Undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify will not race again, his owners announced Wednesday, and the colt may be sold to Irish interests.
Justify has had some "filling" in his ankle, said trainer Bob Baffert, "and he is just not responding quick enough for a fall campaign. We all wanted to see Justify run again, but ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure he is perfect. Without 60 to 90 days, I can't be definite."
Being out of action that long would make it impossible to prepare Justify properly for his scheduled racing finale, the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall at Churchill Downs, even should he return to full health, Baffert said.
The colt becomes the only Triple Crown winner to retire undefeated, victorious in all six career starts. Seattle Slew, who was undefeated when he swept the series in 1977, went on to suffer three losses while racing as a 4-year-old.
Justify is a son of Scat Daddy from the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic. He is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, and Starlight Racing. But rumors of a deal for his breeding rights have abounded since he won the Belmont Stakes.
"As has been reported, there is a possible sale to Coolmore in place, but that won't be finalized until a later date," said WinStar's Elliott Walden. Coolmore, based in Ireland, breeds and races worldwide. The group would be pleased with a successor-designate to it's long dominant sire, Galileo.
His regular rider, Mike Smith, will be high on the list of those missing Justify on the track.
"Like everyone else, I am disappointed he won't run again. But I am thankful he came into my life," Smith said. "There was never a time when I rode him that I felt like I was going to get beat. There was no horse who could run with him without sacrificing themselves, and there was no horse who could come get him. He truly is a gift from God."