Newly minted Triple Crown champion Justify saw his stud value skyrocket with his gate-to-wire victory Belmont Stakes. The muscle on muscle chestnut three-year old colt with a big white blaze joined Seattle Slew as the only undefeated Triple Crown winners and became the 13th horse ever to win the Triple Crown comprised of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9.
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell reported the Belmont Stakes (Grade-1) victory pushed the value of Triple Crown winner Justify to an all-time record $75 million.
ESPN and the New York Times previously reported after the Preakness that an agreement was in place for the owners of Justify's breeding rights – WinStar Farm with 60 percent, China Horse Club with 25 percent, and George Soros' SF Bloodstock with 15 percent – to sell them to Coolmore Stud for $60 million with a $15-million bonus if the son of Scat Daddy were to win the Belmont.
WinStar Farm CEO Elliott Walden has denied that a deal has been made. The New York Times said that it may not be official until September so that Justify's owners can take advantage of tax laws dealing with capital gains. Rovell writes that Coolmore can put a higher value on Justify than other stud farms because it has the capacity to stand the superstar at both its Ashford Stud in Kentucky and in Australia during the southern Hemisphere breeding season. WinStar has stood some of its stallions in the southern Hemisphere but does not own a stud farm in Australia. The highest previous stallion deal, Rovell writes, was the $70 million Coolmore paid to acquire 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.
The Montana wilderness is not the typical spot you would expect to find a $630,000 yearling colt learning the ropes of the racing game.
Studded with 25 alpine lakes and endless wildflower meadows, the foothills of the Jewel Basin offer expansive views of Flathead Valley to the west and Hungry Horse Reservoir to the east. It's also the location of the Ruis Ranch where the breaking and the daily exercising routines of young thoroughbred prospects takes place.
When owner/trainer Mick Ruis placed the winning bid at the 2016 Saratoga Yearling Sale, his prized dark bay colt was sent straightaway to Ruis' 80-acre ranch on the outskirts of Bigfork where he would spend the next five months in Big Sky country. Galloping one day in a pasture, the colt's exceptional athleticism was on full view from a picture window in ranch manager Ike Green's home. At the same time Green was watching the 2016 Summer Olympics, in particular Usain Bolt, the all-time great Jamaican sprinter.
A native of Wyoming, Green picked out the colt at the Saratoga Sale.
Where have you gone, Songbird? That was the tune the two-time champion's legion of fans were singing throughout her 4-year old campaign. The power and acceleration Songbird displayed the past two seasons where she dominated her competition just wasn't there.
After a pair of narrow one-length victories early this summer the dark bay filly was run down in the deep stretch by multiple Grade-1 winner Forever Unbridled in the $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 26. Afterwards owner Rick Porter had seen enough.
“Of course, it's frustrating, very disappointing, I knew we had a decent field to run against," said a clearly discouraged Porter. "Something's not right. She is just not right, and I will get her checked out. She doesn't let horses pass her, that was probably part of it. I am not comfortable that she is 100 percent healthy. Anyway, this is not the Songbird we have been seeing the last three races, just doesn't seem to be the same Songbird, it's only right to have her checked out.
“I thought we would see the real Songbird today, but we didn't see it. I just want to make sure it is not something physical which I would do with any good horse. I always do that.”
Songbird was scheduled to fly out of Saratoga, switch planes in Louisville, Ky. and then fly on to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's barn in southern California. It never happened. Porter insisted Songbird be directly vanned to Lexington and undergo a full evaluation and testing by Dr. Larry Bramlage at Rood & Riddle Hospital.
Faugh a Ballagh is a 19th century Irish battle cry meaning "clear the way."
Even mild-mannered trainer Graham Motion must have been tempted to shout that command watching his 3-year old colt Irish War Cry storm down the stretch in the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct racetrack on April 8. The New Jersey bred son of Curlin now has 110 qualifying points which punches his ticket to the seemingly wide open Kentucky Derby on May 6.
With new jockey Rajiv Maragh in the irons, Irish War Cry was content to sit patiently behind Battalion Runner down the backstretch. When Maragh asked the colt to go, he blew by his rival just inside the eighth pole and drew off to win by 3 1/2-lengths striding out beautifully at the wire. Racing in the gold and maroon stripes of Isabelle de Tomaso, he recorded a big 101 Beyers Speed Figure in the 1 1/8-mile race.
The victory enabled the handsome chestnut to rebound from a head-scratching seventh place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in early March.
Race after race she is marching her way into the ranks of female racing royalty. Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra. Royal Delta. Rags to Riches. All thoroughbred magnets that have connected so passionately with racing fans. Now it's Songbird's time.
Facing her stiffest competition yet in the $1 million Cotillion Stakes (Grade-1) Songbird took command at the top of the stretch without any urging from jockey Mike Smith and roared down the stretch gliding to yet another easy victory. A perfect 11-for-11 in her racing career, Songbird hit the wire by 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Carina Mia at Parx racetrack, outside Philadelphia on the first Saturday of autumn.
Bred in Kentucky, Songbird was purchased by Rick Porter for $400,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, The filly has dominated her competition in all 11 of her career starts, winning by a combined 60 lengths. The fifth her narrowest margin of victory recorded as 3 3/4 lengths. She has captured seven Grade 1 races for earnings of nearly $3.5 million.
"When I talked with Mike about the race, we just wanted to jump (out of there) and see where we were," Hollendorfer said. "I didn't know what (Cathryn Sophia) was going to do. I thought she was capable of showing some speed. Songbird laid off the pace a little and ran when Mike asked her to. I'm very grateful for her and very pleased with the way that she did that today. I thought she was going great down the backside."
Race after race she is marching her way into the ranks of female racing royalty. Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra. Royal Delta. Rags to Riches. All were thoroughbred magnets that connected so passionately with racing fans. Now it's Songbird's time.
A perfect 8 for 8, Songbird faced her toughest foe yet in Carina Mia in the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 24th. Bolting out of post 1, Songbird shot to the lead carving out swift fractions of 23.86 for the opening quarter, the half in 47.52 with Grade-1 Acorn winner Carina Mia a length back. Heading into the far turn Carina Mia made her move matching strides with Songbird to the top of the stretch. Jockey Mike Smith tapped her twice to open up in the stretch, hitting the wire in 1:49.56 for the 1 1/8 mile race. It was yet another dominating performance with 5 ¼ lengths back to Carina Mia.
“She has such a big, beautiful stride,” Smith said. “When Carina Mia got on top of her, the more it made her aggressive. It was a good test for her, made her do something she had never done before. If this race moves her up like I think it will, there’s no telling how good this filly is.”
The most highly touted Derby prep matchup in years took place in the $1 million Florida Derby. A clash of the titans: an East vs. West showdown of unbeaten colts. It never happened.
Undefeated 2015 juvenile Eclipse Award-winning Nyquist rolled to an easy victory, stamping himself as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Geared down by jockey Junior Alvarado in the stretch, Mohaymen (4-5 favorite) wound up beaten by 8 ¼ lengths finishing fourth.
“We feel like it was a perfect storm of unfortunate things that happened with the track, raining earlier and then later," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin from his barn office at the Palm Meadows training facility.
"Basically it was a very wet (track) and we were very wide. We ran 54 feet further than the winner, but congratulations to Nyquist and their team. They had to run over the same racetrack under the same conditions and they did it better than us. Hopefully we can turn the tables on May 7."