Anne Peters



Anne Peters
P.O. Box 3926
Midway, KY 40347
(859) 846 - 9794



Angles on the pedigree of Triple Crown winner JUSTIFY

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 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.

Johannesburg's 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.

I was 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.

Finally, 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.

This didn't 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 Magic.

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.

Stage 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.

Ghostzapper 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.

(continued in the right column)

Justify's 5-cross pedigree at Pedigree
His female family via TDN/EquineLine
Glennwood Farm, where he was bred, born and raised
Tales from the Crib at Kentucky
photos of Justify as a foal and yearling
TVG video about his sire Scat Daddy on YouTube
How US stallion Scat Daddy became the Galileo of Chile on Thoroughbred
(with a great conformation photo)
Justify's Inbreeding via the Power Sisters Preach and Yarn at
Photo of Vice Regent (his look-alike ancestor)

(continued from the left column)

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 Tapwrit.

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.

The next 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 Foolish Pleasure.

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.

Justify's 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 II.

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.

Magical 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.

So, 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).

Ancestor# StrainsCrosses% of blood
Mr. Prospector45x3x6x440.625
Nijinsky II 44x7x5x721.875
Northern Dancer 66x8x5x6x6x817.186
Hawaii25x6   9.375
What a Pleasure37x7x6  6.250
Tularia37x7x6  6.250
Secretariat26x6  6.250

The 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 Combatant.

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 Peters 2018.