When Justify left the track at Belmont Park and disappeared into the stable area after sweeping the Triple Crown on June 9, it was anticipated that the unbeaten 3-year-old would reappear with jockey Mike Smith on Sunday at Monmouth Park for the $1 million Haskell Invitational, the unofficial kickoff for the second half of the 3-year-old season.
When Justify showed no workouts into early July, there was cause for concern. When the massive colt was taken out of training with an ankle issue, concern morphed into alarm. Everybody around the game knew what was coming next. It was made official Wednesday when it was announced that Justify would be retired.
So, instead of appearing at the American treasure that is Monmouth Park on Sunday, Justify will make his final public appearance Saturday when he will be paraded on the track at Del Mar before heading off to Kentucky, where he will get ready for the 2019 breeding season.
Several of the horses that could not beat Justify all spring will try to beat one another in the Haskell. In a normal year, 2017 2-year-old champion Good Magic may have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The colt had to settle for second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness after battling with Justify until the final yards.
Good Magic, with 2017 Eclipse award winners Chad Brown (trainer) and Jose Ortiz (jockey), drew post 6 in the Haskell field of seven and is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the race that will be contested at a mile and an eighth. This will be Good Magic's first race since the May 19 Preakness, a brutal race in every way. Running that hard for that long against a great horse like Justify makes it difficult to recover.
"He survived the Triple Crown, and he still looks good," Brown said of Good Magic. "Did it take its toll on him, those two tough races against Justify, especially the second race where he had a much tougher trip than the Derby? Yeah, sure it did. This horse lost some weight. He was a little body sore. He needed some recovery time and then it's up to me to just observe him to see if he can keep going another round. I did, and the horse responded. He's trained really well. He's bounced back super considering everything he's been through. I think he's ready to go back in the ring again."
Bravazo, second in the Preakness, is the 3-1 second choice. Navy Commander (12-1), trained at Parx by Bensalem's Butch Reid, won the July 7 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth, the Haskell prep.
Some of the Haskell horses will run in the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. And some of them will be at Parx Sept. 22 for the Pennsylvania Derby, the final major race for 3-year-olds before the Breeders' Cup in November,