Business of the Triple Crown: Justify to earn millions for owners

For owners of the racehorse Justify, the winner’s share of a $1.5 million purse at the Belmont Stakes will be just the beginning of the financial windfall if the 3-year-old thoroughbred becomes the 13th horse ever to win the elusive Triple Crown.

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Justify has earned roughly $3 million in five career races, all of which have ended in victory. WinStar Farm, which holds an ownership stake in Justify, cashed in on the Triple Crown buzz by selling the horse’s exclusive sponsorship rights at Belmont to private aviation company Wheels Up for an undisclosed fee.

The chestnut colt earned $1.24 million from winning the Kentucky Derby, $900,000 from winning the Preakness Stakes and stands to earn another $800,000 with a victory at Belmont on Saturday. But WinStar Farm and its ownership partners stand to earn tens of millions more from breeding rights, especially if Justify crosses the finish line first.

Within days of Justify’s win at the Preakness, WinStar Farm reached an agreement to sell breeding rights to Coolmore Stud for $60 million, with a bonus of $25 million more if the horse wins the Triple Crown, the New York Times reported on May 24. At the time, Elliott Walden, WinStar’s president and CEO, told the Times that no deal had been finalized.

“We have had numerous inquiries into the breeding rights of Justify, including from Coolmore. … We are focused on the Belmont Stakes and his racing career,” Walden said in a statement.

That deal, or an agreement with similar terms, would make millions for Justify’s three ownership groups. WinStar owns a 60% stake in the horse, while China Horse Club owns a 25% stake and the horse breeding arm of George Soros’ investment fund owns 15%.

The farm that ultimately purchases Justify’s breeding rights should recoup its investment over a number of years. American Pharoah, who won the Triple Crown in 2015, earns a stud fee of $200,000 for each live foal he produces and has netted anywhere from $35 million to $40 million to date, according to multiple estimates.

The Belmont Stakes will run on Saturday at roughly 6:30 p.m. ET.