How big a role does pedigree play nowadays in determining the Kentucky Derby winner? With fewer stamina-oriented stallions, there was for a while more of a tendency to look at the female family in determining a horse’s chances of getting a mile and a quarter, knowing that speed-oriented stallions such as Boundary (Big Brown), Elusive Quality (Smarty Jones), and to a lesser degree Holy Bull (Giacomo) were capable of siring a Derby winner. Last year, speed over stamina was again the equation, but with grass horses Leroidesanimaux and the German-bred stamina specialist Acatenango.
But when you can find a strong female family to go with a sure-fire stamina stallion, such as Street Cry (Street Sense), Dynaformer (Barbaro), Birdstone (Mine That Bird), and Maria’s Mon (Super Saver), it has to boost one’s confidence level when ferreting out that elusive Derby winner.
So, each year, we still look for those royal pedigrees to assure us that a horse will have no problem at a mile and a quarter.
This year, unlike most years, the vast majority of Derby contenders are bred to go a mile and a quarter, making it more difficult in eliminating potential pretenders.
The following is a “Derby Dozen” in alphabetical order of our favorite 2012 contenders based on pedigree.
ALGORITHMS – This smooth-striding colt has a wonderful blend of speed and stamina, with the emphasis on stamina. Undefeated in two starts, he will stretch out from 6 ½ furlongs to a mile in next weekend’s Holy Bull Stakes. By Bernardini, out of a Cryptoclearance mare, that all but assures his ability to go 10 furlongs, even though he is a half-brother to sprinters Justin Philip and Keyed Entry, both of whom are by speed-oriented stallions. Second dam, Ava Romance, is by Belmont Stakes winner Avatar, a son of the classic Graustark. The female family gets a good deal of its speed from tail-female fourth generation sire Gallant Romeo, one of the more versatile stallions of his era. He passed on incredible speed to sprint champion Gallant Bob and to the great My Juliet, a champion sprinter who also defeated the colts in the nine-furlong Michigan Mile and an Eighth. Gallant Romeo also sired Preakness winner Elocutionist and Hollywood Oaks winner Nicosia, who equaled the track record for 1 1/4 miles at Arlington Park in the Sheridan Handicap. Algorithms is inbred 3x4 to Dr. Fager’s grandson Fappiano, one of the most influential stallions of modern times.
ALPHA – Winner of the Count Fleet Stakes and runner-up in the Champagne. Another son of Bernardini, he is out of the Nijinsky mare Munnaya, winner of the English Oaks Trial at 1 3/8 miles. Second dam, Hiaam, is a half-sister to multiple grade I winner Gorgeous, as well as Queen’s Plate winner and Canadian 3-year-old champion Key to the Moon and Kentucky Oaks winner Seaside Attraction, dam of 2-year-old filly champion Golden Attraction and Florida Derby winner Cape Town. Third dam, Kamar, by Key to the Mint, out of a Quadrangle mare, won the Canadian Oaks.
CASUAL TRICK – Finished a game second in the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Derby in only his third career start and first start after breaking his maiden sprinting. Still another son of Bernardini, he is out of English Oaks winner Casual Look, a daughter of Red Ransom, sire of Dubai World Cup winner Electrocutionist. His second dam, Style Setter, is a daughter of grass champion and Hall of Famer Manila. Third dam, Frizette winner Charleston Rag, is by General Assembly, a son of Secretariat who ran the second fastest Vosburgh (1:21) of all time and the fastest Travers (2:00 flat) of all time. He also is inbred to Secretariat through Weekend Surprise (dam of A.P. Indy).
CONSORTIUM – And the Bernardinis just keep on coming. He is scheduled to meet Agorithms and 2-year-old champ Hansen in the Holy Bull after finishing second to the former in an allowance race. He is out of Arlington Oaks and Iowa Oaks winner Marietta, by Machiavellian. Second dam, Minister Wife, won the Demoiselle Stakes. Third dam, Dowery, was a graded stakes winner who placed in the Spinster, and is a half-sister to grade I winner and $800,000 earner Reluctant Guest. Fourth dam, Vaguely Royal, is a daughter of major stamina influence Vaguely Noble.
CREATIVE CAUSE – Won the Norfolk Stakes going away and was a close third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Love his sire, Giant’s Causeway, and his female family, while devoid of major influences, is loaded with stamina through broodmare sire Siberian Summer, winner of the 1 ¼-mile Charles H. Strub Stakes, and tail-female stallions Skywalker, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Relaunch, and Properantes, winner of the 1 ¾-mile San Juan Capistrano. With In Reality and Rising Market in his female family he has inbreeding twice to Man O’ War (through War Relic twice, War Admiral, and American Flag).
El PADRINO – Impressive maiden winner came back to finish a close third in the Remsen Stakes. He is by Pulpit, out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Enchanted Rock, a half-sister to grade II Ladies Handicap winner Tara Roma and grade II True North Handicap winner Waldoboro. His second dam, Chic Shirine, a full-sister to champion mare Queena, won the grade I Ashland Stakes and is out of Too Chic, winner of the grade I Maskette Stakes and second in the Alabama. His fourth dam, Remedia, is by Dr. Fager, out of Monade, winner of the English Oaks and runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe who was voted 3-year-old filly champion in Europe and champion older mare in France the following year.
LIAISON – Winner of the CashCall Futurity and Real Quiet Stakes. Although Uncle Mo was not considered a mile and a quarter horse, mainly because of his sire Indian Charlie, there is absolutely no reason why Indian Charlie cannot sire a Derby horse, especially with the right dam. Indian Charlie is by In Excess, who ran the fastest mile and a quarter (1:58 1/5) in the history of New York racing. And this tenacious colt definitely has the right dam, Galloping Gal, a multiple stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles who is by Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop. His third dam, Indy Flash, is a daughter of A.P. Indy, out of a mare by Calumet Farm’s Gleaming (a son of major distance influence Herbager), who won or placed in multiple 1 ½-mile stakes on the grass. Liaison’s tail-female family traces back five generations of Calumet Farm breeding to Bull Lea (two times) through his Hall of Fame daughters Real Delight and Twilight Tear.
RUSSIAN GREEK – Winner of the California Derby and Gold Rush Stakes. This son of Giant’s Causeway is out of a Grindstone mare. Second dam, Train Robbery, is a multiple graded stakes winner by Alydar, out of Track Robbery, a three-time grade I winner and champion older mare. Breeders should love Russian Greek, who is a complete outcross through his first five generations, where he is represented by seven Kentucky Derby winners.
SABERCAT – Impressive winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot and Garden State Stakes, he is a son of the promising young stallion Bluegrass Cat, runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, who is out of an A.P. Indy mare and traces to the great Phipps mare Numbered Account. His dam, Miner’s Blessing, is a daughter of Travers and Haskell winner Forty Niner, out of a Halo mare. Miner’s Blessing is a half-sister to Conquistadoress, second in the Ashland and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. This family is four generations of Stuart Janney Jr. (breeder of Ruffian) and his son Stuart Janney III breeding, and we love old traditional families that span several generations. Prior to Janney, this was a solid Wheatley Stable family that traces to Man O’ War and La Troienne. Sabercat’s dam also is inbred to major stamina influence Tom Rolfe, by Ribot.
SKY KINGDOM – Impressive allowance winner last time out. He is by Belmont winner Empire Maker, out of the Kingmambo mare Sky Beam, who is out of Weekend in Seattle, a full-sister to A.P. Indy and half-sister to Summer Squall. Third dam, Weekend Surprise, in addition to producing A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, and graded stakes winner Honor Grades, is a half-sister to Charming Lassie, the dam of champion older horse and Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid. Sky Kingdom is inbred to two of our favorite inbreeding influences, In Reality and Buckpasser.
SPRING HILL FARM – With only a brilliant maiden victory to his credit, he has a lot of catching up to do, but also has a magnificent pedigree. He’s by Smart Strike, who sires champions in almost every category, whether at classic distances on dirt and grass or sprinting. His dam, Colonial Minstrel, is a multiple graded stakes winner by the great classic influence Pleasant Colony. His second dam, Minstrella, is a three-time group I winner in Ireland and England, who also produced Minidar, the dam of Jim Dandy Stakes winner A Little Warm. His third dam, Flight Dancer, produced, in addition to Minstrella, multiple stakes winner Misty Gallore and Misty Dancer, the granddam of Horse of the Year Saint Liam. His fourth dam, Courbette, is by Native Dancer, out of the great Gallorette.
STEPHANOATSEE – Runner-up in the Count Fleet Stakes. This son of A.P. Indy is a half-brother to last year’s Preakness winner Shackleford and to Alabama winner Lady Joanne. His dam, Oatsee, is a daughter of Unbridled, out of a Lear Fan mare. His third dam, Amo, is a half-sister to millionaires Tappiano and A P Jet. And his fourth dam, Taminette, is a full-sister to 2,000 Guineas winner and top sire Known Fact and a half-sister to Met Mile and United Nations winner Tentam and to Secrettame, dam of Gone West.