Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has announced that his Triple Crown winner Justify has been ruled out of his August big-race targets, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. A leg problem that is ‘under evaluation’ is the cause of the break in his schedule.
Justify broke every rule in the book when he became the 13th Triple Crown winner but has he been broken by his extraordinary exploits? Baffert has had to take him off the work tab for the second time since his stunning Belmont Stakes victory on June 9 as an issue has arisen with the ankle on his left front leg.
Justify, a son of Scat Daddy, traveled back to California eight days after that win without any reported problems. Baffert has let the media know about his physical challenges since. Some swelling appeared in the ankle joint at the beginning of July but it went down after a few days’ rest. When Justify was worked the problem returned. That scenario sets alarm bells ringing in any good trainer’s brain.
You can be sure that every diagnostic technique available has been utilized but if the cause of the problem is known, nobody is telling right now. There are conspiracy theorists wondering if his owners (especially the Chinese contingent) are keen to keep any damning details quiet. Some of Justify’s mega-protective fans are suggesting that immediate retirement and a new career at stud could be the best option.
If there is a weakness that could result in further damage or even the unthinkable if Justify races again those fans could be correct. After all, what else has this colt got to prove? On the flip side, if whatever ails this colt is not too serious the next possible outing could be the Breeders’ Cup Classic but everyone will have to wait until further information is disclosed.
Masar, Another Star Colt, Injured
Justify is not the only talented three-year-old colt suffering from the effects of racing at the highest level. Godolphin’s first Epsom Derby winner Masar, a striking chestnut by New Approach, missed his scheduled engagement in Sandown’s Eclipse Stakes on July 7 as he walked out lame on the day before the race.
Masar has undergone extensive assessment by the veterinarians and has been diagnosed as suffering from damage to soft tissue that is not career-ending but he will miss the rest of his classic season. His UK handler, Charlie Appleby, is understandably frustrated that his most talented trainee cannot continue to fulfil the promise he has shown this year.
Masar was pretty good as a juvenile too. He started as the 4/1 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but encountered traffic problems and finished sixth, beaten nearly three lengths by Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn.
A run in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (Europe’s richest and most prestigious flat race) with the advantage of the considerable weight allowance for three-year-olds was in Masar’s diary. If all goes well he could line up next year but will have to carry more weight.
For Justify it is a case of wait and see, he is currently the 5/2 favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic but bettors should be patient as so little is known about the cause of his problem.