Aspen Grove (Justify) wins the Gr.1 Belmont Oaks at Belmont Park

G1 Oaks Winner for Justify

Set to be crowned Champion Australian First Season Sire, Justify posted his second Group I winner when Irish bred filly Aspen Grove (3f Justify x Data Dependent, by More Than Ready) surged to a resounding win in the $500,000 Group I Belmont Oaks Invitational (1 ¼ m) on turf in New York on Saturday.

Trained by Fozzy Stack, Aspen Grove is a homebred for US breeder Craig Bernick of Glen Hill Farm and had already tasted Group success in Ireland winning the Group III Flame of Tara Stakes (1m) at The Curragh last season at two.

She can mix her form and was coming into this race off a disappointing run in the Group I Irish Thousand Guineas, but Aspen Grove pulled out her A game to power to the line for Oisin Murphy and win by three-quarters of a length. Slowly away, she was allowed to find her feet and hit the line hard in her first try at a distance beyond 1600m.

“Stumbling at the start probably helped her considering the wide post,” said Glen Hill's Craig Bernick, who races Aspen Grove with Mrs John Magnier.

“He [jockey Oisin Murphy] was able to tuck right in and get good position. You could tell that she was handy the whole way. He's a world-class rider, a Champion rider in England which is probably the toughest racing circuit in the world. He's a great jockey.”

With two wins from seven starts, both of them Group wins, Aspen Grove is the first winner for Group III placed More than Ready mare Data Dependent, a half-sister to Group I winner Skitter Scatter and stakes-winner Victory Dance.

Her pedigree will be of interest to Australian breeders with her first three dams by More Than Ready, Street Cry and Danehill.

Aspen Grove is the second Group I winner for Justify, who had a stakes double in the US on Saturday with his progressive three year-old colt Verifying (3c Justify x Diva Delite, by Repent) winning the $300,000 Group III Indiana Derby (1 1/16th m).

A $775,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase that runs for the Coolmore partners, Verifying is trained by Brad Cox and has twice been Group I placed so was overdue for a stakes win and got the job done with a tenacious short head victory, his third win from nine starts.

Verifying is the 13th stakes-winner worldwide for Justify and is a half-brother to Champion Mare and five time Group I winner Midnight Bisou as well as stakes-winner Stage Left being from good producing Group III winner Diva Delite.

Justify will be back in Australia this spring at a fee of $77,000.