First-crop sires 2022: Justify makes Japanese impact

January 11th, 2023

In a three-way battle for first-crop supremacy with Bolt d’Oro and Good Magic in 2022, Triple Crown winner Justify eventually finished third. But his progeny showed enough to suggest that the son of Scat Daddy could have a significant impact on the breed for years to come.

By the end of the season, 71 of Justify’s Northern Hemisphere-bred foals from 2020 made it to the races. He was the leading first-crop sire of both black-type winners (six) along with leading freshman sire Bolt d’Oro and runner-up Good Magic, and leading first-crop sire of graded stakes winners (four) along with Good Magic.

When we last looked at Justify’s first crop on Nov. 10, he’d produced 23 winners. By season’s end on Dec. 31, the tally of winners was 29, second-equal with Bolt d’Oro among first-crop sires, behind only Sharp Azteca (34).

Of those 23 winners, two have won again in the interim. One, Justique, became her sire’s sixth stakes winner when scoring decisively in the seven-furlong Desi Arnaz S. at Del Mar. She scored a Brisnet Speed rating of 86 in the process, and looked like a filly with some potential.


The other returning winner was Prove Right. He followed his Nashua (G3) third-place finish with a disappointing seventh in the Remsen (G2), but bounced back a week later to win a 5 1/2-furlong allowance at Laurel Park, scoring a career-best Speed Rating of 91. He disappointed again when fifth at Turfway Park Jan. 7, and it appears he is best as a sprinter.

Interestingly, only one of Justify’s six new winners since Nov. 10 was in the United States. That was Alpha Bella, a filly out of a mare by former top turf performer Singspiel. She followed her damsire’s aptitude by scoring her debut win on grass, over one mile at Gulfstream Park Dec. 11. The win for the Todd Pletcher trainee came at a lower Speed Rating (77) than when she had finished fourth at her previous start, on dirt at Churchill Downs Oct. 30.

Three of the new winners were in Japan, her first three in that jurisdiction, and all were on dirt. The first two came at the same meeting on Nov. 26 at Hanshin. Winner No. 1 was Jovian, a filly out of the Majestic Warrior mare Runway Doll. The $250,000 OBS March two-year-old purchase followed her second-place finish on debut Nov. 19 by scoring a decisive seven-length victory over about 1 1/8 miles at Hanshin Nov. 26. She looks set to improve further.

Later on the day, Awesome Result put up a very solid performance on debut. Out of the Deputy Minister mare Blossomed, she was backed into second favoritism on debut and duly dashed home 2 1/2 lengths clear of favorite Cours Mirabeau. Like Jovian, she hasn’t raced since.

The third Japanese winner for Justify has already picked up two victories. Yuttitham, a colt out of the U.S. Grade 1 winner Zipessa, was the sixth-most expensive yearling purchase at the Japan Select sale in 2021 at 220 million yen (about $1.815 million).

Second at his initial start Aug. 27 at Sapporo, Yuttitham reappeared at Hanshin to win a 1 1/8-mile maiden Dec. 3 by eight lengths, and then returned to the same venue Dec. 28 to score by three lengths. He looks like one to watch, maybe even for the remaining Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby races, the Hyacinth and the Fukuryu.

Justify’s other new winners both came in Europe, and both on all-weather tracks. The first was in France, where Secretive won by a neck at Deauville for trainer Yann Barberot Nov. 29. Bred by China Horse Club, Secretive was a €150,000 (about $177,000) purchase at the Arqana August yearling sale in 2021. She is out of the Into Mischief mare Media Mischief, a half-sister to dual French Group 1 winner Nebraska Tornado.

The other new European winner was Diamondsareforever, a winner on the Dundalk Polytrack Dec. 21. Out of the Pretty Polly (G1)-winning Fastnet Rock mare Diamondsandrubies, Diamondsareforever was bred by Richard and Roisin Henry’s Premier Bloodstock and was trained for her debut by Willie Browne, though the Horse Racing Ireland website as of January 11 has her listed as being transferred to Aidan O'Brien.

Interestingly, 19 of Justify’s 29 juvenile winners, including five of his six stakes winners, were fillies. It’s quite a striking statistic, but there’s a long way to go in Justify’s career before any assumption about gender bias can realistically be made.

Another notable fact is that three of Justify’s winners (Justique, Justa Warrior, and Rosie’s Alibi, all of them stakes performers) are out of Bernardini mares. Justique and Justa Warrior are even more closely linked, as their second dams are also by the same sire, Carson City. Their female families are not related, but this is quite a coincidence.

Three other broodmare sires produced the dam of a pair of first-crop winners for Justify: Galileo (Bertinelli and Dame Kiri), More Than Ready (Aspen Grove and Prouver), and Tapit (Champions Dream and Tres Soles).

Justify has also served mares in Australia, getting 96 foals from his first crop there. They turned two on Aug. 1, 2022; to date just two of them have raced, neither successfully, but it’s way too early to assess their success down under.

Given that Justify did not race as a two-year-old, there are grounds to suggest his progeny have plenty of room for progression at three. But regardless, the Triple Crown winner’s progeny will be watched closely in 2023.

Among the horses to watch most carefully this year are Statuette and Dame Kiri, potential 1000 Guineas and Oaks candidates in Europe; Champagne (G1) runner-up Verifying, a possible Kentucky Derby (G1) contender currently training at Fair Grounds; Justique, following her Del Mar stakes victory; and Nashua (G3) winner Champions Dream.