Bren O’Brien



Justify filly hailed as ‘special’ after extraordinary Del Mar debut

Justique stamped her name as a likely future star of American racing with a brilliant last-to-first win at Del Mar on Sunday.

Two-year-old filly Justique emulated her own Triple Crown-winning sire Justify in making a huge impression at her first racetrack outing, registering a brilliant debut win at Del Mar for trainer John Shirreffs.

Justify himself made an emphatic statement at his first start at Santa Anita back in February of 2018, powering away to win by nine and half lengths on his way to winning the US Triple Crown later that year.

His daughter Justique’s debut performance on Sunday was contrasting in its manner – she missed the start and surged over her rivals late – but nonetheless as impressive over the five-and-a-half furlong trip, after conceding as much as 15 lengths to the leader early in the race.

Jockey Victor Espinoza never panicked on the highly rated filly, heading straight to the rails after she dwelt at the start and then picking his way through the field before unleashing her with a stirring late surge to win comfortably on the line by two-and-a-half lengths.

Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to Triple Crown success in 2015, praised the two-year-old filly as a unique talent.

“She’s a tremendous talent, she is very special. Since day one, she has always been one of my favourite two-year-olds,” he told TVG.

“I’m here always looking for the future and she ran very, very impressive.”

Justique was bred by the same farm which produced Justify, the Gunther family’s Glennwood Farm. A half-sister to G1 Hollywood Derby winner Mo Town, she was purchased by Mayberry Farm for US$725,000 (AU$1.03 million) at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Justify, who never raced as a two-year-old himself, had has six winners from his first Northern Hemisphere crop already among them Irish Group Two winner Statuette and Saratoga Grade Three victor Just Cindy.

Justify’s first Australian crop, which featured 96 foals, has just turned two and is set to hit the track later this season.




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