Bob Elliston, Keeneland vice president of racing and sales, says Justify's accomplishments are indicative of the impact that sales, particularly the marathon September yearling auction, have on the racing industry.
A $500,000 purchase by the WinStar Farm entity Maverick Racing and China Horse Club from breeder John Gunther's Glennwood Farm at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, Justify joined American Pharoah as the second Triple Crown winner in a four-year period to have gone through the auction ring.
"We are in the business to bring these horses to the marketplace for the benefit of everyone involved—the breeders, the owners, the trainers, and the jockeys," Elliston said. "When you are part of it and you see the accomplishments up and down the line, you feel very fulfilled."
American Pharoah was offered to the public at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select yearling sale but was bought back by agent David Ingordo for $300,000 on behalf of breeder Zayat Stables.
"Think about what kind of horse it takes to win these races," Elliston continued. "You have to have speed and stamina and a depth of talent from a pedigree perspective, and that is what breeders and sellers bring to us. You never know when that gem is going to pop up, whether it is for $20,000 or $500,000."
A son of the late Ashford Stud stallion Scat Daddy, Justify was among a group of yearlings bought by Kenny Troutt's WinStar operation and China Horse Club with the purpose of winning the classics. WinStar already had such a program in place, and by bringing China Horse Club—represented by head of bloodstock and racing Michael Wallace and bloodstock and racing manager Mick Flanagan—and SF Bloodstock into the mix, they were able to expand their yearling purchases from 20 to 30. Justify now races for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Sol Kumin's Head of Plains Partners, and Starlight Racing.
"He was a beautiful yearling—had great balance and leg, great shoulder, and lovely length, and neck, and power," WinStar general manager David Hanley said of Justify when he was offered at Keeneland. "He had great stature—was a very impressive horse when he was pulled out in front of you. For a big horse, he was very light on his feet with good action and good energy. All in all, he looked like a nice package. He moved like a horse that could be a powerful dirt horse. All the partners liked him."