2016 Kentucky Derby - Sunny Ridge Pedigree Profile

February 04, 2016 01:14am

It is ironic that on the day of the Holy Bull Stakes in Florida, a son of Holy Bull would win the Withers Stakes in New York. In his first outing of the year, Sunny Ridge added his name to the list of 2016 Kentucky Derby Contenders with his ¾ length victory in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. The Grade 3 race attracted a field of six colts and geldings and included the Jerome Stakes winner, Flexibility.


The Withers Stakes turned into a plodding match race between Sunny Ridge and the pacesetter Vorticity. The pair clicked off fractions of :24.56, 49.81, 1:14.70, and 1:40.08 for a mile. Racing comfortably on the outside of his rival, Sunny Ridge wasn’t asked to pick it up until mid-stretch. He battled gamely, but ducked inwards slightly after a couple of right handed smacks from jockey Manny Franco. Despite the ducking, Sunny Ridge continued to fight a tough Vorticity before drawing ahead of his rival. The gray/roan gelding flashed under the wire in 1:46.99. The time was the slowest since the race distance was expanded to 1 1/16 miles in 2012.  


SUNNY RIDGE  (Holy Bull - Lignum Vitae, by Songandaprayer) a member of the last crop of the great Holy Bull, races in the silks of Dennis Drazin his owner/breeder.  Drazin is a member of the company that owns Monmouth Park. Jason Servis, brother of John, of Smarty Jones fame, conditions the gelding. Sunny Ridge has compiled an excellent 6-3-2-0 ($524,752) race record, including a victory in the Sapling Stakes and runner-up finishes in the Champagne Stakes (G1) and Delta Downs Jackpot (G3). He has 18 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.



Sunny Ridge sire holy bullHoly Bull (Great Above - Sharon Brown, by Al Hattab) was one of the best colts of his generation.  Holy Bull’s only losses came in the Fountain of Youth, the Kentucky Derby, in which he was the favorite, and Holy Bull’s last race, the Donn Handicap, in which he went head and head with the legendary Cigar for ½ mile before being pulled up with a severely strained tendon. The gray horse won from seven furlongs to 1 ¼ miles. In the money in 13 of 16 starts, the pretty gray horse earned Eclipse Awards as 1994 Champion 3-year-old colt and Horse of the Year.  He was inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2001. Holy Bull was ranked #64 on the Blood-Horse Magazine’s List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century and was included in the DRF’s book, ‘Champions.’


Holy Bull began his long-lived stud career at Jonabell Farm, near Lexington Kentucky. He was off to a good start at stud when Confessional, a daughter from his first crop, won the Frizette Stakes (G1). Often, the very best horses don’t replicate themselves at stud. This was the case with Holy Bull.  A very solid sire, Holy Bull sired six Grade One winners, including Champion 2 Year Old Macho Uno and Kentucky Derby shocker Giacomo. Holy Bull’s offspring are best at sprints to middle distances.  His only graded stakes winner at classic distances is Giacomo.


Despite his modest pedigree, Holy Bull was popular with breeders looking for an outcross. He bears bloodlines crucial to the Thoroughbred breed. Unlike most stallions standing at stud, Holy Bull is free of the genes of Northern Dancer, Bold Ruler, and Mr. Prospector. Instead, his sire line traces back to the Florida foundation sire and Brilliant/Classic Chef-de-race, Rough’N Tumble. Much farther back in Holy Bull’s sire line, we find 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit. Holy Bull and his stallion sons are the only male line descending from Plaudit in the U.S.


In addition, Holy Bull carries the bloodlines of the Champion Sprinter Intentionally, a Brilliant/Intermediate chef-de-race who was a great-grandson of Man O’War; notable broodmare sire The Axe; and Brilliant/Intermediate chef-de-race Gray Dawn, another leading broodmare sire.

The 25-year-old Holy Bull retired from stud duty in 2012. He sired 53 stakes winners and one champion from 18 crops. He is represented by a dozen sons standing at stud, but only one, Macho Uno, has been a reliable producer of stakes winners.  


Holy Bull likely carries the X-Factor (large heart) gene.  His dam Sharon Brown is a double copy mare, since both her sire and dam are X-Factor gene carriers. Typical of large heart sires, Holy Bull has a reputation as a quality broodmare sire.

Holy Bull’s daughters have produced over 40 stakes winners, including multiple graded stakes winners Judy the Beauty, Cairo Prince, Munnings, Going Ballistic, and Conveyance. 


Female Family

You never know when the genes will align to create a stakes winner, and this clearly occurred in Sunny Ridge’s case.


Sunny Ridge is the second foal out of his dam and the first to race. Lignum Vitae (Songandaprayer - Slewdacious, by Seattle Slew) was bred and raced by Sunny Ridge’s owner Dennis Drazin in conjunction with John and Cesare Kimmel. Lignum Vitae raced twice and was third in a maiden claiming race before being retired. Sunny Ridge’s second dam Slewdacious was unraced. None of her offspring earned blacktype, but five of her six foals to race hit the board.


His third dam, the popular stakes veteran Bodacious Tatas, earned $439,932 in 57 starts, including a victory in the Molly Pitcher Handicap (G2) at 1 1/16 miles. Bodacious Tatas was the only notable blacktype winner in Sunny Ridge’s third generation. A couple of her half-sisters bore minor blacktype earners, but overall, this female family is runners who earn their money the hard way.


sunny ridge pedigree profile



Songandaprayer sunny ridgeSongandaprayer (Unbridled's Song - Alizea, by Premiership) doesn’t typify the usual son of Unbridled’s Song, who renowned for stamping his offspring, many looked like closes of their large, gray sire.  Songandaprayer is a bay stallion and was more precocious than many of his sire’s progeny. His offspring are overwhelmingly sprinter/milers. Anything beyond 1 1/16 miles is a tough assignment for them. He is a young broodmare sire of seven stakes winners, two of them, including Sunny Ridge, are graded.

Sunny Ridge’s second damsire is Seattle Slew, a Brilliant/Classic chef de race.



Winners of the Withers Stakes haven’t been competitive in the Kentucky Derby. In the last five years, five colts who raced in the Withers entered the Derby starting gate. The only one to hit the board was Revolutionary, who finished third.


Sunny Ridge has a smooth running action. He was professional in the early stages of the Withers and responded when called upon. He did duck slightly from the whip, but straighten out quickly without losing momentum. Sunny Ridge didn’t beat Vorticity by much, but it was clear that he wasn’t about to let his rival by. Vorticity is a well-bred stakes winner who has hit the board in all five of his starts.  No conformation photos of Sunny Ridge are available, however on screen, the gelding is lean and leggy.


Sunny Ridge’s pedigree is filled with miler attributes. The farther he goes the more vulnerable he will be. He wasn’t flattered by the glacial final time of the Withers. Yet, he has the determination and with the right set up, Sunny Ridge could possibly beat lesser horses at 1 1/8 miles.


Currently Sunny Ridge’s connections are aiming for the Preakness and the gelding’s long-term goal is the Haskell Stakes.  Sunny Ridge will contest one more graded event in New York, either the Gotham on March 5, or wait for the Wood Memorial on April 9. Sunny Ridge could develop into a nice miler, but at this point, he doesn’t appear to be Kentucky Derby material.


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Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

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