With speed the primary ingredient in the Thoroughbred, and true stamina being pushed deeper and deeper into a horse’s pedigree, we have to try to find staying power wherever we can. Although old-fashioned stamina on the sire’s side no longer is necessary to win the Derby, it still has been a main factor on the dam’s side.
As one can tell from the opening graph, there was not much major activity on the Derby front Thursday morning, as an intermittent rain fell on Louisville and Lexington. The first big day of works will be Friday when Doug O’Neill sends out his three Derby horses – Great Hunter, Liquidity, and Cobalt Blue. O’Neill had originally planned on giving Great Hunter a maintenance half-mile work at Keeneland, but after further discussion, he has decided to give the son of Aptitude something more strenuous and will work him six furlongs instead.
With only two moderate works in the six weeks leading up to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), Great Hunter was not fully wound for the race, and didn’t get as much out of it as hoped when he was forced to track a tortoise-like pace and then had to take up in the stretch when Teuflesberg came out into his path.
If can get a good stiff six-furlong drill under him, he should be ready for a big effort May 5. And if there is one thing you can say about the colt, he definitely will stay the mile and a quarter. Which gets us back to pedigree.
Stamina in stallions seems to be playing less and less a role in finding Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners, and the one-time dosage craze has all but been silenced. Remember the days when you would eliminate a horse if his dosage was above 4.00? Remember all those big payoffs on dual qualifier horses? When was the last time you heard anyone use dosage as a criteria for picking or eliminating Derby horses?
But as long as they run the Derby, fans will continue to attempt to find the ideal 10-furlong pedigree, even if just for reassurance that the horse they like has some kind of chance of staying the 10 furlongs.
So, while you really can’t eliminate too many horses based on pedigree any longer, you can pick out the ones that you don’t have to worry about. Below are just a few of the Derby horses who should be able to run all day.
As we have already mentioned Great Hunter, let’s start with him. By Kentucky Derby runner-up and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Aptitude, a son of A.P. Indy, Great Hunter has a ton of stamina on his sire’s side. Aptitude’s second dam, Alluvial, a daughter of Buckpasser, produced Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Coastal and two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Slew o’Gold.
Great Hunter’s dam, Zenith, a daughter of the Fappiano stallion Roy, had a great deal of stamina, earning over $200,000 for trainer John Servis. Zenith’s second dam, Brilliant Touch, is by Gleaming out of Indian Nurse. Gleaming, who was a classy long-distance turf horse owned by Calumet Farm, is by major stamina influence Herbager, out of the top-class A Gleam, a daughter of Blenheim II, out of champion Twilight Tear. Indian Nurse is by English Derby winner and classic stallion Mahmoud, out of a War Admiral mare. So, if you like Great Hunter, you should have absolutely no concerns about his staying a mile and a quarter.
Perhaps the most star-studded pedigree belongs to the Pennsylvania-bred Hard Spun, a son of the great stallion Danzig. Hard Spun’s dam, Turkish Tryst, is by the Alydar stallion Turkoman, a mile and a quarter-specialist whose victories include the Marlboro Cup (gr. I). Turkish Tryst’s second dam, Darbyvail, is by English Derby winner and major stamina influence Roberto, out of the Sea-Bird II mare Luiana, dam of Little Current, who won the Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes by seven lengths. Sea-Bird II, winner of the English Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is regarded by many in Europe as the greatest horse of the last half-century.
Luiana’s dam, Banquet Bell, also produced Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Chateaugay and champion Primonetta, winner of the Alabama Stakes, who in turn produced major stakes winners Cum Laude Laurie, winner of the grade I Beldame, Ruffian, Spinster, and Delaware Oaks; Prince Thou Art, winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I); Maud Muller, winner of the Gazelle Handicap (gr. II) and Ashland Stakes (gr. III) and Grenfall, winner of the 10-furlong Gallinule Stakes in Ireland. This is vintage Darby Dan breeding, similar to that of Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.
Street Sense is another who will run all day. His sire, Street Cry, won the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), and his dam, Bedazzle, is by Dixieland Band, out of a His Majesty mare. Liquidity is a horse with speed and staying power. He is by Tiznow , out of the Rahy mare Boa. His tail-female line is classic King Ranch influence. Second dam French Muff is by Roberto out of the Tom Fool mare Befuddled, a daughter of Bemuse, who is by Princequillo out of a War Admiral mare.
As we all know, Tiago is a half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo. But instead of being by Holy Bull, he is by the classic stallion Pleasant Tap, a son of the His Majesty stallion Pleasant Colony. This line has produced the winners of some of the world’s most prestigious races, including the grade or group I Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, Santa Anita Handicap, and Japan Cup.
Another His Majesty line sire is Nobiz Like Shobiz, a son of Albert the Great , who not only won the 10-furlong Suburban Handicap (gr. I), he ran the fastest mile and a quarter ever by a 3-year-old in New York when he captured the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1:59 1/5. Albert the Great is by Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin, a son of the His Majesty stallion Cormorant. Nobiz’ dam, Nightstorm, is by Storm Cat, out of a Halo mare, and his third dam, Lilt, is by Herbager. So, there is no question about his getting the mile and a quarter.
Any Given Saturday is by Distorted Humor , sire of Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, out of the A.P. Indy mare Weekend in Indy, a daughter of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner and Horse of the Year Spectacular Bid. Another Todd Pletcher-trained colt, Sam P. is by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief , out of a mare by Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Second dam Russian Princess is by Prince John, and you rarely see Prince John, one of the greatest broodmare sires of all time, that close up in a pedigree any longer. Pletcher’s other three starters – Circular Quay, Scat Daddy, and Cowtown Cat – are not inundated with quite as much stamina, but all are capable of getting the mile and a quarter.
As for some of the others, Curlin is by the Mr. Prospector stallion Smart Strike . His dam, Sherriff’s Deputy, is by Deputy Minister, out of a Bates Motel mare. Bates Motel, who had a great deal of stamina, is a son of English Derby winner Sir Ivor. And remember, Curlin is one of those rare outcrosses that breeders love to latch on to. His 4.00 dosage index would have turned people off in the past, as it barely qualifies him by dosage standards.
One of the few horses who does not qualify is Dominican, with a 4.33 dosage index. Some will question Dominican’s sire El Corredor , who was a miler, but, remember, milers have been siring many of the Derby winners in recent years. On his female side, however, you have male and female Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Chris Evert. And he is inbred 5x3 to Secretariat.
This certainly is not to say these are the only horses who are capable of winning this year’s Derby or that the two horses with high dosage indexes shouldn’t win. They just include those who are sure to get the mile and a quarter, and some who have interesting pedigrees.
Trainer Darrin Miller said Thursday that Julien Leparoux has been named to ride Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Sedgefield in the Derby.
So, it’s on to Keeneland for works, and then Churchill, and then Keeneland, and then Churchill. After that, there will either be more confusion or the picture will start to come into focus a little more.