By all accounts, undefeated 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify always was special. And he knew it. Even as a young foal, the chestnut had a certain intangible quality that is impossible to describe yet easy to recognize in untapped talents.
Born in nearby Woodford County at the Glennwood Farm of John Gunther and his daughter Tanya, Justify was an unnamed colt assigned to sell on the first day of Keeneland’s 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The winning bidder was China Horse Club/Maverick Racing, which paid $500,000 for him.
Justin Garcia was part of the Glennwood team that prepared Justify for his public debut at the sale. Garcia had become acquainted with the colt when he was about six months old in Glennwood’s weanling division and was among those who gave the youngster his early lessons in being groomed and being led.
“He was special from the start,” Garcia said. “He carried himself in such a way that it seemed like he knew he was going to be somebody someday.”
Ricardo Lopez was one of Justify’s handlers when the colt was known as Hip No. 50 at the September Sale.
“People who came to see him knew he was special, too, by the way he showed himself,” Lopez said. “He was an easy horse to show and was good about everything.”
When Justify began having official timed workouts, Lopez followed his progress via his mobile device. The colt’s first three workouts were at Keeneland, where he trained in 2017 with trainer Rodolphe Brisset before joining Bob Baffert’s Southern California barn.
“I knew he was going to be special because of his personality,” Lopez said. “I knew him from the day he was born, and I knew that in the future he would do something special.”
Justify began fulfilling the prophecy of Glennwood’s team on Feb. 18 when he sailed to victory in his career debut at Santa Anita. By June, the colt had won the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) and had become Thoroughbred racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner.
While reminiscing about Justify and fielding belated congratulations on his accomplishment, the Glennwood crew is busy at this year’s September Sale with a consignment that includes the Triple Crown winner’s half-brother. Cataloged as Hip 443 and set to sell Tuesday, the son of Will Take Charge and the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic sports a white blaze reminiscent of his famous sibling. But that is not the only similarity.
“He has the same personality,” Lopez said.
Team Glennwood Farm (left to right) wears recent sales success on their shirts: Sergio Pena, Justin Garcia, Artemio Navarro, Tanya Gunther, Ricardo Lopez, Jonathan Cedillo, Raul Sandoval, Raul Mares, Daniel Soto and John Gunther.