Likely Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) favorite California Chrome will try to become the first California-bred to win the Louisville classic since Decidedly in 1962, but he is just one of several accomplished 2014 Derby hopefuls who were foaled outside of Kentucky.
In fact, four of the top five points leaders in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings were foaled outside the borders of the Bluegrass State.
Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner California Chrome is the points leader in the standings that determine the field if more than 20 horses are entered. Also among the top five points leaders based on their prep race success is Louisiana-bred Vicar's in Trouble, winner of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II); Florida-bred Dance With Fate, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I); and New York-bred Samraat, a two-time grade III winner.
The only Kentucky-bred among the top five points earners is Twinspires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner Wicked Strong .
Three other horses bred outside of Kentucky are expected to join those four in the Derby field: Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Wildcat Red, a Florida-bred; Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III) winner We Miss Artie , who was bred in Ontario; and New York-bred Uncle Sigh, who ran second to Samraat in the Gotham (gr. III) and Withers (gr. III) stakes.
Kentucky-breds have won nine straight editions of the Derby, dating back to 2004 when Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones won the Louisville classic one year after New York-bred Funny Cide took top honors.
Of course California Chrome figures to garner the most interest of the Derby hopefuls not foaled in Kentucky. The son of California-based sire Lucky Pulpit —Love the Chase, by Not for Love, tries to become the fourth Cal-bred to win the Derby, joining Decidedly, Swaps, and Morvich.
A homebred for Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome is the first horse bred by the duo. Coburn believes depth in California Chrome's pedigree will give him the ability to excel at the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles. He pointed five generations back on his dam's side to Sir Gaylord, who finished among the leading sires and broodmare sires in Europe and North America, as a positive influence; as well as a number of classic-type horses throughout his pedigree.
"He's got a horse on his mother's side called Sir Gaylord, and this horse didn't even get wound up until a mile-and-a-half," Coburn said. "He's got Survivor and he's got Numbered Account both top and bottom, and he has Swaps on his mother's side way back when, and he's got Not for Love who is a pretty good sire in Maryland, so he's pretty well bred."
Coburn also noted Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and A.P. Indy in the pedigree.
"I don't think the distance is going to be the problem. I really don't," Coburn said. "This horse was bred to run all day; and he's proven the longer the race, the better he gets."
Coburn said because of his Cal-bred status, people initially were cautious about getting on the California Chrome bandwagon.
"They're always saying, 'California Chrome was a California-bred.' That's true, but he doesn't know that," Coburn said earlier this month. "He has no clue where he was born. All he knows is he loves to run, and all it takes is a heart of a horse that loves to run. He's got a tremendous heart; we've seen it, because he never gives up. He keeps trying and trying and trying, and he keeps winning and winning and winning by more and more and more."
While California Chrome tries to end California's drought, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Vicar's in Trouble can become the first-ever Louisiana-bred to win the Derby. Bred by B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm, Vicar's in Trouble is by Spendthrift's Kentucky-based sire Into Mischief and is the first stakes winner out of the winning Vicar mare Vibrant.
The Ramseys acquired Vicar's In Trouble for $80,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Spring 2-year-old sale. He would be the third Derby starter for Into Mischief, who last year had Goldencents and Vyjack start in the Churchill classic from his first crop of 3-year-olds.
Len Riggio's My Meadowview Farm homebred Samraat, and his frequent rival Uncle Sigh, will try to join Funny Cide as the only New York-breds to win the Derby. Like Funny Cide, Samraat enters the Derby off a runner-up finish in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I).
Samraat is by My Meadowview stallion Noble Causeway, a Derby starter who began his stallion career in Kentucky at Crestwood Farm and currently is ranked third on New York's sire list. He stands at Sequel Stallions and Samraat is from his first crop of foals sired in New York.
Samraat is out of the Indian Charlie mare Little Indian Girl, who has produced six winners—including three other stakes-placed runners—from six starters. The late Little Indian Girl was a half sister to grade I winner Nonsuch Bay.
Wounded Warrior Stable and Anthony Robertson's Uncle Sigh was bred by Milfer Farm (Jonathan Davis, DVM). He is by the late Kentucky-based sire Indian Charlie, who finished third as the favorite in the 1998 Derby, and is out of the Pine Bluff mare Cradlesong. Unraced Cradlesong has had six winners from six starters, including stakes winners Percussion and Slew by Slew.
After Kentucky's 106 Derby winners, Florida-breds rank second with six Derby wins—but a Sunshine State runner hasn't earned the roses since Silver Charm in 1997. Two Florida-breds are expected to try to end that drought this year in Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate, who has won or placed in three grade I races, and grade II winner Wildcat Red, who enters off a runner-up finish in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).
Bred by Thomas and Lori Fackler's Best A Luck Farm, Dance With Fate is from the first crop of Florida-based sire Two Step Salsa and is the first stakes winner out of the Saint Ballado mare Flirting With Fate. Besides his grade I win on Polytrack, Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable, and Ciaglia Racing's Dance With Fate finished second on dirt in last year's FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
Bred by Xavier Moreau's Moreau Bloodstock International and Winter Racing Enterprise, Wildcat Red is by former Florida-based sire D'wildcat. Veteran sire D'wildcat now stands in Louisiana. Honors Racing's Wildcat Red finished just a neck behind winner Constitution in the Florida Derby. The grade III-placed Miner's Mark mare Racene has produced six starters, all winners, and Wildcat Red is her first stakes winner.
Bred in Ontario by Richard Lister, We Miss Artie will attempt to join Northern Dancer (1964) and Sunny's Halo (1983) as the only horses foaled in Canada to win the Derby. By Kentucky-based sire Artie Schiller , a Derby win would make We Miss Artie his sire's first foal to win a dirt grade I race. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's We Miss Artie is the first stakes winner out of the winning Fusaichi Pegasus mare Athena's Gift, who has produced two winners from as many starters.