Justify Completes Red Letter Day for China Horse Club and WinStar
Mark Smith - Sunday May 6

Under leaden skies and driving rain before a crowd of 157,813 at Churchill Downs, Bob Baffert's superb Scat Daddy colt Justify kept his unbeaten record intact when grinding his opponents into the ground in the 144th edition of the Kentucky Derby and complete a red-letter day for China Horse Club and WinStar Farm.

Riding a break-neck speed under Mike Smith, Justify opened up on the turn and kept up a relentless gallop in the straight to defeat last season's champion juvenile Good Magic (Curlin) by two and a half lengths with Audible (Into Mischief) a head back in third. (photo Longines).

It was the first time since Apollo in 1882 that a Kentucky Derby winner was unraced at two.

After breaking his maiden at Santa Anita on February 18, Justify added an allowance score Mar. 11 before downing Bolt d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro) in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

It was the fifth winner in the race for Baffert after War Emblem, Real Quiet, Silver Charm and American Pharoah and the second for Smith after Giacomo.

He is the latest on Baffert's production line of champions and the charismatic trainer rates him up with the best.

"The first time I worked him, I thought he was really special. Then after his maiden with, I thought we had something really, really special," Baffert said.

"I was just in awe of the performance. He just put himself up there with the greats."

Bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther, Justify was consigned by Glennwood Farm to the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale where he was knocked down to China Horse Club & Maverick Racing for $500,000.

He races for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners who also own third-placed Audible and had just celebrated the win of the Heart's Cry colt Yoshida (JPN) in the Grade 1 Turf Classic.

China Horse Club's Mike Wallace told the Blood-Horse what attracted the group to Justify as a yearling.

"He was such a beautiful, upstanding horse who was light on his feet," Wallace said. "If we were going to push on a horse in the first few days of that sale, he was the one we were going to push hard for. He stood out head and shoulders above everybody else in that sale.

"We were lucky we got in early on Scat Daddy. A yearling like that walks into the Keeneland sale now, and he brings three times that amount." (photo China Horse club twitter)

Most of the winning owners have close ties with Newgate Farm so it will be interesting if one or more of those young stars become future shuttlers.

By Ashford Stud's sadly missed Scat Daddy, Justify is the best of three winners from six to race out of the stakes-placed Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic.