A Look At Winning Derby Pedigree With Brisnet.com & Doug Salvatore

Many skilled handicappers treat pedigree analysis as though it should be left for those whose primary aim is the buying, selling, or breeding of horses. There are countless examples, new and old, of the maddening uncertainty associated with this subject.

One hundred years ago, Roamer was the champion three-year-old and is credited with 1914 Horse of the Year recognition. He was sired by a "teaser stallion" named Knight Errant. As a "teaser", Knight Errant's job was to determine a mare's receptiveness to male advances. If the mare wasn't receptive, it was better that she lash out at the otherwise worthless teaser than at the farm's valuable stallion. One day, Knight Errant roamed away from his paddock and jumped a fence to hook up with a blind claiming mare named Rose Tree. The result of this unplanned union was the future Hall of Famer Roamer.

This year's expected Kentucky Derby favorite, California Chrome, is sired by obscure stallion Lucky Pulpit. His dam Love The Chase was a very mediocre racer whose only career win came in an $8,000 maiden claiming race. His 2nd dam Chase It Down won her only career race at Charles Town, and she was beaten by more than a dozen lengths in three of her five Charles Town starts.

Breeding is far from an exact science, and throughout history, a lot reputed experts in the area have been mocked by the sharp racing minds of their day.

The great racing historian John Hervey once wrote: "The pedigree doctors! Oh, for the pen of an O. Henry or Max Beerbohm with which to describe them! There is nothing else in the universe for a moment to be compared with them. They stand alone. If you are a prey to monotony and long for mental dissipation, just attempt to follow them in their gyrations. The result will be a case of vertigo such as could in no other way be obtained."

Make no mistake, there are pitfalls with the study of pedigrees, but you can also use it to find a strong betting edge in situations where it has relevance. Generally, maiden races.

Does pedigree analysis have any relevance in handicapping the Derby? I've went back and re-looked at the pedigrees of Kentucky Derby winners dating back to Y2K. I'll leave it to the reader to draw any conclusions.

2013 winner: Orb

* Sire: Malibu Moon, an A. P. Indy colt who made just two lifetime starts, one was a defeat at 4.5 furlongs and the other a victory at five furlongs. His promising racing career was cut short, but he beat the odds and became a very successful stallion. Most Malibu Moon offspring prefer dirt. He's a good wet track sire. He gets both sprinters and routers. If I had to pigeonhole him, I'd say he's a dirt miler type of sire.

* Dam: Lady Liberty is a daughter of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. She broke her maiden at nine furlongs on the dirt at Saratoga. However, her best form came at 12 furlongs on the turf. Orb's second dam Mesabi Maiden only won three races, but her shining moment came when she captured the Black Eyed Susan Stakes in the mud at 14/1 odds over Cara Rafaela, the dam of Bernardini. Make no mistake about it, there is a ton of stamina in this tail female family.

2012 winner: I'll Have Another

Sire: Flower Alley only sprinted once in his career, and that race yielded an inauspicious debut when finishing a distant third in a Calder Maiden Special Weight race. The stretch out to a route made a difference, and he broke his maiden at 5/1 in career start number two, and upset the Grade 2 Spiral at 10/1 odds in his third career start. Flower Alley was successful at 10 furlongs, winning the Travers and finishing second to Saint Liam in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Offspring of Flower Alley generally prefer dirt. They also generally prefer route distances. They win 16% of their races routing, versus just 12% sprinting.

Dam: Arch's Gal Edith raced only one time in her career, capturing a Maiden Special Weight race at Belmont before going to the sidelines.

There is huge stamina through the male influences on the dam side of I'll Have Another's pedigree. His damsire Arch won the Grade 1 Super Derby at 10 furlongs. I'll Have Another's 2nd dam was by Pleasant Tap, who was a multiple Grade 1 winner at 10 furlongs. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup over A.P. Indy and Strike The Gold and also won the ten furlong Suburban. Pleasant Tap was third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the BC Classic. I'll Have Another's 3rd dam was by Caucasus who won the Group 1 Irish St Leger at 1 3/4 miles. He also won the 2-mile South Bay Handicap. In America, he was third in the Hollywood Gold Cup at 10 furlongs on dirt and third in the San Juan Capistrano at 14fs on turf. I'll Have Another's fourth dam was by Sea-Bird, who won the English Derby and The Arc De Triomphe.

2011 winner: Animal Kingdom

Sire: Leroidesanimaux was a sensational turf miler for Bobby Frankel. As a sire, his offspring generally prefer turf and synthetic surfaces.

Dam: Dalicia won each of her three lifetime races at ten furlongs on turf. There is a lot of stamina through the female side of Animal Kingdom's pedigree, but it's all turf. This pedigree is incredibly turf oriented.

2010 winner: Super Saver

Sire: Maria's Mon was a two-year-old champion. He also sired Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Maria's Mon offspring generally favor dirt. Even though he's sired two Kentucky Derby winners, his offspring tend to be distance neutral. If you breed him to mares with sprint oriented pedigrees, you're likely to get a sprinter. If you breed him to mares with route oriented pedigrees, you're likely to get routers.

Dam: Supercharger, a daughter of A. P. Indy out of the Graded Stakes winning dirt router Get Lucky, Supercharger was a useful Phipps runner. She was effective sprinting and won one of her two route attempts in her brief racing career. Supercharger is a full sister to stakes winners Accelerator, Daydreaming and Girolamo, as well as the unraced She's A Winner, who is the dam of Haskell winner Bluegrass Cat. Her full brother Accelerator actually won at 12 furlongs on the Turf at Saratoga, but Super Saver's female side is primarily dirt and routing.

2009 winner: Mine That Bird

Sire: Birdstone is a Belmont Stakes and Travers winner. His offspring generally dislike turf and do their best on dirt. He tends to get routers more so than sprinters.

Dam: Mining My Own is an unraced daughter of Smart Strike. She is also the dam of Blue Grass and Pacific Classic winner Dullahan. The second dam of Mine That Bird is Aspenelle. She was fifth in her debut, sprinting at Woodbine. In her second career start, Aspenelle was stretched out to a route and came from off the pace to win by ten lengths. She also won her third career start at a route, before finishing second in the nine furlong Canadian Oaks in her fourth and final career start. This is yet another route oriented female family.

2008 winner: Big Brown

Sire: Boundary was strictly a sprinter throughout his racing career, and was a very good one at that for Bill Mott. Indeed, one of Bill Mott's best ever dirt sprinters. Boundary tends to sire sprinter miler types. While his offspring tend to prefer dirt a bit, they can also handle grass.

Dam: Mien was a Michael Dickinson trainer runner who only raced twice, both times at 8.5 furlongs. Something was amiss and she was eased in her career debut, which came on dirt. She won her second and final start, in a Maiden Special Weight event over the Pimlico turf course. Big Brown's second dam Miasma was a European import, her only North American win came going nine furlongs over the Churchill Downs turf. This is a turf route oriented female family.

2007 winner: Street Sense

Sire: Street Cry, a brilliant winner of the Dubai World Cup at age four. Street Cry is probably most famous now for siring Zenyatta. His offspring generally prefer routing and handle all types of surfaces.

Dam: At long last, we finally have some sign of a sprinter. Bedazzle's best game was seven furlongs, though she was a good second in her only try in a dirt route. Street Sense's second dam Majestic Legend was primarily a turf router, whose best game seemed to nine furlongs on grass.

2006 winner: Barbaro

Sire: Dynaformer wasn't exactly a fearsome racer. Indeed, Dynaformer made eight career starts at the Grade 1 stakes level. Here's how he performed at that level:

1988 Wood Memorial: 7th place finish
1988 Travers Stakes: 5th place finish
1988 Pegasus Handicap: 5th place finish
1989 San Fernando Stakes: 6th place finish
1989 Charles H Strub: 5th place finish
1989 Gulfstream Park Handicap: 6th place finish
1989 Bowling Green Handicap: 8th place finish
1989 Suburban Handicap: 9th place finish

As a racer, the two things Dynaformer had going for him were endurance and surface versatility. He won at 12 furlongs on turf and was second at 13 furlongs on dirt. Obviously, Dynaformer is much better remembered for being a very successful stallion. His good offspring generally carried his strong traits, surface versatility and great stamina. 

Dam: La Ville Rouge was an incredibly versatile racer. She won at six furlongs on the dirt from close to the pace, but was multiple Graded Stakes placed at 11 furlongs on the Turf, both time coming from off the pace. While La Ville Rouge was a capable sprinter, her best form came in turf marathons.

2005 winner: Giacomo

Sire: Holy Bull was a great racer and he won the Travers with a heroic front-running performance. In that race, he was hounded early by a Lukas trained rabbit, chased by quality stalkers Tabasco Cat and Unaccounted For, and was still able to fend off the late rally of that years Breeders' Cup Classic winner Concern. As a sire, Holy Bull wasn't so special. He also didn't have a specialty lean. He got sprinters and routers, dirt horses and turfers.

Dam: We finally have a horse with a dam who was a speed demon sprinter. Set Them Free was a dazzling and precocious sprinter. She only raced one time at a route distance her entire career, where she set the pace in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, before fading badly to finish 11th. Interestingly, while Set Them Free was a speedy runner, her offspring have been classy distances horses. Besides Giacomo, she's also dropped Multiple Grade 1 winner Tiago, as well as Stanwyck, and Sea Jewel. 

2004 winner: Smarty Jones

Sire: Elusive Quality was a brilliant sprinter/miler type for Bill Mott. He was one of those horses that would run eye-popping speed figures in allowance races, and usually fail at a short price when tested by top caliber competition. As a sire, Elusive Quality has been outstanding. He gets runners on any type of surface. While his offspring tend to generally be sprinter/miles, he can certainly pop a very good router here and there.

Dam: I'll Get Along was a very tough racemare for Robert Camac. She was a capable sprinter, but also a very good router as well. Indeed, I'll Get Along won three of her nine route attempts and finished in the top three positions every time. Smarty Jones third dam was also admirably versatile. She was stakes placed at 5.5 furlongs on dirt, and four-times stakes placed in Turf routes.

2003 winner: Funny Cide

Sire: Distorted Humor, much like with Elusive Quality, was a brilliant speed figure horse capable of running dazzling numbers against competition that was a cut-below. His race record certainly indicates he was a better sprinter, but Distorted Humor always ran very respectable speed figures in his route defeats. He's been a huge success as a sire. His offspring prefer dirt. He gets good runners at all distances.

Dam: Belle's Good Cide was a very mediocre racer. She competed at tracks such as Remington Park, Fair Meadows, and The Woodlands. I actually had to Google Fair Meadows to see where it's located (Tulsa, Oklahoma) -- The Woodlands is a now defunct track in Kansas. Funny Cide's second dam Belle of Killarney was an unraced daughter of Little Current, he was a champion three-year-old in 1974 and demonstrated a furious closing kick to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

2002 winner: War Emblem

Sire: Our Emblem, by Mr. Prospector out of the great Personal Ensign, was primarily a sprinter throughout his racing career. As a sire, he generally gets dirt horses. His offspring tend to be sprinter/miler types.

Dam: Sweetest Lady, by Lord At War, was strictly a dirt router. She won 5-of-11 in dirt routes and was winless in five career starts in all other types of races.

2001 winner: Monarchos

Sire: Maria's Mon also sired Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. See him above.

Dam: Regal Band was a dirt router. She was 3-for-11 in dirt routes and zero for seven in all other types of races. The 2nd dam of Monarchos, Regal Road, was a winless daughter of Roberto.

2000 winner: Fusaichi Pegasus

Sire: The legendary stallion Mr. Prospector. He was a confirmed sprinter as a race horse.

Dam: Angel Fever is a full sister to Preakness winner Pine Bluff, and a half sister to beaten Kentucky Derby favorite Demons Begone. She only made two career starts, posting one win and one second place finish. Fusaichi Pegasus was a $4 million yearling purchase.


Leave a Comment:

spectacular bid

love this column, i find it funny that people discount pedigree and yet in this day n age when everyone breeds for speed, the derby is the ONE RACE a year where i toss horses based on pedigree insted of form. theres to many horses that simply cant get a 1 1/4 mile race anymore. id like to see you do a column on who in this years race IS bred to get 10f..for me, i think MEDAL COUNT is an improving horse, hes fit and will run right past the bulk of this years horses and give dynaformer derby win #2 when they all stop running there miler pedigrees

25 Apr 2014 7:06 PM
Terry M.

"California Chrome, is sired by obscure stallion Lucky Pulpit. His dam Love The Chase was a very mediocre racer whose only career win came in an $8,000 maiden claiming race. His 2nd dam Chase It Down won her only career race at Charles Town" True, but how about the rest of the pedigree?

His sire is a stakes-winning sprinter and miler by the A.P. Indy son Pulpit, who sired millionaire milers Corinthian, Essence of Dubai, Pit Fighter, Pyro and Rutherienne. Lucky Pulpit's dam, Lucky Soph, is by champion Cozzene and out of Lucky Spell, both milers. So this side of the pedigree is clearly aimed in that direction.

California Chrome's dam, Love the Chase, is a granddaughter of Mr. Prospector, a prominent source of stamina in pedigrees. He also appears in California Chrome's sire's pedigree. She is inbred to the great champions Northern Dancer and Numbered Account, both of whom won at 10 furlongs and known for their speed.

Overall, there is a lot of speed and some stamina back there, and not too far back either. I don't know if CC can win going beyond 8 or 9 furlongs, but I think he has as good a shot as anyone, especially since many recent Derby winners also come from families who produce a lot of speed at the mile.

25 Apr 2014 11:55 PM

Some more on California Chrome - his sire Lucky Soph is a 1/2 sister to the dam of Unbridled's Song and his 2nd dam Lucky Spell is a 1/2 sister to Seattle Song.  You listed Essence of Dubai as a miler, but he won the UAE Derby at 10 furlongs and won the Super Derby and placed in the Pennsylvania Derby and Jim Dandy, all at 9 furlongs.  Note that just yesterday Pulpit's son Unitarian won a Grade 2 at 12 furlongs on the turf.

Another interesting aspect about Chrome's pedigree is that his dam is a daughter of Not for Love, who is a full brother to Get Lucky.  Get Lucky, of course, produced Accelerator, Daydreaming, Girolamo, and the dams of Super Saver and Bluegrass Cat to the cover of A.P. Indy, so Chrome has that same cross, if somewhat removed.

The point is that while pedigree can be indicative, it's not definitive.  Lucky Pulpit has already sired Rousing Sermon, who has run competitively in multiple graded stakes at 9 furlongs.  Given the small number of foals LP has sired and the general quality of his mares, who know what his true proclivity will prove to be.

After all, who would have thought breeding Java Gold to a Slew o' Gold mare would produce a champion sprinter?!

26 Apr 2014 9:54 AM

One comment on Funny Cide - you fail to mention that Belle's Good Cide is a daughter of Slewacide who was bred on the same lines as Slew o' Gold, and who sired Clever Trevor, Slew of Damascus, and Mr. Ross, so maybe a bit more quality there than one might think at first glance.

26 Apr 2014 9:56 AM
Pedigree Ann

The most interesting thing about California Chrome's pedigree is the inbreeding in his dam - she has the 3/4 siblings Dance Number and Polish Numbers 2x2 in her pedigree, both being out of the Buckpasser mare Numbered Account, a champion of serious class. Closely inbred horses are a gamble, but some who fail to race well end up as excellent breeding animals, viz. Ultimus. And it is not out of the realm of possibility that CC's third dam, a SW past a mile by Sir Ivor out of a Vaguely Noble mare, whose dam was by Ribot, has added her mite to the mix.

26 Apr 2014 10:09 AM

I agree with Terry M. and others.  CC has an outstanding pedigree on both sides beginning at grands.  I consider him a 'throwback.'  Consider that even people can have children who may look like and act like grandparents or even great-grandparents and nothing like their parents. Hence, a frequent question of "Where did he get that from?" :)  He's an anomaly that I think only occurred due to the particular pairing of Lucky Pulpit and Love the Chase.  I hope DAP doesn't sell either one of them.  They struck gold the first time out of the chute.  :)

26 Apr 2014 12:08 PM

Doug, are you going to finish the 3 part story you started on the pedigree of the Derby horses here on bloodhorse? I've checked back several times, and only 2 parts are completed.

I'm by no means a pedigree expert, I know very little on the subject. What I did do was look at the Derby contenders sires/dams, without going back to grandma and great, great grandpa,  and see which ones have won some major races at classic distances. And without a doubt some standouts are Gen. A Rod, just look at the tough races won by Fusauchi Pegasus, and Roman Ruler, and top it off with Dynaformer.

Intense Holiday, Harlans Holiday has done quite well at some classic tough races and then add in Unbridled's Song to top him off.

Wicked Strong, Hard Spun was very tough in classic races, and the icing on the cake is Charismatic a Derby winner also. Ride on Curlin, well Curlin needs no introduction, 2 times horse of the year3'rd in Derby, won Preakness, jockey gold cup, twice, the BC classic, the Dubai World cup, on and on and on.

Maybe could add in a little Medal Count, Dynaformer, but more turf races, leading turf sire in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009, and top it off with Unbridled's Song.

Can you find any other horse who sire has won more prestigious classic races than the one's listed above that is running in the Ky. Derby? This is how I do pedigree research, maybe not an exact science, and you might take with a gran of salt, but its hard to dispute what these horses sires have done.

26 Apr 2014 12:47 PM
The Barn Cat

General comment about any pedigree review that includes horses from the days before parentage verification was standard:  what was recorded by the registration office of The Jockey Club wasn't necessarily what had happened in the breeding shed.  There were legitimate mistakes made, and there was also outright fraud.  

It wasn't unheard of, if more than one mare was in heat at the same time, for the stud groom to substitute a different stallion to breed to one of the mares, since the groom received a fee for each mare that got in foal.  Similarly, if a stallion was experiencing transient fertility problems due to injury or illness, the groom might substitute another stallion if he could get away with that.

If you look at the produce records of stallions from a century or more ago, you see some funny things sometimes.   While the vast majority of early pedigrees are probably accurate, especially where notable horses were involved, there are undoubtedly horses that raced and were bred with a pedigree that didn't belong to them.   Just something to keep in mind when you're looking at older pedigrees.

26 Apr 2014 12:54 PM

I definitely believe breeding to be extremely important and at the same time almost impossible to predict. That said take a look at Chitu's dam side. Reads like a who's who of racing:

Dam sire: AP Indy

Grand Dam sire: Seattle Slew, of course from AP

Grand Dam Dam sire: Zilzal, champion 3 year old colt-England)

The Great Great Dam sires and Dam Dam's:

Bold Reasoning: sire of Seattle Slew

Secretariat: name is enough said

Nureyev: Champion 3 year old-France;leading sire France 1987,leading broodmare sire Britain/Ireland 1997; sire of Theatrical and Miesque

The dam blood line traces to Tessebe which brings direct lineage to Buckpasser and Princequillo.

I think Chitu could possibly become a horse that will be remembered for sometime. And remember his dam raced once and won at 10 furlongs.

Sorry if my terminolgy is awkward at best when discussing pedigree, as I am not very knowledgeable on the subject. But, I think Chitu's pedigree is very impressive.

26 Apr 2014 3:24 PM
Pedigree Ann

Predict - The runners in the $5K starter race at Churchill on Saturday included a son of Dynaformer, a runner out of a Dynaformer mare inbred to Hail to Reason, and a Bernardini out of a G1 winner.

Pedigree provides possibilities, not guarantees. A beautiful pedigree has to be viewed in respect to the form of the possessor. Nodouble was an Arky-bred by a unfamiliar Australian sire out of a distinctly plebeian female family. He defeated many a 'beautifully bred' horse in his stellar career. Kona Gold, Dehere, and Henny Hughes might have had beautiful pedigrees for a stayer, but they didn't stay. Genetic lottery; have to take what you get, make the best of it.

27 Apr 2014 10:07 AM

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