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Distance Questions Begin for Kentucky Derby Contenders

With the final round of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) preps underway, so begins the usual analysis of top contenders—Are they good enough?—Will they get the distance? TrueNicks Enhanced Reports include the average winning distance (AWD) for the starters on given sire line/broodmare sire line cross. A table of the top 10 contenders (by Derby points) and their cross AWD appeared in the April 6 issue of The Blood-Horse. Below is a larger table of all horses with 20 or more points.

Keep in mind that AWD looks at the distances at which horses on the cross have won, not necessarily their full distance capabilities. Last year, I'll Have Another had a distance-oriented pedigree—by Travers (gr. I) winner Flower Alley (TrueNicks,SRO) out of an Arch (TrueNicks,SRO) mare—but his cross AWD was only 6.93 furlongs before the Derby. Collectively, these horses were capable of winning at shorter distances, but that didn't mean I'll Have Another couldn't also stretch out.

Also consider the important question of class. Theoretically, which horse has a better chance in the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby, an allowance winner at 12 furlongs or a grade I winner at a mile?

HorseSireBroodmare SirePointsAWD (furlongs)
1. Black OnyxRock Hard TenCape Town
2. Code WestLemon Drop KidSaint Ballado
3. Will Take ChargeUnbridled's SongDehere
4. Den's LegacyMedaglia d'OroWar Chant
5. Falling SkyLion HeartSea Hero
6. RevolutionaryWar PassA.P. Indy
7. OrbMalibu MoonUnbridled
8. Hear the GhostGhostzapperCoronado's Quest
9. MyluteMidnight LuteValid Expectations
10. ItsmyluckydayLawyer RonDoneraile Court
11. FlashbackTapitMr. Greeley
12. Govenor CharlieMidnight LuteStorm Cat
13. OxbowAwesome AgainCee's Tizzy
14. VyjackInto MischiefStravinsky
15. GoldencentsInto MischiefBanker's Gold
16. DepartingWar FrontPulpit
17. West Hills GiantFrost GiantTake Me Out
18. Lines of BattleWar FrontArch
19. UncapturedLion HeartArch
20. VerrazanoMore Than ReadyGiant's Causeway
21. Merit ManWith DistinctionPrecise End
22. Java's WarWar PassRainbow Quest

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i had falling sky's broodmare sire sea hero in the derby that year and also when he won the travers at saratoga that summer. i believe in both of those races the track was listed as a dead "good" track. that horses was a different horse when the track was dead. wonder if falling sky will even make it to the derby. if he does and the track is dead watch out.

iceman92 02 Apr 2013 7:48 PM

A mile Grade One winner will always go above an allowance winner since it is usually tougher company. However, there are those few allowance races that have some VERY talented horses!

I go off of who was in the race and how they performed in their next race.

B 02 Apr 2013 10:54 PM

You are showing AWD for this years probable starters.....lets go back show us previous AWD and how true this figure may or may not be.......

Your Only Friend 03 Apr 2013 9:33 AM

Yet again, only male ancestors are considered. How 19th Century of you. Like Oxbow - he isn't out of a random daughter of Cee's Tizzy, he is out of a full sister to Tiznow and Budroyale. Revolutionary isn't out of a random daughter of A.P. Indy, he is out of Alabama S (10f) winner Runup the Colors. While the dam of Black Onyx was a sprint winner out of a full sister to super-sprinter Desert Stormer. Sires only tell you part of the story.

Pedigree Ann 03 Apr 2013 9:45 AM

Pedigree Ann,

Back in the 19th Century, you might have thought that a single pedigree figure could tell you everything about a horse's pedigree. But it's the 21st Century, and we know just like who the trainer is doesn't tell you everything about a racehorse, one number (AWD, in this case) doesn't tell you everything about a horse's pedigree.

Class/quality of the pedigree should be a primary concern in any pedigree analysis. As you may know, nicking uses sire lines because it allows for larger sample sizes to identify trends in breeding. This is because stallions have more foals than mares.

But TrueNicks does have a new report that considers the entire pedigree—all female and male ancestors in a pedigree. This is the Key Ancestors Report, which you can read more about by clicking here.

Ian Tapp 03 Apr 2013 10:34 AM

Thanks, My One and Only Friend...

I agree, it would be awesome to compare previous Derbys and AWDs, but we've only been publishing AWD in TrueNicks reports for a couple years now. It would definitely be a good retrospective study.

However, something I touched on in the blog about I'll Have Another is that the number by itself can be misleading. I see AWD more as a descriptive figure for the general cross rather than a predictive figure for one particular horse. Also, Pedigree Ann's point above underlines the importance of class, which is independent of AWD.

Ian Tapp 03 Apr 2013 10:48 AM

keep up the work guys.like anything it is an additional tool for handicapping.is it full proof? absolutely not.if it works for you,all the power to you.i remeber 15 years and further.the dossage system was the holy bible.when new horses come along and do something new,it adjusts all figures.now you do not hear about it.ever since milers like distorted humor or elusive quality sons won the derby,some now say it is a speed game.others will  swear by the endurance blood lines.personally,when i see a race horse run a number of times.i let him or her tell me if they can handle additional distance by the way they are built or how fast they run.there comes a time, just like in baseball managing.you must toss out the book and go with your gut.to much print knowledge is good.but people do not become book smart,street stupid.use your instincts.as far as the awd method,i see absolutely nothing wrong with it.  

tom mallios 03 Apr 2013 11:34 AM

As I look at this list of 3 year olds, one thing strikes me.  1/2 of this field has no business in the Derby.  They simply will not stay the 1 1/4 miles.  There is an old addage:  If they aren't bred to get 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May, they won't get the distance.  Case in point....Holy Bull.  He was not bred to get 1 1/4 miles.  His amazing abilities allowed him to get it 1 time....The Travers.....and he barely hung on there over Concern.  1/2 of this field simply does not have the breeding to get the distance....much less the Preakness or Belmont distance.  Maybe we as breeders should start breeding for Belmont winners, and we might just get a horse capable of winning the Triple Crown, and then training on as a 4 and 5 year old and not have to be retired immediately after the Triple Crown.

SOUTHBENDFARM 03 Apr 2013 1:18 PM

Hey Southbendfarm: it seems that we sell "Stayers" out of the market.

Animal Kingdom.

mz 03 Apr 2013 1:53 PM

MZ.....you are right about that.  But correct me if I am wrong, but I thought Animal Kingdom was going to stud for the southern hemisphere in Aussey land, but then was supposed to be coming to Kentucky for the Northern hemisphere??  Is this not correct.  If not....a special thankyou to Barry Irwin for doing exactly what he has been know to bag on other breeders for.....selling our top prospects instead of standing behind them at stud.

SOUTHBENDFARM 03 Apr 2013 2:54 PM

 MZ - Yes we continue to send our good distance horse elsewhere and it is a crying shame.  Horses like Animal Kingdom and I'll Have Another should have been kept here.

 It's another reason why we haven't have triple crown winners.  I think AK could have done it if he hadn't been hurt at the start of the Belmont.

 I think the best derby horse this year isn't even listed for derby point... Midnight Lucky - the filly.  I think the new point system needs some serious work before it will truly work to provide top level horses to run in the race.

Stormy 03 Apr 2013 3:06 PM

         Florida Derby runner up Itsmyluckyday in my opinion , doesn't want any part of !0 furlongs ! His paternal grandsire Langfuhr was an excellent sprinter who did sire horses that could go long,  Lawyer Ron , Wando etc. Itsmyluckyday seems to take after his dam's side . Doneraile Court was pretty much an 8 furlong horse.Itsmyluckyday's second dam Viva la Viva is by the sprinter Crafty Prospector . Many people don't bother with Dosage much anymore , but it does become very helpful when dealing with distance limitations . Itsmyluckyday's dosage profile is 3.00 / 4 3 7 0 0 no points in the Solid or Professional categories ! What do you think ?

Weekend Surprise 03 Apr 2013 3:14 PM

I wouldn't be so quick to denegrate the apititude component of the TrueNicks Enhanced Report, as it may be the best single tool for this purpose-aptitude evaluation. Any lone tool will have limitations, but for aptitude prediction made SIMPLE, the only real data with some statistical significance rests with sire, and to a lesser degree, broodmare sire stats. Perhaps another helpful "stat" could be the variation (spread) from high to low (long-short distance) from one sire to another. There's probably a statistical term for this. As example, let's say two sires (or sire/broodmare sire combinations) have the same AWD, but that the first sire (or combo) displays relatively little deviation from its mean, whereas the other evidences great variation. Knowing these values could have great relevance re-KY Derby predictions. Also keep in mind that there are some sires, say a Crafty Prospector, that seemed nearly incapable of siring a distance-type runner, no matter his mate. Lastly, it also occurs to me that while today's runners are less "distance-bred", they are also bred for greater precocity. This precocity is an asset for races such as the (relatively early) KY Derby.

sceptre 03 Apr 2013 5:27 PM


Regarding Animal Kingdom/Barry Irwin, the Northern Hemisphere farm hasn't been announced yet but likely will be announced very soon. It could (almost certainly will) be in Kentucky. Team Valor has said they will support the horse at stud; as you know they breed globally, so I'd imagine they'd send mares to him in both hemispheres.

Ian Tapp 03 Apr 2013 6:29 PM

I agree with the comments of Pedigree Anne.  It also occurs the me that the figures, while useful, are a bit misleading (though perhaps necessarily so) with regard to young sires such as Midnight Lute and Lawyer Ron.  Their progeny are just now coming of age and perhaps have not had as much opportunity to run a longer distances.  As their crops age on out, we may see their numbers climb up and not be so unduly influenced by two year old performances (which are generally at shorter distances).  

Mike M 03 Apr 2013 8:14 PM

I am a big follower of bloodlines, statistics and race records.  One thing I think may be overlooked here though is the physical appearance of the horse.  Verrazano is a large, imposing athlete.  Moreso than most of his competition. So, while his pedigree numbers may not match the distance, I believe that his physical stature does.  Reminds me of comparing Lebron James to a top player.  Just looks the part.  

OhioTBred 03 Apr 2013 9:02 PM

By the way, my pick in future book 1 was (and still is) Revolutionary. Verrazano is the horse I think beats him if he doesn't win.  

OhioTBred 03 Apr 2013 9:13 PM

Mike M,

Good point. Young sires will tend to have lower AWDs compared to established sires because their offspring are just beginning their careers. Looking at the broader cross, that effect will be mitigated somewhat by their sires' older progeny.

Ian Tapp 03 Apr 2013 10:26 PM

Sceptre -

Have you looked closely at Crafty Prospector's sire record? His best runners include -

Amarillo - Delaware H (10f) out of an Apalachee mare!

Mr. Bluebird - Red Smith H (11fT)

Agnes Digital - Autumn Tenno Sho (2000mT)

Not incapable of siring distance winners. Other top ones were sprinters and milers. The good CPs were all over the block in distance limitations.

Now on the other hand, Apalachee..., oops he did sire an Alabama winner (from a stoutly-bred mare), so even he doesn't qualify as 'incapable'.

Pedigree Ann 04 Apr 2013 1:25 PM

Pedigree Ann:

The phrase was "NEARLY incapable", and that he was- moreso than was the case for almost all others(with similar numbers of offspring). Who knows, part of the reason could be that he was particularly homozygous fast twitch, and/or factors related to (homozygously) cardio-pulmonary. Point was, the breadth of sire stats can sometimes offer meaningful clues. And, the topic here was KY Derby-a dirt race-, so you've found but one lone example on the dirt. Just take a look at the numbers of performers he had on dirt. On the opposite end, a Dynaformer, for one, had very, very few dirt sprinters-no matter their dam. One of his very few exceptions may have been Dynever-although the record may not indicate this. This exceptional son (now deceased) of Dynaformer may have been a greater loss to the breed than was Barbaro. No doubt this statement also will raise some hairs.

sceptre 04 Apr 2013 2:42 PM

The structure of U.S. racing, and the very nature of a mean average (the average used here), will tend to bring the figures into a fairly narrow range.

What I often find useful is to look at the average distance raced versus the average distance won over - if the average distance raced is shorter than the average distance won over, then it will tend to indicate a cross that is trending towards stamina (and we are only talking tendencies here, as even siblings can have different aptitudes).

The point about precocity made earlier in these comments is also an important one. There is a big difference between beating other three-year-olds over 10 furlongs in May, and an older horse at the same distance come Breeders' Cup time in the fall.

Alan Porter 04 Apr 2013 8:55 PM

There was a time when you could look at a pedigree and say Kentucky Derby potential. But, Alas, with horses being by precocious sires who succeed at 8 to 9 furlongs and beating horses only capable of 6-7 furlongs .Then you come into the Derby and have to depend on racing luck and not getting a bad ride and hopefully winning by natural attrition of non traditional Derby bloodlines. The essence is what Mr.Prospector line horse is the most athletic and ready to run on Derby Day.

In Europe, you can settle on which horse is the most athletic and well trained among sons of Sadlers Wells. The A.P.Indy line has not yet had success in the derby and is more likely to be beat by a horse sired by unfashionable sire. When will someone break the mold and breed to stamina sire.

Paradox 05 Apr 2013 2:12 AM

Thank you to Darley for securing Animal Kingdom for the Northern Hemisphere.  Finally we will have a stamina influence that remains available here.

Stormy 05 Apr 2013 1:34 PM

Paradox - Lemon Drop Kid is pretty busy these days. Birdstone gets a decent 6 dozen or so mares a year. Now we have to talk racing secretaries to write lower level races for them. Not every staying horse is cut out to be a stakes horse. You should see the variety of lengths of races at every level in Britain.

But then, there is the problem of the new generations of trainers who haven't learned how to train a horse for 10f+ on dirt. Wholesale distribution of Preston Burch's book? <grin>

Pedigree Ann 05 Apr 2013 1:57 PM

I have a big problem with Verrazano's pedigree and 10-12 furlongs.  First off, More Than Ready doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.  In his top 5 earners, you have a winner of the Al Quoz Sprint, a winner in Australia at 6-8 furlongs, a winner at 6 furlongs, and another winner at 6 furlongs.   The dam is also the dam of El Padrino, who won at a mile and seemed to flatten out after that distance.  

The one that seems to be overlooked from a pedigree standpoint is Lines of Battle.  He's by War Front (yes a sprinter/miler sire) but the dam is an Arch-sired 1/2 sister to Dynaformer.  The distaff side of that pedigree includes Alydar, Ribot, His Majesty and Kris S.  To me, that combination of speed and stamina will get the distance a lot more easily than Verrazano, Vyjack or Goldencents will.

swale1984 06 Apr 2013 11:55 PM

SWALE... War Front was a poor racehorse..

War Pass.. was a better one, so it seems reasonable to surmise that Revolutionary will finish in front of Lines Of Battle in the Kentucky Derby, the latter guy ALSO has two crosses of Ribot.. so the dams don't come into the equation.

Hal Dane. 08 Apr 2013 12:03 PM

          swale1984 I agree with you 100% More Than Ready is not what I'd call a classic type sire ! His offspring seem to excel early and prefer 6 to 8 furlongs . Verrazano's saving grace seems to be on his dams side ! I feel that any 3yr old can go a classic distance if you give them enough time ! Look at Union Rags Belmont time , one of the slowest in recent memory !! If only I'll Have Another was sound that day !!!!

Weekend Surprise 08 Apr 2013 6:41 PM


I agree that Lines of Battle has one top notch female family, a Darby Dan family.Lots of Ribot and Roberto!!!!

All of my horses descend from their stock.

Joel Zamzow 08 Apr 2013 9:45 PM

       There may never be another TC Winner as long as American breeders favor speed over stamina ! Horses such as Caleb's Posse , Bodemeister etc will take precedence over such sires like Lonhro , who can provide crucial outcrossing to the Mr Prospector / Northern Dancer Pedigrees. If The speed on speed trends continue , American breeders need to take a hard look at what they are doing wrong ! If breeders are trying to achieve fast win early type horses maybe they should try breeding Quarters

Weekend Surprise 09 Apr 2013 10:35 PM

Yes, as mentioned AK is coming back to Darley for the northern hemisphere breeding season. Also, for distance influence...Don't forget about Candy Ride, as a sire!!!

Mickeychelle 10 Apr 2013 10:35 PM

       Thank you Darley for standing AK for the northern hemisphere season ! I love his breeding ,especially on his dams side ! Hopefully American breeders will take advantage of this opportunity !

Weekend Surprise 12 Apr 2013 4:37 PM

I would like to point out that our trend of breeding for speed and precocity has not netted us a Triple Crown winner in 34 years. And I don't see one on the horizon this year either. It is a shame that breeding for distance and durability is so totally out of fashion in the US. But owners and breeders are looking a quick turnaround on their investment in their stock and fast, precocious 2 and 3 year olds give them quicker profits. Just the way it is.

Barb 15 Apr 2013 1:11 PM

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