New King of the Derby Trail

It seems year after year, the Derby trail has been dominated by horses from the A.P. Indy sire line, and this year that line once again makes a powerful presence, especially through his son Pulpit and Pulpit’s son Tapit.

But so far, A.P. Indy’s sire-line influence has been a bit overshadowed by that of Fappiano, mainly through his son Unbridled. In fact, the presence of this line has been nothing short of extraordinary as the 3-year-olds prepare to embark on the 2014 Derby trail.

Although the name of John Nerud will always been associated with the legendary Dr. Fager, it was Fappiano, a grandson of Dr. Fager, that made Nerud a wealthy man, admittedly paying for his stately Long Island home.

Fappiano’s influence has reached new heights this year. At present, there are 24 highly rated horses on the Derby trail who trace to Fappiano, mainly through his sire line and mainly through his son Unbridled.

Following is the breakdown by horses (all of them impressive winners, stakes winners, or stakes-placed horses) and their connection to Fappiano.

Cairo Prince – Fappiano – Unbridled – Empire Maker – Pioneerof the Nile (sire line)
Candy Boy – Fappiano – Cryptoclearance – Ride the Rails – Candy Ride (sire line)
Conquest Titan – Fappiano – Unbridled – Grindstone – Birdstone (sire line)
Cool Samurai – Fappiano – tail female line of sire First Samurai
Giancarlo –Fappiano – Roy – Zenith (tail female sire line)
Gold Hawk – Fappiano – Unbridled – Empire Maker (sire line)
Havana – Fappiano – Unbridled – Unbridled’s Song – Dunkirk (sire line)
Intense Holiday – Fappiano – Unbridled – Unbridled’s Song – Intensify (brood sire line)
Mexikoma -- Fappiano – Unbridled – Grindstone – Birdstone (sire line)
Midnight Hawk – Fappiano – Quiet American – Real Quiet – Midnight Lute (sire line)
Misconnect – Fappiano – Unbridled – Unbridled’s Song (sire line)
Mr. Speaker – Fappiano – Unbridled – Salute (broodmare sire line)
Exit Stage Left -- Fappiano -- Unbridled -- Unbridled's Song -- Noonmark (sire line)                                                                                                                                                       Rise Up – Fappiano – Unbridled – Unbridled’s Song—Rockport Harbor (sire line)
Roman Unbridled – Fappiano – Unbridled – Unbridled’s Song (broodmare sire line)
Shared Belief – Fappiano – Cryptoclearance – Ride the Rails – Candy Ride (sire line)
Uncle Sigh – Fappiano – tail female line

Through Tapit, whose broodmare sire is Unbridled, by Fappiano

Coup de Grace
Tap It Rich

Through Bernardini, whose broodmare sire is Quiet American, by Fappiano

Unknown Road

As shown above, among those from Fappiano’s sire line are successful sires, both young and older, such as Empire Maker, Midnight Lute, Candy Ride, Unbridled’s Song, Dunkirk, Pioneerof the Nile, and Birdstone.

Breaking down this impressive group of 3-year-olds, you have the winner of the Champagne Stakes (Havana), the one-two finishers of the CashCall Futurity (Shared Belief and Candy Boy), winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (Tapiture), winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot (Rise Up), winner of the Sham Stakes (Midnight Hawk), winner of the Dania Beach Stakes (Mr Speaker), winner of the Gold Rush Stakes (Exit Stage Left), winner of the Big Drama Stakes (Roman Unbridled), winner of the Swynford Stakes (Conquest Titan), and the runners-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Havana) and Remsen Stakes (Cairo Prince). There’s also the fourth-place finisher of the Remsen and Nashua Stakes (Intense Holiday), as well as impressive allowance winners Conquest Titan, Gold Hawk, and Coup de Grace.

It should be no surprise that Fappiano proved to be such a dominant sire, being by Mr. Prospector, out of the Dr. Fager mare Killaloe, who produced five black-type horses and seven horses who earned over $100,000. Killaloe’s dam, Grand Splendor, a daughter of Tartan Stable’s foundation mare Cequillo, also produced Gonfalon, the dam of the brilliant Ogygian.

In addition to Grand Splendor, Cequilllo produced Man o’ War Stakes winner Ruffled Feathers; Hot Dust, who won or placed in 16 stakes, including the Travers, Widener Handicap, and Fountain of Youth; Quiet Charm, the granddam of Quiet American; multiple stakes winner Tequillo, and Expectancy, the dam of Dr. Patches, the champion sprinter of 1978 who won the Meadowlands Cup at 1 1/4 miles and the Vosburgh at seven furlongs, and who upset Seattle Slew in the Paterson Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Dr. Patches also equaled the track record at Belmont for a mile and set a new track record at 1 ¼ miles at the Meadowlands. Expectancy also produced Who’s for Dinner, who won or placed in 12 stakes, including the grade I Arlington  Handicap and United Nations Handicap twice.

As for Fappiano, he won the Metropolitan Handicap at a mile, the Forego Handicap at seven furlongs, and the Discovery Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

When he retired, Nerud, realizing his amazing potential as a sire, syndicated him for $300,000 a share. Who knows what the extent of his influence would have been had he not died of laminitis at the young age of 13.

The Keyword is ‘If’

In this initial look at the Derby picture, we’re going to throw some “ifs” around in preparation for the first Derby Dozen, which will not be an easy task this year (Is it ever?).

If Conquest Titan can duplicate his allowance victory in the Holy Bull Stakes, he is going to give Cairo Prince and everyone else more than they can handle. As it is, he is a Top 5 contender right now, based on his electrifying turn of foot and powerhouse move between and around horses in the allowance race. It was the first time they’ve taken him far back off the pace after his unsuccessful attempts at being a speed horse. He has the mind and the raw talent to be any kind. Wynn had him at 85-1 and the Holy Bull could make those odds look like the bargain of the year.

If Mr Speaker can handle dirt (and he sure is bred for it) in the Holy Bull the way he’s handled grass, the sky’s the limit for this regally bred colt by Pulpit, out of Salute, who has shown the kind of acceleration and willingness to go through tight spots you want to see in a young horse. The ideal scenario in the Holy Bull is for both him and Conquest Titan colts to move forward and establish themselves as legitimate Derby contenders. Shug McGaughey also has Honor Code, who is the most magnificent physical specimen we’ve seen so far from this group, but don’t forget about Top Billing, who has a bright future, as well.

If we’re bold enough to put Wicked Strong ahead of Shared Belief, Honor Code, Havana, and the other top Derby horses, we could have a live 50-1 shot (at Wynn) at the top of the list. Everything about his maiden score and his third in the Remsen, in which he closed into blazing final fractions and was just getting in gear in the final 70 yards, indicates this is major talent who is only going to get better. He still has learning to do, as he shied from the whip on three occasions in the stretch, but is in the capable hands of Jimmy Jerkens.

If Gold Hawk can come close to duplicating his first two races in his stakes debut in the LeComte Stakes, in which he looked brilliant and displayed a beautiful way of going, Steve Asmussen could actually have a better shot at the Derby than he did with the very lightly raced Curlin. For all the RF (Rasmussen Factor) followers (me being one), this colt is inbred to the Tartan Stable mare Grand Splendor through her daughters Killaloe, dam of Fappiano, and Gonfalon, dam of Ogygian.

If Mexikoma continues to work steadily at Palm Meadows, he should return with a vengeance following a less-than-ideal trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and should stamp himself as a leading Derby contender right off the bat. That maiden romp at Delaware Park was just too good a race from a visual standpoint.

If Shared Belief handles the dirt and stays sound (no more minor setbacks), he looks like The Big Hoss; it’s as simple as that. No one has come close to duplicating what he accomplished last year and good how he looked doing it. He’s just a flat-out talented horse with a killer turn of foot. But all his starts have been on a synthetic surface. From the side, you have to love the way he drops his shoulder and covers ground down the stretch. But the only nagging little thing is his stride from a head-on view. He has a tendency to angle his body in and doesn’t get his legs under him the way you’d like to see, especially the way he paddles his left front leg. This won’t affect his performance and could mean absolutely nothing in the long run, and his connections are unconcerned.

If Havana looks like anything like a Derby horse in his return and gives any indication he wants to go a distance of ground, he’s as brilliant as any of them, and his credentials of winning the Champagne and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile were as impressive as any 2-year-old. Remember, his sire, Dunkirk, ran huge to finish second in the Belmont Stakes and his broodmare sire, Kyle’s Our Man, is from a stout Darby Dan family.

If Bob Baffert can keep his army intact this year, he should hold a powerful hand, even with the loss of New Year’s Day. Midnight Hawk still has improving to do, but his Sham score was a big step forward, as he did most of it on his own.

So, consider this just a teaser as the first Derby Dozen approaches.

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