Justin Phillip reaches career milestones in G1 Vanderbilt

Posted to: Justin Phillip Sunday, August 4, 2013
Justin Phillip reaches career milestones in G1 Vanderbilt
One year after losing the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. by a neck, Zayat Stables' Justin Phillip returned to Saratoga to earn the top prize in the $400,000 race, while simultaneously winning his first Grade 1 race as well as surpassing the $1 million mark in career earnings.

Sunday's seven furlong race went off with just five older horses, but the field was packed with quality. Every horse in the field was a graded stakes winner with the exception of Gentlemen's Bet, whose only career loss was a defeat by Justin Phillip in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint H. this Spring at Oaklawn Park.

At the break, it was Gentlemen's Bet and the speedy Delaunay hooking up down the backstretch and around the turn through a half-mile in a lively :44.46, with Justin Phillip, under John Velazquez, two lengths back on the outside in third.

Velazquez urged his mount closer to the leaders while three wide straightening for home. Justin Phillip dug deep, drew even with the top pair just inside the furlong marker, then forged ahead to hit the wire two lengths ahead of the late closer Bahamian Squall.

The final time was a very rapid 1:08.59, just two ticks off the track record which was first set in 1972.

"The speed developed the way I expected it would," said Velazquez. "I was right behind those two horses (Gentlemen's Bet and Delaunay), and I was aware of the horse that was inside (Bahamian Squall), so I kind of got him pinned down inside there. I made my move around the three-sixteenths pole, and he responded. When you ride these kinds of horses, and they respond to the things you want to do, it makes me look good."

Overall, Justin Phillip is 7-5-7 in 29 starts. The $240,000 winner's share of the Vanderbilt purse made him racing's newest millionaire, at $1,118,437.

Justin Phillip also has the utmost admiration from his trainer Steve Asmussen.

"Last year's Vanderbilt was a good opportunity for him, and I thought he was unfortunate not to win that day," said Asmussen. "For everything to work out, to have him in this position today - a good draw, a good set up - was very rewarding.

"I can't say enough about how much respect I have for Justin Phillip as a racehorse," he added. "He hasn't held any of the mistakes we made with him against us. For him to travel as much as he has, run as fast as he has, and probably put up his best race today - 1:08 2/5 in a Grade 1, put him over a million dollars - it's very rewarding."

Justin Phillip's long-term target is the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita in early November, though Asmussen didn't indicate where his stable star would run prior to that race.