In completing his sweep of
the 2018 Triple Crown with a win in the Belmont Stakes, Justify entered some pretty
rarified air. It's only natural to look to his pedigree to see clues about why
he is as good as he is.
I'll admit that earlier in the spring, I didn't think
his pedigree indicated he had the stamina to win the Kentucky Derby at 10 furlongs.
When he did just that, there was no question he'd be up to the Preakness distance,
which is actually 1/16th of a mile shorter. But the Belmont? That's a whole different
race and usually falls to a different sort of animal, although for a Triple Crown
horse like Justify, apparently the rules were meant to be broken. Many kudos to
breeder John D. Gunther and his daughter Tanya, of Glennwood Farm near Versailles,
Kentucky for creating him.
I'm including a link (right column) to Justify's
pedigree at Pedigree Query.com for the reader to follow along with my discussion.
It should open the pedigree into a new window so you can go back and forth between
the pedigree and this article.
Back in the olden days when the Thoroughbred
Times was still in business, they used to run a freshman sire contest, previewing
the sires whose first foals would race that year. In 2011, I was asked to be one
of the panelists who gave their predictions on the new class of sires. Among my
choices was Scat Daddy, and I was the only one among my esteemed colleagues
who picked him. I liked Scat Daddy because he was a high class 2-year-old (Champagne
Stakes-G1, Sanford S.-G2); had a ton of speed, edging my beloved Stormello out
of the win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes-G2, and stretched out to win the Florida
Derby at 9 furlongs. The clincher was going to Ashford to see him, and I very
much liked what I saw. He was a big, powerful, classy, masculine horse with no
major conformation faults.
Scat Daddy was a son of the really brilliant Johannesburg
who was the 2001 Champion 2-year-old in England, France and the U.S.A. after his
breathtaking win in that year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile-G1. Johannesburg never
regained his form and went to stud at Ashford where he sired numerous precocious,
speedy runners like himself. Scat Daddy was typical of that, and proved was his
sire's best runner. Johannesburg was sold to Japan in 2010 where he still stands.
We could use him back here.
Johannesburg's sire Hennessy was a similar
type, a very good juvenile who won graded stakes in New York and California at
2, the only year he raced. A popular commercial sire, Hennessy's fee went to $60,000
in 2007, but he died in August that year in Argentina, and mourned as quite a
loss with only 10 years at stud. Besides Johannesburg, Hennessy's sons include
Henny Hughes (sire of Beholder), and Wiseman's Ferry (sire of Wise Dan). His daughters
are doing well as broodmares, so he's making a mark on the breed.
dam was Myth, a winning daughter of Ogygian (by Damascus) and the mare
Yarn (Mr. Prospector - Narrate by Honest Pleasure). Ogygian was a very
talented racehorse but didn't do much as a sire, hence his departure to Japan.
Yarn was a winner and very well-connected, being a full sister to
the Grade 1 winner Preach. This is an important part of Justify's pedigree
and is studied in depth in a nice
article ("Power Sisters") on The Blood-Horse. Remember it for later.
Yarn and Preach's dam Narrate was a G3 winner and one of the best runners
by Juvenile Champion Honest Pleasure. In 1986, Preach had a colt by A.P. Indy
named Pulpit. The same year, her sister Yarn produced a colt by Storm Cat named
Tale of the Cat. Two years later, Yarn foaled Minardi (by Boundary) who won Group
1 races at 2 in Ireland and England. Not a bad family.
Scat Daddy's mother was
Love Style, an unraced daughter of Mr. Prospector. She produced two other
stakes winners besides Scat Daddy, his full brother Grand Daddy, (a minor stakes
winner at Turfway), and the G3-winning filly Antipathy (by A.P. Indy). The next
dam, Likeable Style, by Nijinsky II, was a Grade 1 winner, so again,
not a bad family.
Scat Daddy, to everyone's apparent surprise (except me and
a few other obviously highly intelligent people), jumped right up to became the
Leading Freshman Sire of 2011. He continued to send out fast horses, a surprising
number of stakes winners, and when the runners from his shuttle seasons in Chile
and Argentina began to run, it was more of the same. Well, actually it was better,
because he got a slew of Group 1 winners in South America, champions and classic
winners, while his runners here seemed just a notch below top class.
worried that one year, Scat Daddy might not return from his Southern Hemisphere
treks, and looked for a son of his to make a sire but none of them were good enough
to retire to Kentucky while their sire was still alive and well. No Nay Never,
the 2013 Champion 2-year-old in France, went to stud at Coolmore in Ireland. Handsome
Mike went to Florida. Daddy Nose Best went to California. Frac Daddy went to Ontario.
Daddy Long Legs first retired to Chile, then later came to Florida.
they started running at higher levels in America. Dacita came up from Chile to
run at G1 levels, and American-bred Celestine was also top class. But why were
the American-bred colts not coming up to the same standard of performance? There
seemed to be a turf bias, even though their dad ran well on dirt.
stop Scat Daddy's continued rising reputation and his stud fee for 2016 was announced
at $100,000 but tragedy struck on December 14, 2015, when he fell dead on the
way in from his paddock. His last foals were born the next spring. Later in 2016,
Scat Daddy's truly brilliant daughter Lady Aurelia blazed to victory in the Queen
Mary Stakes-G2 at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny-G1 at Deauville. Another juvenile,
the colt Caravaggio swept through Irish racing like a lightning bolt, becoming
a Group 1 winner in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. He returned at three to
win the Commonwealth Cup-G1 at Ascot.
Last fall, the Irish-based colt Mendelssohn
(by Scat Daddy - Leslie's Lady by Tricky Creek) made mincemeat out of a nice field
when winning the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf-G1. "There's my Derby horse!"
I thought before I actually sat down with his pedigree. Scat Daddy on Clever Trick
(although Leslie's Lady was not just any Tricky Creek mare). How is that going
to stay 10 furlongs? Scat Daddy still hadn't built his speedy reputation into
a classic one. A very few of his progeny had won at longer distances, but he was
still primarily a sire of sprinter/milers. Then the Kentucky Derby field came
up with 4 starters by Scat Daddy: Justify, Mendelssohn, Flameaway and Combatant.
As it turned out, Mendelssohn hated the entire situation and ran last. Flameaway
and Combatant faded, but Justify won, made a mockery of my question marks, and
took the Preakness and Belmont to boot to make Scat Daddy an American classic
sire 3 times over.
I'm still not convinced that Scat Daddy is a true source
of stamina for Justify, so let's look closer at the pedigree of his dam, Stage
Breeder John D. Gunther tried to sell Stage Magic as a yearling
but was lucky when the Ghostzapper filly was a $70,000 RNA, so he kept her to
race. She was a later maturing type, unraced at two, and not starting until June
at three, but won in her fourth start in September that year. She proceeded to
win 3 in a row, at a mile and a mile and a sixteenth on dirt. Jumped up to stakes,
she was second or third in 4 black-type events and ended her career running third
in the Gardenia Stakes-G3 (8f. Ellis Park) behind the Champion Sprint Mare Groupie
Doll. The mile was clearly her forte.
Back home at Glennwood, Stage Magic produced
Justify in 2015, but before that, she foaled The Lieutenant (2013 c. by Street
Sense). He took a while to get things in gear, but at 5 this year, won the All-American
Stakes-G3 (8f.AW GG) after Justify already had the Derby and Preakness in his
pocket. So now Stage Magic is a multiple Graded stakes producer, not just a one-off.
Magic is a daughter of Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, an incredible racehorse
who first appeared to be a seriously talented sprinter, probably because he won
the 7 furlong Vosburgh Stakes-G1 at 3. He matured at 4 and was named Horse of
the Year after winning 4 Graded stakes including the Breeders' Cup Classic-G1,
so is proven at the 10 furlong American classic standard, although he didn't do
it in the spring of his 3-year-old campaign. His runners are not particularly
precocious, and run better at three and four. Physically, Ghostzapper is a bigger,
stronger version of his sire Awesome Again, and sires a range of aptitudes, from
sprinters to routers on dirt and turf.
Awesome Again has been a good
source of middle distance ability and he himself won the Breeders' Cup Classic-G1
in 1998. Awesome Again is a grandson, through Deputy Minister of the great Canadian
sire Vice Regent (by Northern Dancer), and
Justify shows some of that relationship, bearing a strong physical resemblence
to Vice Regent, a big, muscular, bright chestnut with a blaze.
is a son of the stakes-winning sprint mare Baby Zip (by the versatile middle
distance horse Relaunch), who also produced City Zip, a terrific two-year-old
and a terrific sire, although he harked back to the speed of his sire, Carson
City in both venues. Baby Zip seemed to throw to the influence of her mates, although
maybe a tiny bit of Relaunch's stamina came through.
Stage Magic's dam, Magical
Illusion, was also unraced at 2 and made only 6 starts at 3. She broke her
maiden in May at Belmont winning a mile and a sixteenth dirt contest by 17 1/2
lengths. After running fifth in the Acorn Stakes-G1, she won a mile allowance
by 10 lengths, was third in a muddy renewal of the C.C.A. Oaks-G1 (10f.) behind
Ashado and Stellar Jayne, then won a mile allowance by 3 lengths in October as
her final start. Clearly a filly of exceptional class, she produced 5 foals before
her death in 2012, but only 3 winners including Stage Magic.
the right column)
(continued from the left
Magical Illusion's sire Pulpit, was from the first crop
by Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy, an American
source of stamina. A.P. Indy's best include Preakness winner Bernardni and Belmont
Stakes winner Rags to Riches.
Pulpit's dam was the aforementioned Grade
1 sprinter/miler Preach, by Mr. Prospector. A very talented but delicate
horse, Pulpit was unraced at 2 due to ankle issues, but won the Fountain of Youth
Stakes-G2 and Blue Grass Stakes-G2 at 3 before finishing fourth as favorite in
the Kentucky Derby-G1 (won by Silver Charm). He came out of that race sore and
retired to a tremendous stud career. His progeny tended to be handsome, muscular
individuals who could carry their speed into the middle distances, but were a
little short of classic level, unlike A.P. Indy. Pulpit's son Tapit has turned
the tables, since he's now sired 3 Belmont Stakes winners: Tonalist, Creator and
Magical Illusion was one of 5 stakes horses bred out of her dam,
the Grade 3 stakes winning sprinter Voodoo Lily (by Baldski). The others
were Lily O'Gold (by Slew o' Gold) who was G2- and G3-placed; Shah Jehan (by Mr.
Prospector) who was G3-placed including second in the Withers Stakes-G3; plus
stakes-placed Live Every Day (f. by Lion Heart) and Miss Primetime (f. by Fusaichi
Pegasus). Another daughter, unraced Layreebelle (by Tale of the Cat), produced
Graded stakes winners Kid Cruz (by Lemon Drop Kid) and Spellbound (by Bernardini).
Voodoo Lily's sire, Baldski, was a stakes-winning sprinter/miler, but
regally-bred, being by Nijinsky II out of Too Bald, so a half-brother to Capote
and Exceller. Based in Florida, he tended to sire sprinter/milers like himself
and like Voodoo Lily, despite the abilities of his sire, English Triple Crown
winner Nijinsky II. Nijinsky II sired a wide range of runners, apparently
relying on his mates' aptitudes to determine how far his offspring would go, since
he got early 2-year-olds, sprinters, milers, more classically-oriented distance
runners and flat-out stayers. Baldski was one of the speed models.
dam was Cap The Moment, was an unraced daughter of For The Moment (a full
brother to Honest Pleasure) and dam of 3 stakes winners, Voodoo Lily, her brother
Stone Bluff (both by Baldski), and Gizmo's Fortune (by Fortunate Prospect). For
the Moment, by What a Pleasure out of Tularia by Tulyar, won the Futurity-G1
at 2, and the Blue Grass Stakes-G1 at 3, so he could run into the middle distances,
just like his brother, Honest Pleasure, who won the Florida Derby and placed second
in the Kentucky Derby. There's a little bit of stamina here, probably via the
brothers' dam, Tularia, by English Derby/St. Leger winner Tulyar, since stamina
wasn't a hallmark for What a Pleasure, although he sired Kentucky Derby-winner
Those are the individuals in Justify's pedigree. Now here
are the patterns which hold things together. Although an outcross at 4 generations,
Justify has a very intricate pedigree with a lot of linebreeding to a lot of ancestors,
weaving in and out to produce something extraordinary.
Scat Daddy was
inbred 4x2 to Mr. Prospector through the mares Yarn and Love Style. He was also
6x3 to Nijinsky II through the mares State (dam of Narrate) and Likeable Style.
There was a third cross of Nijinsky II's sire, Northern Dancer through Storm Bird,
giving him Northern Dancer 5x7x4. While inbred horses usually do best with outcross
bloodlines, Scat Daddy's Mr. Prospector crosses weren't following the rules, because
most of his best runners are further inbred to Mr. Prospector. Justify is no exception.
dam Stage Magic was also inbred to Mr. Prospector, 5x4 through the mares Prime
Prospect (second dam of Awesome Again) and Preach (dam of Pulpit). This ultimately
gives Justify 4 crosses of Mr. Prospector 5x3x6x5.
Stage Magic was also
5x7x5 Northern Dancer once through Vice Regent and twice through Nijinsky II.
Her dam, Magical Illusion was inbred 5x3 to Nijinsky II, 5x3 through daughter
State (dam of Narrate) and son Baldski. This makes Justify 4x7x5x7 to Nijinsky
Magical Illusion's sire Pulpit was out of Preach, a full sister to Yarn,
found in Johannesburg's pedigree. Justify puts these two valuable sisters together
(4x4), thus linebreeding to their parents Mr. Prospector and Narrate 5x5.
Illusion's pedigree was also unique because she had crosses of the full brothers
Honest Pleasure (sire of Narrate) and For the Moment (sire of Cap the Moment)
4x3, so she was linebred 5x4 to their parents, What a Pleasure and Tularia. Add
in the second cross of Honest Pleasure coming through Scat Daddy's sire Johannesburg,
and Justify has Honest Pleasure 6x6, What a Pleasure 7x7x6 and Tularia 7x7x6.
when Scat Daddy met Stage Magic to produce Justify some real magic happened. The
table below shows which ancestors are duplicated within 6 generations (and a few
of these some stretch behind that).
Duplicated ancestors in Justify's
pedigree (within 6 generations).
Strains||Crosses||% of blood|
|What a Pleasure||3||7x7x6|| 6.250|
chart doesn't cover the further removed background strains of Native Dancer (8
crosses for 14.063%), Bold Ruler (6 crosses for 7.031%) or his sire Nasrullah
(at least 14 crosses for 19.156%) among others.
Look at that percent of
blood number for Mr. Prospector - 40.625%. That's almost as much as if Mr. Prospector
were the sire (50%) and more than if he were just a grandparent (25%). Likewise
with Nijinsky II - 21.875%, is almost as much as if he were a grandparent (25%).
It's unusual that all of the Mr. Prospector crosses are through daughters. Not
a single Mr. Prospector son in the mix.
Mr. Prospector was known as a sire
of a lot of brilliant, precocious performers, but like Nijinsky II, he could sire
middle distance runners with the right sort of mare. After all, he got Kentucky
Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, Preakness winner Tank's Prospect and Belmont winner
Conquistador Cielo. Although Mr. Prospector's dam was a sprinter herself, she
was by the top stayer Nashua.
It's also worth noting that of the 4 Scat
Daddys in the Kentucky Derby field, 3 of them also had duplications of Nijinsky
II: Justify (with the mare State twice and Baldski in his third dam), Flameaway
(with Caerleon in his second dam) and Mendelssohn (with the mare Far Beyond in
Tricky Creek's second dam). The only one that didn't have extra Nijinsky II was
Hawaii is a surprise duplicate here, coming through his daughter
Island Kitty as the dam's sire of Hennessy and though another daughter, Sailaway,
the third dam of Ghostzapper. Hawaii was a turf stayer and usually represents
stamina, although his influence is very far removed here.
So, you can write
off Justify's stamina to his dam, being a daughter of Ghostzapper, or you can
look at his pedigree as a whole and see a lot of high class individuals coming
together to form one superstar who just outclasses his competitors from start
to finish, no matter what the distance.
Copyright by Anne