Kentucky Derby pedigrees: 4 contenders to consider

Kentucky Derby pedigrees: 4 contenders to consider
Photo: Benoit Photo

Medina Spirit, Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie treated fans to a thrilling finish in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Hopefully, we’ll see the trio hook up in future 2021 Kentucky Derby preps. Meanwhile, Caddo River gave us a different kind of thrill when he destroyed rivals by 10 lengths in the Smarty Jones Stakes.

Let’s take a closer look at the abilities and expectations of these 3-year-old colts.

Medina Spirit

(Protonico - Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed)

Medina Spirit refused to give up in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3). Breaking from the rail, he was hounded on the lead every step of the way and met Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie’s challenges. Asserting dominance over his rivals, Medina Spirit galloped out in front. This isn’t your usual pricy Bob Baffert trainee. Bred by Gail Rice, the colt brought only $1,000 at the 2019 OBS Winter Mixed Sale as a yearling. He returned to the OBS auction in July and sold to his owners Zedan Racing Stables for $35,000 at the Horses of Racing Age sale.

Medina Spirit earned four Kentucky Derby qualifying points for his runner-up finish in the Sham (G3) and 10 points for his Robert B. Lewis victory. His 14 Derby points puts him in fourth place on the qualifying list, one point ahead of stablemate Spielberg. The colt owns two victories and a second-place finish in three starts, with earnings of $105,200.

In the last decade, five Robert B. Lewis winners returned for the San Felipe Stakes. Three finished first or second. Last year’s hero, Thousand Words, finished fourth in the San Felipe. Six of seven Robert B. Lewis winners contesting the Santa Anita Derby (G1) hit the board. Dortmund (2015) finished third in the Kentucky Derby, and I’ll Have Another (2012), won the Kentucky Derby and placed in the Preakness. The last four Robert B. Lewis winners skipped the Santa Anita Derby, and only Thousand Words raced in a Triple Crown race.

Pedigree: Medina Spirit has a deep, slanting shoulder and the conformation of a route horse. He lowers his head and has a steady, ground-eating stride with no wasted movement. He’s professional and keeps a straight course. His pedigree and conformation indicate that middle to classic distances shouldn’t be an issue. (Click here for pedigree chart.)

Protonico (Giant’s Causeway - Alpha Spirit, by A.P. Indy) is a good-looking dark bay son of Giant’s Causeway who physically resembles his damsire. Campaigned by Todd Pletcher for Sumaya U.S. Stable, Protonico won his 2-year-old debut at six furlongs but did his best work as a late-season 3-year-old through his fourth year.

Protonico won from six to nine furlongs and set a new track record of 1:48.79 for nine furlongs in the Ben Ali Stakes (G3). He couldn’t break through with a Grade 1 victory but came close in the Clark Handicap (G1), missing by a half-length to Hoppertunity. In his career finale, the Todd Pletcher trainee was third in the 10-furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Protonico retired with a 16: 7-1-2 ($997,587) record.

In 2017, Protonico stood his first year at stud in 2017 at Taylor Made Stallions for $6,500. The following year, he stood at Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky for the same fee and moved to his current location at Castleton-Lyons, Ky., with a $5,000 stud fee. The second-crop sire has 35 foals of racing age, eight starters and three winners, including his most accomplished, Medina Spirit.

Medina Spirit is the only foal out of Mongolian Changa. The mare won once in six starts, at a mile, and placed twice. Her half-brother Backstreet Boss (Street Boss) placed in the 5 1/2-furlong Buena Park Stakes, and he owns the only black type in the second generation of Medina Spirit’s distaff line. The third generation has similar results, with one stakes-placed sprinter as the most accomplished. We have to reach to Medina Spirit’s fourth generation to find a stakes winner. His fourth dam, Scoop the Gold (Forty Niner), produced multiple Grade 1 winner and sire High Yield (Storm Cat).  

Medina Spirit’s damsire Brilliant Speed (Dynaformer - Speed Succeeds, by Gone West) was adept on multiple surfaces but did his best work over the lawn. He won the 2011 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) over Polytrack and the Saranac Stakes (G3) on turf, both at nine furlongs. His only placing on the dirt was finishing third in the Belmont Stakes. In all, Brilliant Speed won or placed in 10 graded stakes, six of them at the Grade 1 level. Sadly, the stallion sired only four crops before being struck by lightning in his paddock. In all, he sired 129 foals, 100 starters, 78 winners, and three black type winners. Brilliant Speed’s first crop are 7-year-olds, and as a young broodmare sire, Medina Spirit is his first stakes winner.


Roman Centurian

(Empire Maker - Spare Change, by Bernardini)

Roman Centurian appeared to be climbing in the early stages and lingered at the back of the pack. He took the overland route, swinging five wide around the far turn. He hooked up with Hot Rod Charlie down the stretch and won the photo for second place by a nose. The Simon Callaghan trainee put in a strong effort in his first start against winners and earned four Kentucky Derby qualifying points. He owns a win and second in three starts and earnings of $60,020.

Roman Centurian was bred by Don Alberto Corp. and sold for $550,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling sale. He races in the partnership of Don Alberto Stable and Qatar Racing Limited.

Pedigree: Roman Centurian has the pedigree and conformation to handle middle to classic distances. He stays in his lane but paddles slightly with his right foreleg. (Click here for pedigree chart.)

The late, great Empire Maker was noted for passing stamina to his offspring. His stakes winners were best at a mile to ten furlongs, although his graded offspring won from seven to fourteen furlongs. His legacy will live on through his daughters, sons, and grandsons. The Empire Maker/Bernardini cross has yielded six winners plus Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) runner-up Storie Blue, Roman Centurian’s full sister.

Roman Centurian’s distaff line is comprised of elite Phipps family breeding. His second and third dams are Grade 1 winners, his fourth dam Blitey is Grade 1 placed, and fifth dam is 1966 champion 3-year-old filly Lady Pitt. Blitey and Lady Pitt are Rene-de-Course (superior females), noted for passing their class to their descendants.

Although his dam Spare Change was an indifferent runner, managing a win and second place in five starts, she’s produced two stakes-placed runners from five starters. Her 2-year-old daughter Silent Lady is a full sister to Roman Centurian and Storie Blue, and she has a yearling Tiznow daughter.


Hot Rod Charlie

(Oxbow - Indian Miss, by Indian Charlie)

Hot Rod Charlie was game in the Robert B. Lewis, fighting between Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian, not giving an inch in his 3-year-old debut. It’s uncommon for a young horse to be sandwiched between two determined competitors and not to give way. The Doug O’Neil trainee showed promise in the fall of last year. Tossed into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) directly after graduating, Hot Rod Charlie put away a tiring Jackie’s Warrior in the stretch but couldn’t hold off Essential Quality, missing victory by 3/4-length. It was an excellent effort, and I expect that he learned a lot from the race.

Hot Rod Charlie was bred by Edward Cox Jr. He sold for $110,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling sale and is campaigned by the partnership of Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing LLC, and William Strauss. The dark bay colt earned two Kentucky Derby qualifying points and has a total of 10 points.  

Pedigree: Hot Rod Charlie is still maturing, yet he’s professional. He keeps a straight path when he runs. Hot Rod Charlie has a miler pedigree yet may go farther with maturity and conditioning. (Click here for pedigree chart.)

Preakness winner Oxbow has five stakes winners from 139 winners. His most accomplished runner is Gulfstream Oaks (G2) winner Coach Rocks. None of his stakes winners have won beyond 1 1/6-miles.

Hot Rod Charlie’s half-brother is 2019 Champion Male Sprinter Mitole (Eskendereya). The speedy warrior won six of seven starts in 2019, capping off a brilliant career with a 1 1/4-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He was never off the board in 14 starts and retired with $3,104,910.

Despite not winning in three career starts, all of Indian Miss’ runners are winners. Hot Rod Charlie is her fifth foal and second black type earner. She has an unnamed 2-year-old filly and just bore a colt, both by Into Mischief.

Hot Rod Charlie’s second dam was the brilliant but fragile Glacken’s Fal. She won the Astoria in her second and last start. Her sole black type earner is Live Lively (Medaglia d’Oro), winner of the Davona Dale (G2), and she placed in the Gulfstream Oaks (G2). The third generation of the family includes multiple stakes placed (nine furlongs), Bankers Buy (Distorted Humor), and listed winning sprinter City Dweller (Carson City).

Indian Charlie imparts speed to his daughter’s offspring. Out of 43 graded/listed winners, only three have won at nine furlongs, all over turf.


Caddo River

(Hard Spun - Pangburn, by Congrats)

How impressive was Caddo River in the Smarty Jones Stakes? He flowed home 10 1/4 lengths in front of Cowan. That one previously finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G2) and Springboard Mile. The Brad Cox trainee traveled a mile in 1:38.19, with steady interior splits of 24.04, 25.26, 12.84, and 12.93. The Shortleaf Stable homebred has a record of 4: 2-2-0 and 10 Derby qualifying points. We may see him again in the Rebel Stakes (G2) on March 13.

Nine of the last 10 Smarty Jones Stakes winners competed in the Southwest Stakes. Far Right (2015) won, but none of the others hit the board. Three made it to the Rebel Stakes and four to the Arkansas Derby. Two Smarty Jones winners continued to the Triple Crown races, and none hit the board. The majority of previous Smarty Jones winners stayed on the sprinter/miler path except for Far Right, who placed in the Arkansas Derby, and Will Take Charge, who was named 2013’s 3-year-old champion colt.

Pedigree: Caddo River may handle middle to classic distances. (Click here for pedigree chart.)

In 2007, Hard Spun was a member of the stellar 3-year-old crop that included Kentucky Derby hero Street Sense, future Hall of Fame member Curlin and the amazing Rags to Riches, who beat Curlin in an epic Belmont Stakes. Grade 1 winner Any Given Saturday was part of this group, and although she owned only a maiden and allowance win at the time, Zenyatta would become one of the best mares of her generation.

Hard Spun won graded stakes from seven to nine furlongs and placed at 10 furlongs. His offspring have no limitations and win at all distances and over all surfaces.

Caddo River is out of stakes winner and multiple graded placed miler Pangburn, an honest mare who hit the board in nine of 17 tries. The Smarty Jones winner is her second foal to compete and first stakes winner. Pangburn has a 2-year-old Into Mischief filly named Como Square, plus a yearling Nyquist colt.

Pangburn is one of a trio of stakes winners produced by It’s True Love (Is It True). It’s True Love won at 1 1/6-miles and placed at a mile and 1 1/8-miles. Her daughter Eres Tu (Malibu Moon) captured the Allaire DuPont Stakes at 1 1/8-miles, and a son, Ain’t Got Time (Roman Ruler), is a stakes-winning miler.

Congrats, a well-bred son of A.P. Indy, is a young broodmare sire with just four graded/listed winners. The most accomplished of his daughters’ offspring is last year’s Kentucky Oaks heroine, Shedaresthedevil. Two winners are turf routers, which gives a good indication that he will pass along his sire’s stamina.



Meet Laurie Ross


 HRN Pedigree Analyst 

 Handicapper 

 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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