By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Can Justify become the 13th Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing history? John Gunther thinks so and after knocking on wood when he says it, the Langley-based breeder of this year’s Kentucky Derby champion doesn’t hesitate to share his thoughts.
During an in-depth interview with James Cybulski and Mira Laurence on Sportsnet 650 Radio following Justify’s two-and-a-half length victory in the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, Gunther talked openly about what he sees ahead for his newly crowned 3-year-old champion.
“I actually think he’ll win the Triple Crown because he is such an athletic individual with powerful long strides,” Gunther said. “In fact, they measured his stride to Secretariat’s stride and Justify’s is a little bit longer. He’s such a big, strong athletic horse.”
After paying due credit to jockey Mike Smith (‘one of the best riders in America”) and trainer Bob Baffert (“imagine winning the Kentucky Derby five times”), Gunther praised his daughter Tanya in her running their Glenwood Farm in rural Kentucky.
“It’s just amazing how well she’s done,” Gunther glowed. “Tanya was an investment banker in London for nine years and always wanted to pursue her passion with horses. When she was very young – seven and eight years old – she was doing pedigrees by hand and going back several generations in the families of stallions and broodmares.
“She planned most of the matings for all our mares in Kentucky and she was onto Scat Daddy (sire of Justify) very early. Tanya is very analytical. She does lots of research, spending hours and hours planning the mating of one mare.”
When Cybulski and Laurence approached the potential financial gains Justify could be providing, the proud breeder didn’t hesitate to share visions down the road.
“If he does win the Triple Crown his stud fee would be over $100,000 just to start,” Gunther suggested. “American Pharoah won the Triple Crown (2015) and went to a stud fee of $100,000 for the first year. They breed 150-200 a season so you’re looking at $30 million a year in revenue. We’re talking mega bucks. There will be lots more stories to come if Justify wins the Triple Crown.”
(With special thanks to Art Factora, Ass’t. Program Director, Sportsnet 650)