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Justify poses for the fans at Del Mar in his final public appearance after retiring
On Wednesday, July 25, majority owner WinStar Farm announced that 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify was retired from racing. A week earlier, trainer Bob Baffert had revealed that the colt had some filling in his ankle and would not commit to a next race, not knowing how long it would take to recover. After the retirement announcement, Baffert said, "Justify had some filling in his ankle, and he is just not responding quick enough for a fall campaign. We all wanted to see Justify run again, but ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure he is perfect. Without 60-90 days, I can't be definite." He said the plan after the Belmont had been to rest till the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth, followed by the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and finally the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. In the ante-post betting market he was as low as 3-1 odds, favored to win the Classic.
With the retirement finalized, Justify's retirement ceremony was added to Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) day on Saturday, July 28, scheduled between the 4th and 5th races. Accompanied by Baffert's main assistant Jimmy Barnes, Justify walked over from the barn through the paddock and onto the track to be paraded before the fans in attendance, and then walked from the winner's circle to the clubhouse turn to return to the barn.
Regular rider Mike Smith said, "You know, it's just a little bit sad. Now it's real. He's really going. Understand, I'm happy for him. He's going to be happy where he's going. I'm just glad I was part of all this. Special horse; special time. We'll miss him."
After he paraded, he returned to the barn where they washed his feet.
WinStar CEO Elliott Walden said, "The timing is bad for another start in 2018, and therefore, we have to retire him. Like American Pharoah, we can't take the risk of running Justify as a 4-year-old. We all wanted him to finish his career in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but it was not meant to be. As has been reported, there is a possible sale to Coolmore in place, but that won't be finalized until a later date. We are excited to share him with our fans starting the middle of August, after he gets acclimated."
Right: Justify makes his "victory lap" of the paddock. It is worth noting that media (especially photographers) were not allowed inside the paddock, thus allowing the paying fans a mostly unobstructed view to take their own photographs, as seen here.
Justify in his stall earlier in the week. At time of writing, negotiations were still ongoing to sell his breeding rights to Coolmore, and he would stand at Ashford Stud, also home of 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner American Pharoah. If the deal closes he is expected to sell for $75 million, with an initial stallion fee of $150,000. WinStar owner Kenny Troutt said, "We've been so blessed with this horse. We've had some good horses and great horses but he is a special one. And it has been so much fun. My family loves it." CEO Elliott Walden added, "He's flying back to Kentucky on Tuesday or Wednesday and we'll be glad to have him back. Bob did a great job." He will be stabled at WinStar until transferred to Coolmore if the deal closes.
Justify gets shown off for visitors earlier in the week. He is only the second Triple Crown winner (after Count Fleet in 1943) to make the Belmont Stakes his final start. Count Fleet retired due to injury, but had already raced 21 times. By comparison, Justify retired a perfect 6 for 6, all this year, his racing career lasting all of 112 days. He did, however, race against 35 horses, 3 more than War Admiral's competition during his 1932 sweep.
Justify gets a bath on Friday. Trainer Bob Baffert said, "I'm sort of sad right now. It's like when American Pharoah won the Breeders' Cup (Classic in his last race). The next day I was so sad There was a lot of pressure, but the rewards are special. He came around so quickly and it was a fun ride. Somebody up there likes me; I feel really good about it. But it is emotional. I could cry right now."
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