was “making her first start outside Southern California.” Oops. Paved won the El Camino Real Derby against the boys in Northern California at Golden Gate on Feb. 17.

TVG had an “oops” of its own last Saturday. As the fillies and mares were going into the starting gate for last Saturday’s Grade II Great Lady M. Stakes at Los Alamitos, Todd Schrupp said: “Great Lady M., the dam of the fantastic Lady’s Secret, the best Oklahoma-bred of all time. Yes, I know there are some Kipling people out there. But go back and take a look at Lady’s Secret. She was phenomenal.”

I seriously doubt there is a single person out there who thinks Kipling is the greatest Oklahoma-bred of all time. I say that because Kipling was bred in Kentucky. However, Kipling did sire Kip Deville, an Oklahoma-bred who won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2007.


Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 429 Justify (42)
2. 344 Accelerate
3. 242 West Coast
4. 241 Unique Bella
5. 190 Mind Your Biscuits (1)
6. 168 Monomoy Girl
7. 166 Bee Jersey
8. 123 Abel Tasman
9. 82 City of Light
10. 73 Diversify


It’s Post Time by Jon White: Triple Crown Winner Justify Has Setback

It’s Post Time by Jon White |

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