Justify’s Triple Crown run caps magical run for Canadian breeder

John Gunther, owner of Glennwood Farm in Kentucky, bred 13th U.S. Triple Crown champion Justify

Justify, with jockey Mike Smith up, crosses the finish line to win the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race and the Triple Crown, Saturday, June 9, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

What a ride it’s been for Canadian John Gunther and Glennwood Farm.

Justify captured the Belmont Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths Saturday to become just the 13th U.S. Triple Crown champion and second since 1978. The majestic chestnut colt was bred at Glennwood Farm in Versailles, Ky., which is owned by Gunther and run by his daughter, Tanya.

“What an amazing experience, my heart was pounding and I had to sit down,” said Gunther, who witnessed Justify’s historic run at Belmont Park. “Everybody was in tears, the staff at Glennwood, my daughter and even myself.

“It’s just incredible to consider the horse’s first start was Feb. 18. What he’s accomplished in such a short time is just really incredible, I just don’t know what else to say.”

It was Tanya Gunther who paired Justify’s sire (Scat Daddy) and mare (Stage Magic). John Gunther credits his daughter’s encyclopedic understanding of blood-lines for creating the champion thoroughbred.

“This means everything to Glennwood,” said John Gunther. ”We’re a small, petite farm and now we’re going to be recognized around the world.

“Any time we’re consigning yearlings we’re going to get people certainly taking a second look at our consignments when we do sell yearlings. We’ve been able to brand something very special in what we’ve accomplished.”

RELATED: Triple Crown hopes dashed for B.C. jockey

The Gunthers knew shortly after Justify’s birth he was something special. In fact, John Gunther, of Langley, B.C., was so convinced Justify would win the Triple Crown he boldly predicted the sweep long before the horse’s Kentucky Derby win last month.

“What’s most impressive about him is his mental attitude, nothing upsets him at all,” Gunther said. “You look at 170,000 people yelling and screaming at the Kentucky Derby and he doesn’t even turn a hair.

“When we saw him in the paddock (Saturday), he just looked so typically fantastic. He even looked like he added a few pounds from the Preakness, I mean, this horse just recovers so amazingly quick.”

At 6-0, Justify joins the legendary Seattle Slew (1977) as the only two undefeated Triple Crown winners. Justify is also the first horse to register the sweep without racing as a two-year-old due to a pulled muscle.

Justify’s pedigree features plenty of Canadian content.

Scat Daddy’s bloodlines include Canadian-breds Nijinsky (an English Triple Crown champion), Northern Dancer and Storm Bird. Stage Magic’s genealogy features Canadian Hall of Famer Awesome Again — the 1997 Queen’s Plate and 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic champion — and Canadian-breds Deputy Minister, Vice Regent and Mint Copy.

By winning the Derby, Justify broke the dreaded Apollo Curse, becoming the first horse to win that race after not starting as a two-year-old since Apollo did in 1882.

Justify was a US$500,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing. He earned $800,000 for winning the Belmont, boosting his career total to almost $3.8 million.

Justify’s quick ascent to North American prominence will undoubtedly put pressure on Glennwood to produce another Triple Crown contender. But it’s a challenge Gunther welcomes.

“To achieve a result like this, how do you beat it?”he said. “But you’ve got to keep doing it just to try it again

“We’ve just got to keep working and working and working and just try to produce more graded stakes winners.”

Justify joins a long list of champions Glennwood has bred or co-bred including First Samurai (Grade 1 winner, $915,075 earned); Mo Town (co-bred, Grade 1 winner); My Miss Sophia (second 2014 Kentucky Oaks); Stay Thirsty (co-bred, Grade 1 winner, $1.936 million); Stevie Wonderboy (co-bred, 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion, $1.059 million); and Tamarkuz (2016 Breeders’ Cup dirt mile winner, $1.84 million).

And Gunther might have to look no further than his farm for the next Justify. The Triple Crown winner’s yet unnamed half-brother is a yearling at Glennwood and is the spitting image of his older sibling.

“He’s as impressive as Justify was as a yearling,” Gunther said. “When the half-brother was foaled he was lying in the stall and his legs were so long that I said to Tanya, ‘Well, here’s one we can’t sell.’

“I didn’t even realize it was Justify’s half-brother and it was Stage Magic who’d had the foal.”

That goes against the traditional breeding business practice of selling the yearlings to help fund their operation. But Gunther opted to follow his gut with this decision, which came long before Justify’s emergence as a champion racehorse.

“If he can run like Justify or almost as good, that would do it,” Gunther said. ”If he could win a graded race it would be unbelievable.”

Especially considering another Stage Magic offspring, The Lieutenant, won a Grade III race last month, giving the mare two recent graded states winners.

“That mare is so special,” Gunther said. “She really puts everything into her foals.”

Gunther guesses Justify’s next race will be $1.25-million Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Aug. 25 at Saratoga, with an eventual appearance at the Breeder’s Cup. But with the Triple Crown in tow, Gunther believes the pressure is off Justify.

“No more pressure,” Gunther said. “He’s done everything I or anyone could dream of.”

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Mellisa Hollingsworth highlights Special Olympics Celebrity Breakfast

Olympic Bronze Medalist from Central Alberta shared her journey with a packed house

Court full as schools, parents dispute Alberta gay-straight alliance law

Justice Centre argues keeping parents out of the loop violates freedom of religion and expression

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

WATCH: Over 10,000 lbs of pet food given out to help Red Deer’s vulnerable

Alberta Animal Services and Red Deer Food Bank’s Kitchen Kibble will feed hundreds

Local coalition seeks to bolster youngsters’ development

‘Strengthening Positive Assets Resiliency in Communities’ supports local families

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

Humboldt survivors to attend NHL Awards

Players say it’s a blessing to be back together again

Justice minister: marijuana still illegal for now

Driving under the influence of drugs has always been — and will remain — against the law

Crown recommends 150 years for Quebec mosque shooter

Crown lawyers say Alexandre Bissonnette deserves to receive the longest sentence in Canadian history

192 missing after ferry sinks in Indonesia

Divers are searching an Indonesian lake after a ferry sank earlier this week

No clear plan yet on how to reunite parents with children

A lawyer has documented more than 300 cases of adults who have been separated from a child

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

Most Read