Every year, the Kentucky Derby starting gate holds a couple of contenders that later prove to be better over the turf. Last year’s Blue Grass Stakes winner Stately Victor punched his ticket to Louisville with the victory, but was finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby. Since then, he’s found his calling as a Polytrack/turf specialist. Last year’s second place finisher in the Blue Grass, Paddy O’Prado, ran well in the Derby, placing fourth over a muddy track, but Paddy O’Prado proved to be a superior grass horse, taking the Secretariat (G-1), Virginia Derby (G-2) and Colonial turf Cup (G-2). This is no surprise, since Paddy O’Prado had a predominately turf pedigree.
Brilliant Speed, this year’s surprise winner of the Blue Grass Stakes earned his way into the Kentucky Derby with a spectacular last to first stretch drive to run down Twinspired in the shadow of the wire, snatching victory by a short nose. The Albertrani trainee traveled 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.92, getting the last 1/8 mile in a good 12:23. Not bad for a colt whose actual third birthday isn’t until April 23.
Brilliant Speed’s pedigree is similar to that of one of the most popular and talented Derby winners in recent times, Barbaro. That valiant Champion proved that he was equally adept over dirt and turf. Let’s take a closer look at Brilliant Speed’s bloodlines to discover if he has what it takes to be competitive in the Kentucky Derby.
BRILLIANT SPEED (Dynaformer - Speed Succeeds, by Gone West) was a late-maturing youngster. Although the Pin Oak Stud homebred started his career sprinting on the dirt last July at Saratoga, the dark brown colt didn’t win his maiden until December, capturing his fifth start while routing over the lawn. He quickly jumped into stakes action, losing a nose decision in the Dania Beach Stakes and was mugged by his stable mate King Congie in the Hallandale Beach Stakes, finishing third by half a length.
Brilliant Speed is bred to run all day. His sire Dynaformer entered the starting gate 30 times, winning seven times. He equaled the track record at Aqueduct in the 1 1/8 mile Lucky Draw Stakes as a three year old, but after unsuccessful tries in the Jim Beam (Spiral) Stakes and Wood Memorial, Dynaformer skipped the Triple Crown and triumphed in the Jersey Derby (G-3) over turf. The Wayne Lukas trainee was successful in the Discovery Handicap (G-2) over dirt and placed in the 13 furlong Gallant Fox (G-2) and General George Stakes.
Dynaformer out-performed his career as a race horse in the breeding shed. He is a respected international sire, known for getting classy, long-winded runners. He’s been on the leading sires list for years and earned top honors in 2005. His offspring are predominantly turf horses, but he’s been known to get winners over dirt and he is also a superior sire of synthetic track runners. The 26 year old son of Roberto has sired three champions, 52 graded stakes winners and 120 listed stakes winners world-wide. His runners include the hard-knocking multi-millionaire Perfect Drift, last year’s Melbourne Cup hero Americain, English Champions Lucarno, Rainbow View, and steeplechase legend, McDynamo.
Brilliant Speed’s dam Speed Succeeds was unraced and has produced only one other foal of racing age which is also unraced. Speed Succeeds represents a strong distaff line. She’s a half sister to Falls City Handicap (G-2) heroine Serenading and that one’s full sister, listed stakes winner Handpainted, winner of the Ontario Debutante; The second dam Daijin is a stakes winning full sister to Belmont Stakes hero and sire Touch Gold. Additionally, she’s a half sister to Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval, the listed stakes winners Sweeping Change, Bar U Mood, and grade 3 stakes placed Launch Key. Brilliant Speed’s third dam is 1989 Canadian Broodmare of the Year Passing Mood. This family has produced the speedy New York specialist Haynesfield and Santa Margarita Invitational (G-1) champ Healthy Addiction. This Lowe Family number 2-n hasn’t produced a Kentucky Derby winner, but has been represented by Preakness heroes Point Given (2001) and Whimsical (1906) and in the Belmont by Point Given and Touch Gold (1997), and High Echelon (1970).
Gone West, Brilliant Speed’s damsire, won or placed in 12 of 17 attempts while racing at the top levels. He raced with a strong crop of three year olds which included Alysheba, Gulch, Cryptoclearance, Java Gold and Polish Navy. He was triumphant in the Dwyer (G-1), Gotham and Withers Stakes.
Gone West, a son of the Mr. Prospector sire line, is highly ranked on the broodmare sire lists. His daughters have produced 15 stakes winners who have won at 1 ¼ miles or farther, including the Suburban Handicap winner Frost Giant, Epsom Derby Champion Motivator, and La Prevoyante winner Herboriste. Gone West is also the damsire of previously mentioned Healthy Addiction, last year’s Eclipse Champion Juvenile Filly Awesome Feather, this year’s Swale Stakes winner Travelin Man and Willcox Inn, who was eighth behind Brilliant Speed in the Blue Grass.
Brilliant Speed receives plenty of stamina from his distaff family. Besides his damsire Gone West, his second and third damsires, the Champions Deputy Minister and Buckpasser contribute Classic influences to his pedigree.
The Dynaformer/Gone West bloodline cross has produced eleven starters, four winners, and two blackype horses, Brilliant Speed and stakes placed Mystic Bell. Dynaformer crossed with other sons of Mr. Prospector have produced 14 stakes winners including Kentucky Derby Champ Barbaro and German Champion Weiner Walzer.
There’s no doubt that Brilliant Speed has the pedigree to travel 1 ¼ miles and could even get the 1 ½ miles of the Belmont Stakes. Both his sire and damsire are versatile, getting winners over every surface, so it’s no surprise that Brilliant Speed handled the Polytrack and is a nose shy of stakes winner status over the lawn. However, the few times Brilliant Speed raced over the dirt early in his career were the worst races in his young life. His morning breezes are on the slow, conservative side, which could also be an indicator that turf is his preferred surface. At this point, Brilliant Speed appears to be a budding turf star. Often these horses do well over a sloppy track. Trainer Tom Albertrani stated that Brilliant Speed will have only one breeze over the Churchill dirt surface before the Kentucky Derby. Watch that work closely and pray for rain.