The B.C-based breeder of Triple Crown winner Justify says he and his family are honoured to be a part of history.
On Saturday, the horse led from beginning to end to capture the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. It had previously won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, which together make up horse racing’s most sought-after title.
Justify was bred by John Gunther, of Langley, B.C., at Glennwood Farm in Versailles, Ky., which is run by his daughter, Tanya.
“It’s such an amazing horse,” said Gunther from Elmont. “Everybody was in tears, including myself.”
Justify, ridden by jockey Mike Smith, captured the Triple Crown with an easy win at the 150th Belmont Stakes.(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Gunther grew up on a Calgary-area farm before buying his own in Langley. He bred his first foal in 1970 and took over Kentucky-based Glennwood Farm 19 years later.
He now commutes between B.C. and Kentucky, breeding champion racers with his daughter.
Trainer Bob Baffert, right, leads Justify out of Barn 33 at Churchill Downs the morning after winning the 144th Kentucky Derby.(The Associated Press/Garry Jones)
The family paired Justify’s famous father — Scat Daddy— with their mare named Stage Magic.
Justify was sold as a yearling for $500,000 in 2016.
Gunther says while he and others behind the horse could barely contain their nerves as the Belmont began, the horse — true to character — stayed serene.
‘It’s just unreal’
“He was calm,” said Gunther. “He stood there with his ears pricked. He just calmly walked into the gate. When they opened the gate, [jockey] Mike Smith took him to the lead and it was history after that.”
The chestnut colt became the second undefeated horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, improving to 6-0 in a racing career that began on Feb. 18.
Seattle Slew was unbeaten when he won the Triple Crown in 1977.
“It’ll be a Triple Crown winner that’ll be remembered for ever,” said Gunther “It’s just unreal.”
With files from Associated Press, Matthew Black and Yvette Brend.