Colonel E. R. Bradley, the famous gambler and Thoroughbred breeder, has been quoted as saying that he would gladly bet any horse that showed the ability to turn in a final quarter in :24 or less in a route race. If so, he would have loved Brilliant Speed’s finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). Unhurried early, the Live Oak Stud homebred ran his final three-eighths in the neighborhood of :34-3/5 to nail Twinspired on the line (VIDEO).
Such a turn of foot is not that uncommon among top turfers, and until recently, it seemed as though turf racing would be Brilliant Speed’s forte. After two lackluster efforts in maiden races on dirt at Belmont and Saratoga, Brilliant Speed moved to grass for his next five starts and was not out of the money in any of them. His last two efforts on turf netted him placings in stakes company, both in tight finishes and after less than ideal trips. The Blue Grass, of course, is on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface, so Brilliant Speed’s ability to translate his best form to the dirt at Churchill Downs remains a major question.
Still, it is too soon to write Brilliant Speed off as a horse that cannot handle dirt. Both of his dirt starts were at sprint distances, and in both he is noted in the charts as having raced greenly after slow starts. And on pedigree, the colt has at least the possibility of making the transition.
Brilliant Speed is the 21st grade/group I winner for Dynaformer, one of the best sires of stamina in the American market and a horse that has gotten top runners on both turf and dirt, with 122 stakes winners to his credit so far as recognized by The Jockey Club. While the big son of Roberto is drawing near the end of his stud career, he continues to get classy runners as another member of his 2008 crop is White Moonstone, undefeated winner of the 2010 Meon Valley Stud Fillies’ Mile Stakes (Eng-I) and two other English group events as a juvenile.
Brilliant Speed is, in fact, rather similarly bred to White Moonstone, as both are products of mares by sons of Mr. Prospector out of Northern Dancer-line mares. Both dams also feature Buckpasser in the third generations of their pedigrees, though in different positions: the four-time leading broodmare sire appears as the broodmare sire of Seeking the Gold, whose daughter Desert Gold produced White Moonstone, and as the sire of Passing Mood, third dam of Brilliant Speed.
Produced from 1969 Canadian Oaks winner Cool Mood (by Northern Dancer), Passing Mood is part of an important Canadian family that has enjoyed marked success on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. She is a half sister to unraced Shy Spirit (by Personality), whose four stakes winners include the ill-fated 1990 Canadian Triple Crown winner Izvestia, a grade II winner in the U.S. before suffering a fatal breakdown as a 4-year-old, and the good Canadian sprinter Key Spirit (by Key to the Mint), winner of the 1991 Philadelphia Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III). Shy Spirit also produced stakes-placed Playful Spirit (by Bold Hour), dam of 1992 Mazarine Stakes (gr. III) winner Play All Day (by Steady Growth). Play All Day, in turn, has produced 1998 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) winner Hedonist (by Alydeed), 1998 Coronation Futurity winner Zaha (by Kingmambo), and 2002 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) winner Seeking Daylight (by Seeking the Gold).
A stakes winner at 2, Passing Mood went her half sister one better with five stakes winners, two of very high caliber indeed: 1989 Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval (by Caro), and 1997 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Touch Gold (by Deputy Minister). Another of her stakes winners, Touch Gold’s full sister Daijin, is herself the dam of the stakes-winning A.P. Indy fillies Handpainted (whose Seeking the Gold colt Patena won the 2008 Display Stakes) and Serenading, and of unraced Speed Succeeds (by Gone West), dam of Brilliant Speed.
Both Izvestia and With Approval showed high-class ability on dirt but were better on the grass, perhaps foreshadowing where Brilliant Speed’s greatest ability lies. On the other hand, Touch Gold was a dual grade I winner on dirt, and both Handpainted and Serenading were stakes winners on that surface. Dynaformer, though known for his prowess in getting turf runners, was himself more accomplished on the dirt, so the pedigree signals are as mixed as this year’s Derby picture—which, if Brilliant Speed goes to the post, will have one more wild card thrown in.