Ky. Derby 2023 pedigrees: Is Kingsbarns another Justify?

Ky. Derby 2023 pedigrees: Is Kingsbarns another Justify?
Photo: Scott Serio / Eclipse Sportswire

Kingsbarns destroyed a full field in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, including Grade 3 Lecomte winner Instant Coffee and Grade 2 Risen Star runner-up Sun Thunder.

Flavien Prat immediately sent Kingsbarns to the front in the 1 3/16 mile race and slowed the pace to a crawl. The tactic left Prat with a lot of horse at the top of the stretch, and the bay colt surged ahead of his rivals to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Disarm moved late to gain second place ahead of a tiring Jace's Road. Kingsbarns flashed under the wire in 1:57.33, the slowest time since the Fair Grounds track was rebuilt in 2007.

The Todd Pletcher trainee is undefeated in three starts. Kingsbarns graduated at first asking in January, winner at a mile by 1 3/4 lengths. Then, in his second start, Kingsbarns outclassed rivals at Tampa in a 1-mile 40-yard allowance optional claiming contest. Kingsbarns earned $657,300 and 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points in just three short months.

Bred by Parks Investment Group, LLC, Kingsbarns (Uncle Mo – Lady Tapit, by Tapit) sold for $250,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling and sold the following year at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-year-olds in training sale to Spendthrift Farm for $800,000.  


Uncle Mo has become an accomplished sire in just a few short years.

Right off the bat, Uncle Mo proved himself as a classic sire with his first crop when his son Nyquist won the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

He proved it wasn't a fluke when Mo Donegal came along to win last year's Belmont Stakes. In between, Uncle Mo produced multiple Grade 1 winner Bast, who was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, and the speedy Golden Pal, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint the following year.

Female Family

Kingsbarns' distaff line is filled with a mix of international stakes winners.

His dam Lady Tapit (Tapit - Temperence Gift, by Kingmambo) made it to the winner's circle only once in 12 attempts, but she finished third in the 1 1/16 mile Adoration Stakes (G3) on dirt and was fourth, beaten a head for third, in the 1 1/8 mile Santa Margarita (G1).

The second foal out of Lady Tapit, Kingsbarns has two younger half-brothers, an unnamed 2-year-old by Union Rags and a yearling by Gun Runner.  

Lady Tapit's most accomplished sibling is her half-sister Gozzip Girl. This Dynaformer daughter won turf stakes races ranging from 1 1/16 mile listed Coconut Grove Stakes to the American Oaks Invitational (G1) at 1 1/4 miles. In addition, she was second in the 2009 Ashland (G1) over Polytrack. Gozzip Girl was brought privately by Japanese interests and bore two stakes winners, one on turf, the other dirt. Additionally, a Galileo half-sister bore two Argentinian turf group winners.

1993 Breeders' Cup Juvenile hero Brocco and Grade 1 winning turf miler and sire Bal a Bali are part of the extended family.

The pretty gray stallion Tapit needs no introduction as a sire. However, he's making inroads as a damsire, too. Of 750 winners, 87 are stakes winners, including last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile hero Cody's Wish (Curlin), Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) winner Harvey's Lil Goil (American Pharoah), plus classic-distance winners like 2021 Pacific Classic hero Tripoli (Kitten's Joy) and listed winner Home Brew (Street Sense).

Kingsbarns is bred on the same Uncle Mo/Tapit cross as Pneumatic, a listed winner at 1 1/16 miles, who was also third in the Matt Winn (G3), and fourth behind Tiz the Law in the 1 1/8 mile Belmont (G1). Remember, the Belmont Stakes distance was altered that year due to COVID.  

Kingsbarns first two damsires are carriers of the large-heart gene, and the colt's performance suggests that he also does. The Pedigree Query chart of his female family marked in red for single copy and blue for double copy traces the large-heart gene.

Kingsbarns pedigree

Kentucky Derby Contender or Pretender?

Only three Louisiana Derby winners captured the Kentucky Derby, Black Gold in 1924, Lil E. Tee in 1992, and Grindstone in 1996.

But since the Kentucky Derby Points Qualification system was put into play in 2012, we've seen a higher quality of runners who have done well in Kentucky. 

In the last two years, Louisiana Derby winners Epicenter and Hot Rod Charlie placed second in Kentucky. In 2021, Mandaloun was inexplicably sixth in Louisiana, and Country House was fourth in 2019. Both finished second in the Derby but earned winner's bragging rights as Kentucky Derby winners when Medina Spirit and Maximum Security were disqualified.

So, what are Kingsbarns' chances of becoming our next Kentucky Derby winner? I'd say pretty slim. 

On the plus side, Kingsbarns has a classic pedigree. He runs straight without paddling, switches leads correctly and keeps a straight path down the lane.

In addition, Kingsbarns has tactical "push button" speed, has conquered his foes with ease, and may also have a large heart.

Now hear me out – some detractors insist that the large heart "gene" has been disproven. However, a large heart in a Thoroughbred is a gene mutation; not every horse carries it.

The simple way to tell if a horse has a larger than average heart is through ECG measurements of heart size, stroke volume, and cardiac output.

Several researchers note that heartscore directly correlates to a horse's class and that horses with a high heartscore earned twice as much as those without.

Now, back to Kingsbarns' Kentucky Derby chances.

On the minus side, the talented Kingsbarns has just three starts under his girth, didn’t race at two, and he bested a weak Louisiana Derby field in a lethargic 1:57.33.

Additionally, we must consider Todd Pletcher's dubious Derby history. Since 2000, Pletcher has entered 65 hopefuls in the run for the roses, more than any trainer since the race's inception. From 65, he has a 2-2-4 record.

The hall-of-famer is noted for sending lightly raced contenders to Kentucky. Last year, Charge It followed a similar pattern; he began his career in January and placed in the Florida Derby two starts later. He wound up finishing 17 of 20.

In 2021, Sainthood followed a similar pattern of three career starts and finished eleventh in Kentucky.

So readers, don't think I'm picking on Mr. Pletcher. Other trainers, such as Brad Cox, Mark Casse, and John Sadler, discovered that three lifetime starts before the Kentucky Derby doesn't yield good results. Neither does zero form as a 2-year-old.

Although Bob Baffert sent Justify to capture the Kentucky Derby in his fourth lifetime start, he was the first colt in 136 years to win the Derby without racing as a juvenile. Odds are pretty good that we won’t see this happen again anytime soon.

Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB

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.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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