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Kentucky Derby 139 Pedigrees Examined

Now that post positions are set, what are your opinions on the Kentucky Derby this year? Below are some of my thoughts along with links to video of recent workouts and complimentary TrueNicks Enhanced Reports for each entrant in post position order.

1. Black Onyx (50-1)

Black Onyx follows a similar form line to Animal Kingdom, who also prepped in a Gulfstream turf allowance before winning the Spiral Stakes (gr. III). But while Animal Kingdom handled the Churchill dirt beautifully in his pre-Derby work, Black Onyx wasn't nearly as smooth. He comes from a distance-oriented sire line, but the Derby isn't just about the distance. TrueNicks

2. Oxbow (30-1)

Bred similarly to Paynter, who nearly won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) last year, Oxbow figures to be involved in the early pace breaking from post 2. The dam is a full sister to Tiznow (TrueNicks,SRO), who won the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs in 2000 just like Oxbow's sire, Awesome Again (TrueNicks,SRO), did in 1998. Needless to say, he's got plenty of pedigree for 10 furlongs at Churchill, but Oxbow will need to relax in the Derby, something he hasn't done in training this week. TrueNicks

3. Revolutionary (10-1)

Look at the produce record for the 19-year-old A.P. Indy mare Runup the Colors and you'll see she's had frustrating career as a broodmare. But the 1997 Alabama Stakes (gr. I, 10 furlongs) winner has finally bred a classic contender in Revolutionary. Sire War Pass, who was a miler himself, has two runners in this Derby out of stoutly-bred mares, and Revolutionary has the strongest dirt pedigree and form. TrueNicks

4. Golden Soul (50-1)

This will be the second longshot Derby starter for the Mr. Prospector mare Hollywood Gold (Quintons Gold Rush, 18th in 2004). Sire Perfect Soul (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO) reinforces the stamina-oriented female family, and if Golden Soul can get a strong enough pace, he might get involved in the exotics. Note that he ran well at Churchill Downs in his debut. TrueNicks

5. Normandy Invasion (12-1)

This Tapit (TrueNicks,SRO) colt has shown repeatedly that he can close into a slow pace, so it might seem he would improve in a strongly-run Derby. He has looked solid at Churchill this week, but on pedigree 10 furlongs is asking a lot. He will need a well-timed ride. TrueNicks

6. Mylute (15-1)

As Alan Porter noted, sire Midnight Lute (TrueNicks,SRO) is siring truer to the stamina of his pedigree than his record as a sprinter. Additionally, Mylute's dam, although by sprinter Valid Expectations, won or placed in six stakes from 8-8.5 furlongs. While Mylute has made a nice showing this week, he flattens out at the end of his races, a characteristic that doesn't bode well for Derby Day. TrueNicks

7. Giant Finish (50-1)

This Frost Giant (TrueNicks,SRO) colt certainly appears overmatched, but he is improving and did run a determined race in the Spiral. Interestingly, Crafty C. T., a sprinter from Giant Finish's immediate family, ran a pair of tough races in grade I company—a second in the Santa Anita Derby and third in the Met Mile. TrueNicks

8. Goldencents (5-1)

Goldencents wouldn't be the first Kentucky Derby winner from this blue-collar Canadian family, as 1983 winner Sunny's Halo is under the fifth dam. Second dam Body Works finished on-the-board in 35 of 45 races, winning 18 times from four to nine furlongs, including five stakes. Add the class of upstart sire Into Mischief (TrueNicks,SRO) and you've got Goldencents, who was certainly not made to be a true 10-furlong horse but on gameness and talent could get the job done. TrueNicks

9. Overanalyze (15-1)

Alan Porter's blog on Overanalyze gives a very good rundown of this colt's pedigree, and I'd agree that, on paper, he's got enough to win the Kentucky Derby. He might not be fast enough, but he is improving at the right time, which was evidenced in his exceptional April 27 work, where he looked sharp against the blinkered Palace Malice. TrueNicks

10. Palace Malice (20-1)

A son of Curlin (TrueNicks,SRO) from the family of overachieving Rail Trip, Palace Malice figures to improve with more distance and maturity, but it's hard to imagine him finally breaking through in the toughest of races. There's enough stamina in the pedigree to help him compete for a spot in the superfecta. TrueNicks

11. Lines of Battle (30-1)

Lines of Battle is a Claiborne Farm cross of War Front (TrueNicks,SRO) and Arch (TrueNicks,SRO). An Arch mare gave us last year's Derby winner, I'll Have Another, but this Arch mare, Black Speck, is a half sister to Dynaformer. Lines of Battle's half brother Blue Exit ran second in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) on dirt at Santa Anita. It would be a surprise for this colt to contend in his first try on dirt, but the trainer did run fifth two years ago with Master of Hounds. TrueNicks

12. Itsmyluckyday (15-1)

Itsmyluckyday has looked awesome this week, but looks don't get you an extra quarter-mile. Lawyer Ron turned out to be a quality sire of primarily milers, and there are plenty of nice stakes horses in the family, but, again, they are milers. It would be nice to see this talented colt in grade I races like the King's Bishop and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile later in the year. TrueNicks

13. Falling Sky (50-1)

Falling Sky's best race was a wire-to-wire win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III), and he'll try those same tactics here. By Lion Heart (TrueNicks) from a sprinting family, it would be a shock to see Falling Sky close at the finish. TrueNicks

14. Verrazano (4-1)

Verrazano, whose breeder we profiled last year, will be the second Derby starter in as many foals from his dam Enchanted Rock (El Padrino, 13th). You have to respect the sire More Than Ready (TrueNicks,SRO), but like his older half brother did, Verrazano gives the impression that he was better earlier in the year. TrueNicks

15. Charming Kitten (20-1)

Kitten's Joy (TrueNicks,SRO) is again represented in the Kentucky Derby, this time with Charming Kitten, who is coming off a good third in the Blue Grass (gr. I). Neither Charming Kitten nor his stakes-winning full brother Queen'splatekitten have ever run on dirt; Queen'splatekitten was best at a mile on turf, which is probably also Charming Kitten's real forte. TrueNicks

16. Orb (7-2)

After seven grade I-winning fillies and a 2-year-old champion gelding, it's nice to see Orb proving that Malibu Moon (TrueNicks,SRO) can indeed sire a top colt. Orb is from an offshoot of a great family (Ruffian, Icecapade, Private Terms, Coronado's Quest), but both first and second dams were just a cut below top level on the racetrack—plenty of stamina, but not fast enough for grade I company. Orb looks the part, but is he fast enough to win the Derby? TrueNicks

17. Will Take Charge (20-1)

Just like sire Unbridled's Song (TrueNicks,SRO), the largest stallion in Kentucky, Will Take Charge is huge. Consequently, he covers a lot of ground. His dam, multiple grade I-winning Take Charge Lady, was second here in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and has already produced grade I winner Take Charge Indy. The 17 post looks favorable, keeping this big guy out of traffic and allowing him to make his preferred off-the-pace run. TrueNicks

18. Frac Daddy (50-1)

Frac Daddy, by Scat Daddy (TrueNicks,SRO), has seemingly cycled back into form and is returning to the site of two of his best races, a nine-length maiden win and a hard-fought second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II). The dam is by Skip Away, and the second dam won the 10-furlong Delaware Handicap (gr. III), so there's a bit of stamina in the family. TrueNicks

19. Java's War (15-1)

A hard-trying colt who has performed admirably on turf, dirt, and synthetic, Java's War is an interesting pedigree blend: the dam is a full sister to champion grass mare Fiji, who was best at age 4 going 10 furlongs on turf; and the sire is champion 2-year-old War Pass, who was best at a mile on dirt. The average of those aptitudes would be a 3-year-old going nine furlongs on synthetic, which is exactly what Java's War did when winning the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). Watching his training at Churchill, he has high action reminiscent of a turf or synthetic horse, and doesn't seem to be embracing the Churchill dirt like he did at Tampa. TrueNicks

20. Vyjack (15-1)

Post 20 welcomes this talented Into Mischief gelding in his first venture outside Aqueduct. While this is a sprinting family—the dam is a half sister to the quick Disco Rico (TrueNicks,SRO), and deeper in the family is champion sprinter Smoke Glacken (TrueNicks,SRO)—Vyjack's half brother Prime Cut (by Bernstein) managed to place in the Coolmore Lexington (gr. III) and Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II). That being said, 10 furlongs does seem beyond Vyjack's range and he's looked just OK training this week. TrueNicks

AE. Fear the Kitten (50-1)

Another Kitten's Joy colt, Fear the Kitten is a deep closer and would appreciate a torrid pace (which is not expected) should he draw into the field. The pedigree looks like turf at first glance, but Fear the Kitten's best form has been on dirt. The dam is by Dynaformer, which would help get the 10-furlong trip. TrueNicks

For more pedigree analysis, check out the Triple Crown 2013 Pedigree Profiles from The Blood-Horse.

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Last year you answered a comment with your throw outs, just OK, and the top three that will love the distance.  This year?

Pharlap 02 May 2013 7:47 AM

Which horses will take to an off track?

Pharlap 02 May 2013 7:48 AM

rev and will take are only ones from grade 1 winning dam as far as i can tell. lines of battle will benefit from moist track and is a cross to danzig. slow race last out but you rarely see a horse get passed by 2 runners that deep into the stretch, then blow by them both that close to the wire and begin to draw off. this horse has run further than the rest and won just like canonero 11 did in the 1971 derby (had won a mile and quarter race in south america prior to the derby). rev and orb ran races the same day at different tracks and both won. rev in real time 3/5 second better now factor the track equalization and rev wins by more than 10 lengths. i agree with your analysis that orb may be too slow especially if he does not get a perfect trip. results-1) rev 2)lines 3)palace 4)will take-good luck!

iceman92 02 May 2013 10:42 AM

Pace makes the race and this one looks to be slow. That stated, I'm going to play against the speed fig 'cappers this year. Overanalyze is obviously talented and appears to be putting everything together at the right time. Itsmyluckday may be slightly distance challenged pedigree wise compared to some others here but there's no denying his athleticism which should put him in the race when it counts and may be enough at the end. These two won't be in the first tier on the tote board and stand to provide excellent value for the win if their morning lines of 15-1 hold.

I'm less certain about which horses to use underneath but think Revolutionary is a must use in this spot. If Oxbow hasn't been cooked on the pace and is on the lead or within striking position at the top of the stretch, he's a logical candidate to hold on for a piece. The other Lukas entry, Will Take Charge, also has some appeal to me here coming from off the pace. Despite drawing the 20th post, I might have also included Vyjack if not for the lung infection just a few weeks ago. Leaning towards Charming Kitten at a huge price as my fourth underneath.

Beholder with a little bit of Rose to Gold in the Oaks. Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve. These with all of the Derby contenders mentioned in that triple.

Good luck.      

Keep your powder dry 02 May 2013 12:50 PM

I said it before and I'll say it again.  I have never seen a Kentucky Derby field with so many Grade III "placed" horses in all the years I have watched this race.  In my opinion, 1/2 this field does not belong in the starting gate for the Derby.  Hopefully a true Triple Crown candidate will win.  If we have one more Triple Crown derailed by a 20 horse Derby field, I believe the discussion must start again about downsizing the field to 14 horses.  Having 6 or 10 horses in the starting gate that don't belong only cheapens the race quality and hurts the chances of a horse who just might have what it takes to be a Triple Crown winner, but had to deal with 1/2 a field that was only in their way and blocked them from winning.  This may sound harsh, but public opinion shows every year that goes by and we have no Triple Crown, horse racing popularity suffers.

SOUTHBENDFARM 02 May 2013 12:51 PM


OK, here are my throw-outs: Black Onyx, Mylute, Giant Finish, Itsmyluckyday, Falling Sky, Charming Kitten, Vyjack

Most likely to improve on an off track: Frac Daddy

Suspect at the distance: Normandy Invasion, Goldencents, Verrazano

Should handle distance fine: Oxbow, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, Lines of Battle, Will Take Charge, Frac Daddy, Java's War

Top 3 that will love the distance: Revolutionary, Golden Soul, Orb

Ian Tapp 02 May 2013 2:38 PM

I so agree with Southbendfarm concerning the 20 horse field format.  Half of them don't belong in the race.  A true points system limiting the field to 14 would be the best.

Hope for a safe trip for all and the best horse wins.

derbylin 02 May 2013 2:39 PM

Amen on the idea of limiting the field size to 14; the 20-horse field makes the race a real crapshoot.. talk about needing your racing gods! I always liken it to panning for gold - one hopes the "real" (best horse) nugget(s) manage to stay in the sieve.  

Any Oaks-Derby double thoughts?  My heart fancies the gold swami angle - Rose to Gold to Goldencents - gotta love the story lines - a $1,500 yearling who has outrun predictions and Team O'Neill.

VegasCowgirl 02 May 2013 3:44 PM

The real problem with the field is that once upon a time good horses drove the bad ones out of the Derby field.  But now we seem to have reached the point where if a horse qualifies in the top 20, he runs.  We need more owners and trainers who refuse to run their horses where they don't belong.  Kudos to Baffert for choosing to sit out even though he had horse who could have gotten in.  It will be interesting to see when a trainer finally gives a horse the schedule he deserves, comes into the Derby with 10 or 11 career starts and convincing wins over most of the contenders, if others will choose to stay home, or if they'll feel compelled to run anyway.

GSOBadger 02 May 2013 4:47 PM

Bravo, to all the commenter's. Great and intelligent assessment of the derby. Distance, is surely the major issue for most of the field. Oxbow,lines Of Battle, should have no problem negotiating the  distance. My pic's, in no real order of finish.:  Oxbow,Lines Of Battle,Palice Malice,Revolutionary,and Orb.  Good Luck.

johnsnare 02 May 2013 6:42 PM

Ian, so I'm guessing you don't look at dosage figures?  I do although I only use them as a guide along with other factors. Goldencents has a dosage index of 1.67 and a center of distribution of .38 which gives him plenty of distance capability...in fact well above the other 6 I checked:  Verrazano is closest at 2.06/.69 then Frac Daddy 2.33/.90, with Revolutionary, Overanalyze and Itsmyluckyday all tied at 3.00/.78/.92/.79 and Orb at the highest 3.21/.75....?

RACINGFAN 02 May 2013 7:24 PM

Much as last year, great analysis, Ian. It tended to "confirm" my thinking, so I'm weakly going with Revolutionary, Lines Of Battle, and Frac Daddy. I think the first two (named) could be real quality colts, but I don't like Borel on Revolutionary (Gomez would probably have been a good fit), and it's a bit early to be too sure about Lines Of Battle's quality (and dirt affinity). Had Footbridge performed in the Blue Grass, he would have been my pick.

sceptre 02 May 2013 7:47 PM

Verrazano is the class horse in the Derby field. Johnny V is going to have him uncoiled in the Derby. The Wood Memorial run was for seasoning and experience. Although his sire More Than Ready throws mostly speed and turf runners he was a very good dirt horse himself, losing a hard fought Bluegrass Stakes battle on Keenland dirt to High Yield in 2000. I like the presence of Sea Bird in MTR's pedigree and Verrazano's class and stamina seems bolstered by inbreeding to Northern Dancer and Blushing Groom (a famous cross in "special one" Arazi). Dr Fager within five generations of the tail female family is further stamina insurance for the Derby distance. His primary dangers are Overanalyze (a well seasoned son of Dixie Union that is getting really good at the right time) and Itsmyluckyday (on sheer class alone).

Ranagulzion 02 May 2013 9:54 PM

Hi Racingfan,

No, I'm not big on dosage figures (but for those who are, they are included on TrueNicks reports). I think watching a horse's races and looking at the family history tell you more about how they will handle more distance. I like Goldencents and think he can win, but perceived stamina is definitely not his top credential--it's his biggest risk, that he won't quite stay, like a Free House type.

Ian Tapp 02 May 2013 10:19 PM

I really had hoped Fear the Kitten would get in.  A true longshot for part of the superfectas for sure.  I'm keeping Black Onyx in mine, most likely keeping Revo on top. Every Derby winner since I've been following (2001) have tried other surfaces other than fast dirt prior to Derby i.e Turf, Wet and Synthetics.  With that I am keeping Orb, Verazano, Normandy, OVerA and Golden Soul off my top.  Anyway, I like your reports.  Thank you for providing each year.

zuzuzpetals 02 May 2013 10:29 PM

The top 2 picks in the Oaks have Wild Again on the bottom. Wild Again hasn't produced many sons that went on to be successful sires - Offlee Wild & Milwaukee Brew being his best. How has he been as a broodmare sire?

Karen in Indiana 03 May 2013 9:13 AM

Karen in Indiana:

Relative to their achievements (when racehorses), sons of Wild Again have performed quite well as sires.

sceptre 03 May 2013 11:59 PM

Top 3 that will love the distance: Revolutionary, Golden Soul, Orb

You were right on!  Hope you cashed a ticket!

zuzuzpetals 04 May 2013 6:45 PM

Thanks, zuzuzpetals. Yes, I cashed... sometimes pedigree handicapping pays off!

Ian Tapp 04 May 2013 7:39 PM

bravo ! you did excellent.

reinzi 05 May 2013 12:01 AM

I'll second that, Ian, kudos on your analysis. I was all in for Orb. My Lute was actually my longshot pick and I think he ran pretty well.

Karen in Washington state 05 May 2013 12:08 AM

I haad the trifecta also. i'm a firm believer in the True Nick approach. Keep up the good work.

Georgie B 05 May 2013 2:56 AM

Nice blog Ian, and nice job.

JerseyTom 05 May 2013 4:03 PM

Ian you are my clone. Congrats for standing up for the principle that pedigree counts at 10f. Brave Normandy Invasion gave out just where one would have expected.  

Unfortunately I didn't cash the tri. I only put Golden Soul in the third spot, while Revo, Orb and Mylute (mud play) were in all spots. Did have Orb across the board.

Pedigree Ann 06 May 2013 9:41 AM

Ian, great job on your "top 3 that will love the distance"!!!

Racingfan 06 May 2013 12:47 PM

Ian, your top three picks finshed 1-2-3.  Well done.  

Zelmo Z 07 May 2013 2:17 PM

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