Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Keeping It In the Family: Familiar Faces in the 2017 Kentucky Derby

Champion Classic Empire is giving Pioneerof the Nile another chance at a Derby victory.
With only a few days left until this year’s Kentucky Derby, the field is mostly set with 20 horses already guaranteed a spot and four others hoping to get in if there are any withdrawals in the coming days.

Unlike last year where two stallions had three starters each in the field, no stallion this year has more than one entry. One of last year’s two stallions may not even have a representative in the field this year with Uncle Mo’s (Indian Charlie) Royal Mo sitting in 21st on the points list (all signs indicate he’ll be entered in the race as an also eligible) and Tapit (Pulpit) only has one entry in Tapwrit.

As always, here are a few pedigree facts as we go into one of the biggest races on the U.S. racing calendar every year. 

Note: This blog was posted before the Derby draw and also-eligibles here refers to the horses who are 21-24 on the points list and would be on the AE list if entered.

Storm Cat – If you look at the pedigrees of the top four horses on the Kentucky Derby points list, you’ll notice they all have something in common – their sire or damsire is a son or grandson of Storm Cat (in Irap’s case, he is the grandson as Storm Cat is his damsire). Perhaps most interesting is that it’s not all thanks to one Storm Cat son. Of the seven main field horses, all but two trace to Storm Cat through different sires with Tale of Ekati (Tale of the Cat), Cat Thief (Storm Cat), Bernstein (Storm Cat), Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), Menifee (Harlan), and Giant’s Causeway (Storm Cat) having entries. One of the also eligible horses (Master Plan) also fits on his list with his damsire being Henny Hughes, who is a grandson of Storm Cat. Most of the Storm Cat influence here comes through the female side with only Tale of Ekati and Into Mischief bringing the line into the Derby as sires.

Into Mischief's Practical Joke is one of those Derby runners from the Storm Cat sire line
Four Sire Lines – Depending how you look at it, that only sires from four sire lines have runners in the Kentucky Derby is both interesting and a little worrisome. The one outlier to this is Irap (Tiznow), who brings in that fourth line by not tracing back to Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector or Seattle Slew. However, that’ll be talked about a little farther down.

The Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) line leads all sires lines here with seven runners, followed by the A.P. Indy/Seattle Slew line with six runners. Not normally seen behind others when discussing sire lines is Northern Dancer (Nearctic) back in third place with just five Northern Dancer lined stallions having runners in the main body of the field. (All three sire lines mentioned here also have a horse on the also eligible list, in addition to the Caro line.)

Damsire Lines – There’s a bit of more of the same if you look at the sire lines responsible for the broodmares who produced runners here. Northern Dancer does reign supreme when it comes to the damsires with nine of the runners out of daughters of the Northern Dancer line. This is also where five of the Storm Cats mentioned above are found, Danzig makes up for three of the others while Nijinsky II’s Green Dancer is the sire of Fast and Accurate’s (Hansen) dam.

Mr. Prospector has five different sires bringing in his line here for six runners overall. Unbridled (Mr. Prospector) is doubled up with both Gunnevera (Dialed In) and Sonneteer (Midnight Lute) tracing back to him, in one case as Gunnevera’s damsire and in Sonneteer’s, three steps back.

The A.P. Indy/Seattle Slew line only accounts for three horses here with two runners out of A.P. Indy daughters and one out of a Malibu Moon mare. Caro’s line also accounts for a main body runner on this side of the coin while the In Reality line also has one runner. Of the four also eligibles, In Reality accounts for one hopeful in Petrov, Saint Ballado (Turn-to line) accounts for two, and Storm Cat accounts for the fourth.

Tapwrit's damsire Successful Appeal is from the In Reality sire line.

In Reality –
On the 100th anniversary of Man o’ War’s birth, it’s fitting that his sire line is represented in the Kentucky Derby. In Reality is responsible for this on both the sire and damsire sides with Irap (Tiznow) looking to take the line to the winner’s circle (Irap has Man o’ War eight generations back in his tail male line). While Tapwrit (Successful Appeal) won’t keep that tail male line alive when/if he stands at stud, his damsire Successful Appeal (Valid Appeal) does come from that In Reality line as well so his victory could be one for Man o’ War as well (though not as important to the line as if Irap won.) No. 24 on the points list, Petrov, is also out of a Bertrando (Skywalker) mare who leads back to Relaunch/In Reality just like Tiznow.

Calumet – While not as dominant in the breeding department right now as in the past, it seems relevant to note that Calumet is making a big splash here with three runners. All three are homebreds for Calumet’s current owner Brad Kelley, showing that he isn’t messing around when it comes to getting Calumet-breds back in the run for the roses. It should be noted that those three Calumet bred/raced horses (Hence, Patch, Sonneteer) are by non-Calumet stallions in Street Boss, Union Rags and Midnight Lute. Calumet is the only owner to have more than one horse in the main body of the field but if Royal Mo (Uncle Mo) draws in, it’ll be joined by Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss, who will have two.


Tapit – We already know that Tapit (Pulpit) is a super sire and he again has a horse running in the Kentucky Derby in Tapwrit, but he’s making a play as a sire-of-sires here as well. Sons Hansen and Trappe Shot both have runners in Fast and Accurate (Hansen) and Untrapped (Trappe Shot). Most of his big sons have entered stud in the last few years so it will be interesting to see how this plays out as more sons get runners on the track, though having two sons with runners in the same year is a promising event.

A. P. Indy – It’s been touched on in previous points here but this Kentucky Derby proves how influential that A.P. Indy line is going to be for years to come. Of course, Tapit will help that along but five different A.P. Indy sons or grandsons (not counting great-grandsons Trappe Shot and Hansen, talked about above) have runners in the Kentucky Derby this year and one other son has a horse in the also-eligible spot. Mineshaft is the only son to have both a runner (J Boys Echo) and a son with a runner here (Dialed In with Gunnevera) while A.P. Indy son Malibu Moon is both the sire of a runner (Gormley) and the damsire of a runner (Girvin). Grandson Tapit’s involvement with this year’s Derby runners is of course mentioned above.

Young Sires – While there’s a mix of young and old sires in this Derby, half of the sires with runners entered stud in 2010 or later with six of those sires having first northern hemisphere 3-year-olds this year (Helmet started his stud career on southern hemisphere time in Australia in 2012.) The stallion who entered stud earliest of anyone is the late Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector), who stood his first season in 1997 and his last in 2015.

To Honor and Serve is one of those sires with a Derby runner in his first crop.
Active Damsires – While many of the damsires are either pensioned or dead, there are still a few that people can currently breed to. Seven of the damsires on the list stood in 2017 with six of them standing in Kentucky. The lone-non Kentucky resident is Cat Thief, who stood for a private fee in Saudi Arabia in 2017 according to Blood-Horse’s Stallion Register.

Irap – Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap is an interesting stallion prospect even if he doesn’t win the Derby. The Tiznow son is the last foal out of Silken Cat (Storm Cat), whose first foal was champion Speightstown. Racing for Reddam Racing, he was a $140,000 RNA at the Keeneland September sale before fetching $300,000 at OBS’ March 2-year-old sale. Many of the Kentucky Derby contenders are well-bred colts who will find a spot in a stallion barn somewhere but Irap may have already punched his ticket to Kentucky just due to his pedigree and that Grade 2 win – which is his only victory so far.
Irap after the Blue Grass.

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