Pedigree notebook: Justify juggernaut rolls on with second-crop juveniles

August 8th, 2023

Amid the celebrations of his first Grade 1-winning three-year-olds, Justify is ramping up the momentum with his second crop of juveniles. The undefeated Triple Crown champion has budding stars in both Europe and the United States, on turf and dirt.

Justify’s remarkable range as a sire has already been on display in his first crop, a point driven home with particular force of late. Arabian Lion scored his signature win (so far) in the June 10 Woody Stephens (G1) over seven furlongs on dirt, while Aspen Grove captured the July 8 Belmont Oaks (G1) going 1 1/4 miles on turf. Verifying just earned a deserved graded victory in the Indiana Derby (G3), after placing in both the Champagne (G1) and Blue Grass (G1).

Further afield in Australia, Justify was recently crowned the champion freshman sire for the 2022-23 season. His top Southern Hemisphere performer, Reisling (G2) heroine Learning to Fly, was unbeaten going into the March 18 Golden Slipper (G1), only to be badly hampered, lose her rider, and sustain a significant injury. Although she will be sidelined the rest of the calendar year, the tentative plan reportedly is to get her back in 2024.

Following the pattern established by his first crop, Justify’s second crop is flashing serious ability on all surfaces, domestically and internationally. Del Mar debut smasher Heartland became the third Justify juvenile of 2023 to garner the “Rising Star” designation by Thoroughbred Daily News, after European celebrities City of Troy and Ramatuelle. The Aidan O’Brien-trained City of Troy is by far Timeform’s top-rated juvenile, and French-based Ramatuelle ranks as their leading two-year-old filly.

O’Brien zeroed in on a particular quality that Justify is transmitting to his offspring. City of Troy is “a medium-sized horse with a giant stride,” the master of Ballydoyle told

He's very unusual, his stride is kind of twice the length of his body. When he started to extend inside the furlong marker, his stride is getting longer and longer – that's very rare. That's what Justify had as well, his stride was so long, and it made him very different.”

Justify has sent out another North American stakes scorer in Living Magic, plus three Saratoga maiden winners. Valentine Candy and Just Steel won on the Spa’s main track, and Hard to Justify remarkably recovered from trouble to get up in time on turf.

Let’s look at his exciting juveniles on this side of the pond before taking off for the Continent to savor Ramatuelle and City of Troy.

Heartland one to watch for Del Mar Futurity

A half-brother to champion Classic Empire, hero of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and 2017 Arkansas Derby (G1) as well as runner-up in the Preakness (G1), Heartland sold for $575,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. His breeder, CHC Inc. (China Horse Club), remains involved in his ownership group alongside his Keeneland buyers, Siena Farm and WinStar Farm. China Horse Club and WinStar were among the partners in Justify himself.

Trained by Bob Baffert like his sire, Heartland was bet down to 4-5 favoritism in his July 29 unveiling at Del Mar. Fans had an anxious moment when the blinkered chestnut ducked in sharply from his inside post, making a beeline to his left and causing Juan Hernandez to take swift corrective action.

As a result of that rookie mistake, Heartland found himself farther back with only one rival behind him. He raced greenly, climbing when angling out on the turn. Hernandez opted to steer back inside, where he had more of a gap and presumably less spray.

Heartland, to his credit, responded with a sustained rail rally to win going away by two lengths. He packed a lot of education into the 1:03.20 it took to negotiate 5 1/2 furlongs. With improvement sure to come, he’s a logical candidate for the Sept. 10 Del Mar Futurity (G1).

‘Magic’ on at least two surfaces

Interestingly, both of Heartland’s parents are by Storm Cat-line sires. Justify represents the branch of transatlantic champion two-year-old Johannesburg, via Scat Daddy. Heartland’s dam, Sambuca Classica, is by Storm Cat’s son Cat Thief.

Hank Nothhaft’s homebred Living Magic sports a similar “Storm Cat squared” pedigree. She’s out of millionaire Living the Life, who traces to Storm Cat via the Giant’s Causeway stallion Footstepsinthesand. Living the Life excelled on all-weather, as a two-time winner of the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2) and was successful over males in the 2016 All American (G3) at Golden Gate Fields. But she collected a trio of graded placings on dirt, most notably the Santa Margarita (G1).

Although Living Magic has echoed her dam by winning the July 15 My Dear S. on the Woodbine Tapeta, she could yet achieve more on dirt too. The Phil Schoenthal pupil won her May 1 debut on the main track at Parx before finishing a troubled third in the Astoria S. at Belmont. She added blinkers for the 5 1/2-furlong My Dear and showed new speed in a front-running effort.

According to Nothhaft’s website, Living Magic could become a triple-surface operator and take her game to turf. Two of Justify’s stakes-performing sophomores are bred on a similar cross — Black Gold S. winner Wonderful Justice and Irish stakes-placed Shamwari are out of Giant’s Causeway mares.

Valentine Candy a ‘Special’ treat?

As a Feb. 14 foal produced by the Grade 1-placed Candy Ride mare Taste Like Candy, Valentine Candy is well named. The $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling purchase could prove to be a treat, judging by his July 22 debut at the Spa, and he’s nominated to Saturday’s Saratoga Special (G2).

The Steve Asmussen trainee was dispatched as the slight 2.85-1 favorite in a field full of newcomers, and he beat them all before they knew it was a race. Blasting from the gate like a rocket, Valentine Candy had his rivals scrambling to catch up in the opening strides. His margin was trimmed to a length by the time he clocked an initial quarter in :22.10, but he spurted away again through a half in :45.94. Although he was slowing late to finish six furlongs in 1:11.74, Valentine Candy stamped himself as a quality colt who can harness that speed effectively in the future.

Valentine Candy’s dam, Taste Like Candy, was runner-up in the 2013 Hollywood Starlet (G1) routing on the old Cushion Track. Turning back to a sprint on Santa Anita’s dirt next time, she missed by a length and a half in the 2014 Santa Ynez (G2).

While Candy Ride has crossed well with Storm Cat-line mares, as explored in a previous “Pedigree Notebook,” the reverse cross is attested too. Champion Epicenter and Chocolate Gelato are by Storm Cat scions (Not This Time and Practical Joke, respectively) and out of Candy Ride mares.

‘Steely’ will down the stretch

Just Steel, runner-up to highly-regarded Pirate last time out, benefited from experience in his maiden score on Whitney Day. But the $500,000 Keeneland September yearling was also improving again in this third career start for D. Wayne Lukas.

Drawing in from the also-eligible list, Just Steel forced the fast pace set by Asmussen’s Ozone in splits of :22.56 and :45.60 and put him away. Then 3-2 favorite Be You pounced on Just Steel and gained a slim advantage, but the first-time starter couldn’t close the deal. Just Steel knuckled down to regain the edge by a nose on the wire, covering six furlongs in 1:10.22.

Out of Australian Group 1 queen Irish Lights, who captured the 2009 Thousand Guineas (G1) over Caulfield’s metric mile, Just Steel is a half-brother to Group 2 scorer Omei Sword and stakes veteran Lipizzaner, who was fourth in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1).

Just Steel is bred on the same cross as the aforementioned Slipper contender Learning to Fly. Both are out of mares by Australian champion Fastnet Rock, a significant son of Danehill.

‘Hard to’ imagine how she managed to win

Chad Brown debutante Hard to Justify really shouldn’t have broken her maiden in Saratoga’s July 23 opener going 1 1/16 miles on turf. Reserved several lengths behind a slow pace, she had to check sharply on the inside and got shuffled to eighth leaving the backstretch. Hard to Justify would have had a legitimate excuse, but she didn’t need one after all. Shrugging it off and swinging out wide, she quickened relentlessly to get up by a head.

Bred by Yeguada Centurion, the same outfit responsible for leading French three-year-old filly Blue Rose Cen, Hard to Justify brought $190,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She’s out of the Quality Road mare Instant Reflex, a Grade 3-placed turf sprinter.

Ramatuelle bound for Prix Morny

Thus Hard to Justify carries a cross similar to Ramatuelle, likewise bred by Yeguada Centurion from an Elusive Quality-line mare. Ramatuelle is the first foal from smart sprinter Raven’s Lady, a daughter of 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) star Raven’s Pass, who beat males in the 2018 Goldene Peitsche (G2).

The Elusive Quality angle is intriguing because it mirrors the cross responsible for No Nay Never, an outstanding juvenile and sire. No Nay Never is by the same sire as Justify, the late Scat Daddy, and out of a mare by Elusive Quality himself.

Ramatuelle, a stablemate of Blue Rose Cen’s in the yard of Christopher Head, is a head away from being unbeaten while competing against males. Precocious enough to dominate an April 11 newcomers’ event at Chantilly, she was just denied in a Saint-Cloud conditions race by Beauvatier, a next-out listed winner. Ramatuelle has romped in both ensuing starts, the Prix du Bois (G3) (in juvenile course-record time) and Prix Robert Papin (G2), by a combined margin of nine lengths.

Her drubbing of Ballydoyle runner His Majesty in the Robert Papin gives her nifty collateral form, since he’d placed third in the Railway (G2) and fourth in Royal Ascot’s Norfolk (G2) in his two previous outings. Ramatuelle thereby rates as the one to beat in the Aug. 20 Prix Morny (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Running out of superlatives for City of Troy

City of Troy is a boon for the Coolmore partners, not only for the obvious reasons as a sensational juvenile and hot property for the 2024 classics. He’s early proof that Justify can be dynamite with Galileo mares, raising the specter of generations of Coolmore-bred prospects to come from this cross, and the broader population of Sadler’s Wells-line mares.

He's exactly what John (Magnier of Coolmore) wanted from Justify, a true classic horse.”

So said O’Brien, according to TDN.

Out of Together Forever, who scored her signature win in the 2014 Fillies’ Mile (G1), City of Troy is a full brother to the promising three-year-old Bertinelli. But the siblings are different types. Bertinelli took longer to make it to the races as a juvenile, not surfacing until last October, and he’s developing over longer trips.

The winner of the ever-informative Newbury handicap known as the London Gold Cup, Bertinelli was a bang-up third in the King George V at Royal Ascot. As the 135-pound highweight, he was conceding 10 pounds to the victorious Desert Hero, who’s since come back to land the Gordon (G3) at Glorious Goodwood.

City of Troy, in contrast, has come to hand early enough to run amok in seven-furlong races in July, displaying tactical foot before powering clear. If he can combine that speed with brother Bertinelli’s stamina, his classic horizons would extend well beyond the 2000 Guineas (G1).

After City of Troy’s debut score over Irish Derby (G1) weekend at the Curragh, O’Brien revealed to a nugget from jockey Ryan Moore:

Ryan was delighted with him. He said he was very frightened going past the winning post, he said it's the first time he's ever ridden a two-year-old that he thought wasn't going to pull up. He said going to the winning post he just started to get longer and longer in his stride and galloped down to the boards.”

City of Troy was even better two weeks later in the July 15 Superlative (G2) at Newmarket. Facing softish going for the first time, he slammed them by 6 1/2 lengths. The distant second, Haatem, has underscored his merit by returning to win the Vintage (G2) at Glorious Goodwood.

City of Troy is expected to go for Group 1 glory in the Sept. 10 Vincent O’Brien National (G1) back at the Curragh during the Irish Champions Festival.

By that point, more Justify juveniles are likely to emerge. Several others have fancy entries themselves, including Ballydoyle companion Opera Singer, who rolled second time out on July 20 at Leopardstown. As a daughter of the prolific Sadler’s Wells mare Liscanna, Opera Singer is a half-sister to highweight juvenile filly Brave Anna and 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Hit It a Bomb.