Prior to 2013 Malibu Moon’s progeny had not fared well in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Spendthrift Farm’s homebred son of A.P. Indy seemed to have all the right pedigree influences by being a son of the 1992 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner, who was by 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Malibu Moon also provided a glimmer of the brilliance his female family possessed by winning once and finishing second once as a 2-year-old before a fractured knee pushed him into early retirement at stud. A.P. Indy progeny were not known for displaying such precociousness.
The talented filly Devil May Care became Malibu Moon’s first Kentucky Derby representative in 2010. She possessed a world of ability, just not against the boys. She finished 10th in the Derby but went on to capture the Mother Goose Stakes and the Betfair TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (both gr. I).
In 2012 it was Prospective’s turn to represent Malibu Moon in the Run for the Roses, having finished second in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) and having won the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II). Prospective finished 18th.
Then came 2013 when Orb rolled through the wintertime in South Florida like a freight train and stamped himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite. The son of Malibu Moon—Lady Liberty, by Unbridled, lived up to the hype and delivered the first golden trophy to his trainer Shug McGaughey and his owner/breeders Stuart Janney III and Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps.
Malibu Moon is in a position this year to become the 16th stallion to sire two Kentucky Derby winners, though it will be a tall order to fill against an extraordinarily tough field. His representatives this year are Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Danzig Moon, who finished behind Carpe Diem; Louisiana Derby (gr. II) runner-up Stanford, who finished behind International Star; and, Mr. Z, who finished third in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) behind American Pharoah and Far Right.
There are other pedigree forces at work in the 2015 Kentucky Derby field to contend with as well.
For instance, 19 years have passed since a Derby winner has sired a Derby winner. Unbridled (who wore his own blanket of roses 25 years ago) accomplished the feat in 1996 with Grindstone, who grabbed victory by a nose over trainer Bob Baffert’s first Derby starter, Cavonnier. Grindstone was a homebred for William T. Young’s Overbrook Farm and gave trainer D. Wayne Lukas his third Derby victory.
Three Kentucky Derby contenders this year are sons of Derby winners: Potential morning-line second-choice Dortmund is by 2008 Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Big Brown; International Star is by 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus; and Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) winner Ocho Ocho Ocho, who also finished third in the Blue Grass, is by 2007 Derby winner Street Sense (the only Derby winner to have also won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, gr. I).
Only 12 Kentucky Derby winners have sired a Derby winner.
Several other 2015 Derby contenders have pedigree influences from sires with strong race records during the Triple Crown classics.
Triple Crown influences can be found in Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Materiality, an undefeated son of Gainesway’s Afleet Alex, who finished third in the Derby but won the 2005 Preakness and Belmont. Also Itsaknockout is by Lane’s End Farm’s Lemon Drop Kid, who finished off the board in the Derby but came back to win the Belmont in 1999.
Perhaps it is a year for redemption. The likely favorite May 2 will be American Pharoah, whose sire Pioneerof the Nile finished second in the 2009 Derby to Mine That Bird. Pioneerof the Nile, a homebred raced by Ahmed Zayat who bred and races American Pharoah, is a son of Empire Maker, who finished second to Funny Cide in the 2003 Derby. Empire Maker skipped the Preakness and then spoiled Funny Cide’s bid for a Triple Crown title by winning the Belmont.
By winning the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah would not only avenge these runner-up finishes, he would also give a 25th anniversary gift to Unbridled—the sire of Empire Maker.