Going the Derby Distance 2010
Who Has the Pedigree to Win the 2010 Kentucky Derby?
Level: Intermediate
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

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The Kentucky Derby presents tremendous challenges for its 3-year-old competitors, not the least of which are the jostling and potential mayhem that can ensue with a 20-horse field. Other contributing factors to performance include the track conditions, muggy weather that can physically drain horses even before the start, and the noise created by the large on-track crowd that can unnerve young horses.

Ultimately, however, the deciding factor in Derby success inevitably is breeding—too many good horses just can’t get the 10-furlong distance, and, prior to post time, none have yet proven themselves capable of running that far. So, who among the Derby runners this year possesses the capability to make a good showing based upon their pedigree? Let’s look first at the distance issue, and then consider dirt vs. turf pedigrees, and who might perform well on an off-track.

Of those contenders entered for this year’s race, the best stamina pedigrees include those of:

Super Saver
(Maria’s Mon out of Supercharger, by A.P. Indy)
Injuries forced Maria’s Mon into an early retirement, but before his untimely death in 2007, he had already produced a Kentucky Derby winner: Monarchos who, in 2001, posted the second-fastest time in Derby history behind only Secretariat. Super Saver is bred along the same lines as 2006 champion 3-year-old filly Wait a While (out of an A.P. Indy mare) who won three Grade 1 races going 10 furlongs. Super Saver’s dam Supercharger is a full sister to She’s a Winner, dam of 2006 Derby and Belmont Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Cat, and to both Grade 1-placed Daydreaming and Grade 1 Wood Memorial runner-up Accelerator.

Discreetly Mine
(Mineshaft out of Pretty Discreet, by Private Account)
Late bloomer Mineshaft reeled off three straight Grade 1 victories in New York during his Eclipse-winning 4-year-old campaign, including 10-furlong wins in both the Suburban Handicap and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Discreetly Mine’s damsire, Private Account, also proved himself over 10 furlongs, winning both the Grade 1 Widener and Gulfstream Park Handicaps, and his daughter Pretty Discreet won the Grade 1 Alabama over the same distance. Discreetly Mine’s half-brother Discreet Cat won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile and the 9-furlong Grade 2 UAE Derby. Half-sister Lady Discreet produced Grade 1 Calder Oaks victress Chary, while unraced half-sister Discreetly Awesome produced Awesome Maria, who finished second in last year’s Grade 1 Frizette Stakes—to Derby contender Devil May Care.

Ice Box
(Pulpit out of Spice Island, by Tabasco Cat)
Despite being a son of noted stamina-rich A.P. Indy, lightly-raced Pulpit never proved himself beyond nine furlongs, and the best of his offspring—Pyro, Rutherienne, Corinthian, Purge and Tapit—were also questionable at the “classic” distances. The good news for Ice Box, however, is that his damsire, Tabasco Cat, won the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes, and that stamina revealed itself as well in his dam, Spice Island, who won on turf at 11 and 12 furlongs. He is also related through his dam to Derby winner Spend a Buck.

Who may not be able to get distance?
Solely based on pedigree, questions exist about Noble’s Promise (Cuvee out of The Devil’s Trick, by Clever Trick), as both his sire and damsire were best at sprinting; Conveyance (Indian Charlie out of Emptythetill, by Holy Bull) and Homeboykris (Roman Ruler out of One Last Salute, by Salutely) look better suited to the mile.

In a recent Washington Post article, Andrew Beyer lamented the questionable choices trainers and owners make regarding whether a horse belongs in the Derby starting gate, and I couldn’t agree more with the examples he gives, particularly regarding horses with turf pedigrees who haven’t yet proven themselves on dirt.

Dean’s Kitten (Kitten’s Joy out of Summer Theatre, by Ide) should not have any problems getting the Derby distance, but his best races have been on turf, as they should be, since he is by champion turf horse Kitten’s Joy and his second dam’s sire, Key To Content, won the Grade 1 United Nations on turf. Both the sire and damsire of Paddy O’Prado (El Prado out of Fun House, by Prized) were turfsters, and his dam, Fun House, also won the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap on turf. Stately Victor is sired by Ghostzapper, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt, but his damsire, Dynaformer, is thoroughly turf. Stately Victor’s dam, Collect the Cash, is a Grade 1 turf winner (QE II Challenge Cup), and his half-sister, Money My Honey, ran third in the turf Wonder Where Stakes; Stately Victor broke his maiden on turf.

Please note that these turf pedigrees don’t exclude the possibility of running well on dirt. Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway out of Aldebaran Light, by Seattle Slew) certainly proved that. But to merit consideration, they need to prove their dirt ability, and none of the trio mentioned above have yet done so at all or with any consistency.

If the Derby is run again this year on an off-track, several competitors who already have proven themselves capable of handling the mud will be worth taking into account. Backtalk (Smarty Jones out of Apasionata Sonata, by Affirmed) is two for two on off-tracks, including a maiden victory at Churchill last June, while both Super Saver and Discreetly Mine have also won on wet surfaces. The filly Devil May Care (Malibu Moon out of Kelli’s Ransom, by Red Ransom) not only broke her maiden over a sloppy Saratoga track, but also has been working impressively at Churchill this week in the mud, as has Mission Impazible, who has placed in both his off-track attempts.

While some find wet Tomlinson figures of dubious worth, I’ve found them to be a valuable tool, particularly for horses that have not yet tried an off-track. So, in addition to those who have already proven themselves, watch out for Noble’s Promise (471), American Lion (424), Awesome Act (416), Ice Box (394), Lookin At Lucky (393) and Sidney’s Candy (385) if the track is muddy on Saturday.

Check out our 2011 version here!

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