Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Keeping It In the Family: Bargains Abound in 2018 Kentucky Derby

With the first Saturday in May quickly approaching, the field has been drawn with 20 horses in the main body and one also eligible who will get into the field if a runner scratches early Friday.

This year, three stallions have two or more entries led by Scat Daddy with four with 15 stallions overall having entries in the race. However, showing how hard it is to get one Derby entry - let alone four – only one of the stallions this century to sire a Kentucky Derby winner also has a runner this year (Malibu Moon with Magnum Moon).

From homebreds to $3 million purchases and well-seasoned horses to those who just started running a few months ago, this year’s Derby has something for everyone. To get you ready for Saturday’s race (running at 6:50p.m. ET), here are 18 facts as we head to one of the biggest races of the year.

Bargain Mares – While it’s undoubtedly hard to breed a Derby runner, it would have been relatively inexpensive to buy many of the dams of this year’s Derby runners. Eight of the mares brought less than $100,000 when going through the ring with the least expensive being My Boy Jack’s dam Gold N Shaft (Mineshaft) selling for $8,000 less than two years ago at Keeneland’s November Sale in 2016. One other mare you could have bought for four figures was Noble Indy’s dam Noble Maz (Storm Boot) for $9,000 as a yearling in 2017 at Fasig-Tipton’s Mid-Atlantic sale.

But perhaps the biggest bargain was Broodmare of the Year Leslie’s Lady (Tricky Creek). Bought for $100,000 in 2006 only months after future leading sire Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) sold for $80,000 as a yearling, she has produced three Grade 1 winners and is the dam or granddam of two Kentucky Derby runners. She also easily made that $100,000 back for her owners with her foals born post-sale bringing a combined $4.7 million in the sales ring. The filly she was carrying in 2006 when sold is also the dam of one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful Harry’s Holiday (Harlan’s Holiday), who is standing in Indiana.

Leslie's Lady's most accomplished runner, Beholder

Overall, 18 of the 20 mares with Derby runners have been through the sales ring at least once. Twelve of those sold the last time they went through the ring at an average of $152,833 with a farther six of them leaving the ring unsold. Keeneland has the most representation with 16 going through their pavilion while Fasig-Tipton had two go through their ring. In seven cases, the last time you could have purchased the mares at public auction was when they went through the ring as a yearling.

Sire Lines – Once again, Northern Dancer (Nearctic) runs the show in a big race with seven of the 15 Derby sires and nine of the 19 Derby broodmare sires descending from the Derby winner. Of those, Danzig and Storm Bird are the two more popular lines the sires come from with a combined 11 sires and broodmare sires from those two sons.

Of course, Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) is also a popular name in pedigrees here as well with three of the sires and five of the broodmare sires finding his name in their sire line.  But it’s a relatively young stallion who may be stealing the show shortly. Nineteen years younger than Mr. Prospector and 28 years younger than Northern Dancer A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) has a lot of influence over this field. Four of his sons or grandsons are sires of Derby runners while he and son Mineshaft are broodmare sires of runners in the field as well.

In all, four different sire lines (Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, A.P. Indy and Hail to Reason) have runners in the Derby descending through the tail male line while six sire lines (Northern Dancer, Seattle Slew/A.P. Indy, In Reality, Mr. Prospector, Sword Dancer, Nearctic) are represented by mares with runners.

SIRE LINES OF THE KENTUCKY DERBY
Stallion
Sire
Sire Line
Poseidon’s Warrior
Speightstown
Mr. Prospector
Union Rags
Dixie Union
Northern Dancer
Shackleford
Forestry
Northern Dancer
Scat Daddy
Johannesburg
 Northern Dancer
Into Mischief
Harlan’s Holiday
Northern Dancer
Curlin
Smart Strike
Mr. Prospector
Majestic Warrior
A.P. Indy
A.P. Indy
Tapit
Pulpit
A.P. Indy
Creative Cause
Giant’s Causeway
Northern Dancer
Medaglia d'Oro
El Prado
Northern Dancer
Awesome Again
Deputy Minister
Northern Dancer
Arch
Kris S
Hail to Reason
Malibu Moon
A.P. Indy
A.P. Indy
Take Charge Indy
A.P. Indy
A.P. Indy
Proud Citizen
Gone West
Mr. Prospector


Stud Fees – Many of the sires with runners here are standing for a higher fee in 2018 than they commanded in 2014 when this crop was conceived. The horse with the biggest fee increase from 2014 to 2018 at 400% is unsurprisingly Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday). You could have bred to that stallion for an advertised fee of $20,000 in 2014 while today you’ll struggle to get into his in-demand book at $100,000. Two other big increases are Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado) having a 150% increase from $100,000 to $250,000 and Tapit’s (Pulpit) fee doubling from $150,000 to $300,000 in 2015, a fee he still stands at.

Only two stallions have taken advertised stud fee dips with Majestic Warrior (A.P. Indy) dropping 27% to stand at approximately $16,411 when moving to Japan from the $22,500 he stood at in 2014 in Kentucky and Malibu Moon (A.P. Indy) capitalizing on Orb’s win in the Derby the previous year when standing at $95,000 in 2014 and now at $75,000 for a 21% decrease. Young stallions Poseidon’s Warrior (Speightstown) and Shackleford (Forestry) stand at the same fee they did in 2014 while Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy) moved to South Korea and doesn’t have an advertised fee that I could find and three of the stallions on this list died between 2014 and 2018 while Awesome Again (Deputy Minister) stands for a private fee.

The average stud fee for the Kentucky Derby sires in 2014 (taking out those with private or unknown fees and those who are now dead) was $49,900 in 2014 and has seen nearly a 100% increase to $99,791 in 2018.

KENTUCKY DERBY SIRE ADVERTISED STUD FEES
Stallion
2014 Fee
2018 Fee
Poseidon's Warrior
$6,500
$6,500
Union Rags
$35,000
$60,000
Shackleford
$20,000
$20,000
Scat Daddy
$30,000
Dead
Into Mischief
$20,000
$100,000
Curlin
$35,000
$150,000
Majestic Warrior
$22,500
$16,411
Tapit
$150,000
$300,000
Creative Cause
$15,000
$20,000
Medagalia d'Oro
$100,000
$250,000
Awesome Again
$75,000
Private
Arch
$40,000
Dead
Malibu Moon
$95,000
$75,000
Take Charge Indy
$20,000
Unknown
Proud Citizen
$15,000
Dead


Father/Sons – Racing is all about family connections and the horses are no different.  There are four different father/son or grandsire/grandson combinations in the Derby. In every case, one of them is a broodmare sire and the other is the sire of the runner with the already mentioned A.P. Indy having four sons or grandsons with runners in the race while also being the sire of a dam as well. In one case, the son is the broodmare sire while the sire is the sire of a runner with 24-year-old Awesome Again siring Bravazo in addition to his 18-year-old son Ghostzapper siring the dam of Justify (Scat Daddy).

Broodmare Credentials – If you’re looking for a way to figure out how to pick a broodmare who will turn into a superstar, the Derby is another example of there being no magic formula. The only thing the mares have in common on the track is that all 17 to have raced at least hit the board in one start but those starts range from maiden claiming races to Grade 1 races. Four of the dams never raced while only one dam was a Grade 1 winner (It’s Tricky). You can find the breakdown of how the mares did on the track (with stakes wins counting for more than graded stakes placings, ect) in the chart below.

Finish
# of Mares
G1W
1
SW
4
SP
3
Winner
6
Placed
3
Unraced
4

Fappiano Line – Fappiano’s (Mr. Prospector) sire line has been a very successful one with Derby winners in recent years as the sire or broodmare sire line of four of the last 10 Kentucky Derby winners. This year the line has one representative in Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon), whose dam is an Unbridled’s Song (Unbridled) daughter. The Unbridled branch of Fappiano’s line has been the most successful in recent years with two of the last three winners by sons of Unbridled’s Empire Maker.

Ages – While the ages of the Kentucky Derby sires range more toward mid-range this year with the average being 14.9 years, five of its sires are in the 10 and under club. Union Rags, Creative Cause and Take Charge Indy – three horses among the top of their 3-year-old crop in 2012 – are the youngest at nine years of age with two having Derby runners in their second crop and one in his first while the 24-year-old active stallion Awesome Again is the oldest. The stallions with the highest stud fees are in the 13 to 19 range with four of the six stallions still living in that age range standing for six figures. No stallion in any other range stands for more than $75,000.

Union Rags
The dams of runners this year average a bit lower age at 12.2 years old with eight aged 10 or under. Mr. Greeley’s Ambitious, the dam of Lone Sailor, is the youngest at eight years of age.  Leslie’s Lady, who is the most accomplished in the field in terms of what she’s produced is also the oldest at 22 years of age, five years older than the next oldest Surf Song (Storm Cat). Seventeen of the broodmares with runners in the field are under 15 years of age.

Expensive Runners – Three of the runners in the field give those who are willing to spend seven figures on yearlings or 2-year-olds hope. Good Magic (Curlin), Instilled Regard (Arch), and Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy) all hit at least $1-million in the sales ring with two of those bought as yearlings. Three others brought at least $500,000 while the average price you’d pay for a runner in this year’s Kentucky Derby at public auction was $557,625 (that drops to $394,800 when removing the $3-million Mendelssohn) with only three of those runners selling for under $120,000. My Boy Jack (Creative Cause) was the least expensive at $20,000 while Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy) left the ring unsold at $45,000 and four horses never went through the ring.

If you want a Derby runner, it looks like yearling auctions are where you’ll have the most success with 14 of the 17 runners who went through the ring last selling at yearling auctions with 13 of those coming from Keeneland September (including the unsold Noble Indy).

Storm Cat – Nearly exactly five years after his death (April 24, 2013), it seems fitting Storm Cat (Storm Bird) will be so well represented in the Kentucky Derby. Storm Cat never sired a Kentucky Derby winner or sired a son who did but this year he has four grand or great-grand sons with a combined seven (35%) runners in the field. Three of his sons also have daughters with runners in the race while Storm Cat himself is the broodmare sire of Solomini (Curlin).

Storm Cat is grouped in with the rest of the Northern Dancers above but is responsible for four of that stallion’s representatives on the sire side and four on the broodmare sire side to make the argument he has established his own sire line within the family.

Horse
Sire
Type
Shackleford
Forestry
Sire
Scat Daddy
Johannesburg
Sire
Into Mischief
Harlan’s Holiday
Sire
Creative Cause
Giant’s Causeway
Sire
Giant’s Causeway
Storm Cat
Broodmare Sire
Forestry
Storm Cat
Broodmare Sire
Storm Boot
Storm Cat
Broodmare Sire
Storm Cat
Storm Bird
Broodmare Sire


Homebreds – In an industry that lives and dies on bloodstock sales, the Kentucky Derby also shows that there are still breeders who race their homebreds with six of the 21 Kentucky Derby entrants having their breeders named as owners or co-owners. Two of those went through the ring with Stonestreet keeping a piece of Good Magic after he brought $1 million as a yearling and WinStar Farm keeping Noble Indy to race after he left the ring unsold at $45,000, though Repole Stable has joined in the partnership.  Four horses have never seen the sales ring with Firenze Fire, Hofburg, Enticed, and Bravazo all kept to race by their breeders.

Scat Daddy – Scat Daddy’s second-to-last crop is showing how big of a loss the stallion was to the industry when he died at 11 with four of the horses in the Kentucky Derby by the 2007 Kentucky Derby runner. Bred on an advertised fee of $30,000, they included Kentucky Derby first and second choice Justify and Mendelssohn who right now look like they’ll join their sire in going off at single digit odds (he was at 7.20-to-1 in the 2007 Derby) 11 years after his run. Scat Daddy has one more crop of runners in the wings with 160 current 2-year-olds, including three winners from six runners thus far according to Equineline.

Scat Daddy

Race Accomplishments – Touted as one of the most competitive Kentucky Derbys in recent years, looking at the field it’s easy to see why. From the 21 horses currently entered, 11 of them have either won or placed in Grade 1 races and a farther six have won or placed in Grade 2 races. However, even with the big accomplishments of the horses it is taking 1 less point to get in the race (29 v. 30) compared to last year but is taking more points to get in than any other year the points system has been used (first implemented in 2013).

Curlin – The 2007 Preakness winner and Horse of the Year has sired a classic placed horse every year of his stallion career. He’s sired  the winners of the Preakness and Belmont and looks to try and get that elusive Kentucky Derby victory in his fifth year of having 3-year-olds on the track. Curlin will have three runners in the race on Saturday with champion 2-year-old Good Magic, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner up Solomini, and Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso all lining up for him.

Derby Runners Siring Derby Runners – If you were to look at this year’s Kentucky Derby field, you’d probably conclude that to get a Kentucky Derby runner, you need to pick a sire who ran in the Derby. Of the 15 sires with Derby entries, eight ran in the Kentucky Derby (53 percent) with two of them hitting the board. Three of the sires also won U.S. classic races with Curlin (Smart Strike) and Shackleford (Forestry) winning the Preakness and Union Rags (Dixie Union) winning the Belmont Stakes.

Langfuhr  & Mineshaft – Lane’s End Farm’s evergreen stallions always seem to pop up in big races and the Derby is no exception. At 26 and 19 years of age, both Langfuhr and Mineshaft are still active in the shed while also seeing top horses produced by their daughters, as is the case in this Kentucky Derby with the stallions having two runners apiece as broodmare sires. Between them, Langfuhr and Mineshaft have combined for over 860 winners and 76 stakes winners as broodmare sires including seven graded/group stakes winners. Lane’s End is also the home of Derby sire Union Rags and stood Curlin when his three Derby winners were conceived in 2014 in addition to having the pensioned A.P. Indy.

Langfuhr
Late Birthdays – With Thoroughbreds officially turning a year older on January 1, it’s no surprise that breeders try to get mares to foal as close to the date as possible but this year is a win for the later foaling mares. Only two runners (My Boy Jack and Bravazo) were foaled in January, with both coming near the end of the month and three were foaled in February. The majority of the Derby runners were foaled in March (eight) with the dreaded May having the second most birthdays at six. Second choice Mendelssohn the youngest horse in the field with a May 17 birthday while My Boy Jack is the oldest with a January 26 birthday. It should also be noted that three of those May foals are Grade 1 winners.

Mendelssohn

Apollo Curse – A favorite topic of discussion this year is the Apollo Curse with morning line favorite Justify and third choice Magnum Moon both not racing at two. Since 1936, 41 Kentucky Derby fields have had at least one runner that didn’t race at two for 62 total horses from 681 to race in those 41 fields (making up only 9 percent of the 41 Kentucky Derby fields). The best finish of those 62 runners is three seconds (Bodemeister, Strodes Creek, and Coaltown) with five others finishing 3rd.  The biggest field with Apollo Curse entries was 1974’s with 23 runners (in which one of the two Apollo entries finished third and the other 12th) while the smallest was 1976 with nine (those horses finished 4th and 5th).  In all, 12.9% of the Apollo Curse horses have hit the board with 25.8% finishing in the top five.

It should be noted that only four of the horses went off as the favorite in the Derby, begging the question if the non-favored horses’ talent kept them from winning the Kentucky Derby more so than them not running at two.

Breeders' Cup Winners - Seeing multiple current/past Breeders' Cup winners in many races isn't an uncommon occurrence but this will be the first year it happens in the Kentucky Derby. Mendelssohn is the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner to run in the race while no Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies or Fillies Turf winner has run in the race and the two Juvenile Sprint winners also never made it to the race (Secret Circle was on the Derby trail and finished second in the Arkansas Derby but was hurt before the Kentucky Derby). Only two Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners have also won the Kentucky Derby - Nyquist and Street Sense - though Good Magic will be trying to be number three. 

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