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Justify’s US$1.2 million half-brother headed to Japan

The half-brother to US Triple Crown winner Justify is set to race in Japan after Hideyuki Mori paid US$1.2 million for the colt by Curlin on the first day of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Japanese buyers have been marking a mark at major American yearling sales for many years, none moreso than agent and trainer Hideyuki Mori, who again dug deep to buy a regally related colt on the opening day of the Keenland September Sale in Kentucky.

Mori famously signed for US$8 million colt Mr Sekiguchi at this Sale back in 2004, while he also splashed out last year with US$4.4 million spent across 12 yearlings, including seven from the first crop of Justify.

Mori has clearly taken a shine to Justify and on Monday saw off the competition to land his half-brother, Hip 60, a colt by Curlin, offered by the Gunther family at Glennwood Farm.

Justify himself was purchased at this Sale in 2016, going on to become the first unbeaten Triple Crown winner since 1977, winning all six of his starts for Bob Baffert before retiring to stud at Coolmore in the United States and Australia.

Mori described the May 19 foal, who like his half-brother is a chestnut with a white blaze, as a clear standout.

“I really liked the way he moved. Physically, he really looks like a standout,” Mori told reporters. “I look at the horse first, and if the page fits, that’s nice.”

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Hip 60 - The colt by Curlin out of Stage Magic. (Photo: Keeneland)

John Gunther, who also bred Justify, said the Curlin colt had plenty of development to come, and was not quite the same imposing physical specimen that Justify was when sold through Keeneland six years ago.

“I thought he was a fantastic colt,” Gunther said. “He was a late May colt, so he had a lot more developing to do [as compared to March foal Justify]. I think if he was a bigger colt, he would have brought a lot more money.”

“I think this colt will be about 16.2 (hands) by the time he finishes growing. He’s very intelligent and easy to be around. When you see him running in the field, you can say to yourself, ‘There is a runner.’”

Gunther, who also bred Breeders Cup classic winner Vino Rosso, said he was keen to retain a share in the colt but that would not be happening now with the son of Curling likely to head overseas.

“This is a racehorse. He’s got the attitude, such a great walker and an easy mover. He’s going to be a racehorse,” he said.

Among the other Japanese buyers on the board in the opening sessions at Keeneland were Katsumi Yoshizawa and Nagai Shoji.

Yoshizawa Stables purchased Hip 145, a colt by Justify out of G1 Frizette Stakes winner A Z Warrior for US$300,000, and Hip 125, a colt by star young sire Gun Runner out of Uruguayan mare Acqua Fresh for US$125,000.

The Justify colt is a full-brother to stakes winner Justa Warrior.

Shoji, an owner known in Japan for his horses which starts with the word Three, paid US$375,000 for an Into Mischief filly, Lot 84.

Hip 97, the US$2.5 million colt by Quality Road which topped the sale on the first day. (Photo Keeneland).

The one Australian buyer active on the opening day was Ciaron Maher Racing, who secured Hip 158, a Curlin filly out of Group 1-winning Australian-bred mare Bounding, for US$250,000.

The filly is a full-sister to the colt, now named Aussie Pride, who sold for US$4.1 million at this Sale in 2019.

She will head to Australia in the next six months to embark on a preparation for a racing career.

The top-priced yearling on the day was a colt by Quality Road, Hip 97, which sold to the partnership of West Point Thoroughbreds, Talla Racing and Woodford Racing for US$2.5 million.

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