Kentucky Derby 2019 Pedigrees: New qualifiers face distance test

April 11, 2019 09:50am

With only a couple of prep races left to settle the final field for the 2019 Kentucky Derby, we’ll discover which contenders can carry their speed and handle tougher competition. 

The Kentucky Derby pedigree watch reviews the bloodlines, conformation, running style, and other details of those 3-year-olds most likely to have earned a spot in the starting gate.  

This week, examine some newer Derby trail contenders.

(Quality Road - Ghost Dancing, by Silver Ghost)

Trainer: Bob Baffert
Race Record: 4: 3-0-1 ($706,200)
Last Race: 1st Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Derby Points: 100

Roadster handed Game Winner his second defeat in as many starts in the Santa Anita Derby. Mike Smith settled the pretty gray son of Quality Road on the rail, three lengths behind the pacesetter Instagrand in the early stages of the race, but when everyone else picked it up, Roadster suddenly found himself eight lengths out of it. Not to worry. Smith said “go” at the 3/4 pole and Roadster picked it up, winging four wide around the turn and passing rivals as if they were tied to the rail. His stablemate Game Winner put up some resistance after fighting past a tiring Instagrand, but Roadster prevailed by a half length under a hand ride. 

Roadster is the fifth foal and third black type earner in his immediate family. His half-brother Ascend is a turf router and captured the Manhattan Stakes (G1) at 1 1/4-miles and the Henry S. Clark at a mile. Half-brother Moro Tap is a multiple stakes-placed turf router and recorded a pair of third-place finishes in the Louisville Handicap (G3) at 1 1/2 miles and the Centaur Stakes at a mile. Their dam is a stakes-placed sprinter. There’s plenty of class in the third generation of this distaff line, including third dam Dance Teacher, a Grade 1 winner at 1 1/4 miles, and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf hero Hootenanny, the first starter and stakes winner for his sire, Quality Road. 

Quality Road was a superior middle-distance runner who set, then lowered, his own track record for 1 1/8 miles. He also set a new track record at Saratoga for 6 1/2 furlongs. Yet, he’s a perfect example of a horse who one would think could get 1 1/4 miles given his dominance at 1 1/8 miles. But all three times he raced at 10 furlongs, he finished second, third and off the board. Quality Road’s progeny are naturally strong middle-distance types. Four have competed successfully in stakes at 1 1/4 miles and farther, notably 2017 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Abel Tasman.

Silver Ghost, a well-bred son of Mr. Prospector, never captured a stakes race, but he evolved into a strong damsire. The majority of his daughters’ offspring are fleet sprinters, headed by multiple Grade 1 winner Yonaguska. Silver Ghost is the damsire of four winners at 1 1/4 miles or father, but all are turf routers. 

Derby Distance Verdict: Borderline.
Roadster’s pedigree is strongly middle distance, yet he certainly runs like he can go longer. He got his final furlong of the Santa Anita Derby in 12.79, ahead of Game Winner’s slowing 12.99 and Instagrand’s 13.28. His conformation is more of a distance horse than a sprinter/miler. Roadster runs straight with no paddling and didn’t drift in the stretch of the Santa Anita Derby. His stride was shorter than I’d like to see, and he runs slightly upright. Given his running style and connections, he’s certainly one of the top contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby. 

(Bodemeister - Pied a Terre, by City Zip)

Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Race Record: 5: 0-3-0 ($208,700)
Last Race: 2nd Florida Derby (G1)
Derby Points: 40

Bodexpress took advantage of the Gulfstream Park speedway to earn a graded stakes placing while still a maiden. He shadowed Maximum Security the entire way and finished a clear second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Code of Honor. The track offered quick final times. Bodexpress got his final furlong in 12.75, while Code of Honor got his in 12.78.

Bodemeister was declared the favorite for the Kentucky Derby off his huge score at Oaklawn. The colt led the Derby charge from the outset and, with a three-length lead in the lane, looked like a clear winner. However, he was passed in late stretch by I’ll Have Another, beaten 1 1/2 lengths. The Preakness Stakes was a slightly shorter version of the Kentucky Derby. Bodemeister, favored over I’ll Have Another, took the lead from the outset, only to be run down by I’ll Have Another and lose this time by a neck. It was announced a few months later that Bodemeister was retiring to stud at WinStar Farm due to a nerve injury. So far, Bodemeister has 10 stake winners from three racing crops, including the 2017 Kentucky Derby hero Always Dreaming. 

Bodexpress is the second foal and first black type earner out of an unraced half-sister to the multiple stakes-winning turf horse Stormy Lord, who was proficient up to 1 1/8 miles, and to stakes winner Incredicat, capable at 1 1/16 miles. Third dam Explosive Kate was a turf miler/middle distance stakes winner. 

As a damsire City Zip has close to 30 blacktype earners, but only four of them have won stakes. None have won beyond 1 1/16 miles. However, City Zip is the sire of five winners at 1 1/4 miles and farther. Two are winners on dirt, so it’s possible that one of his daughters may eventually bear a winner at classic distances. 

Derby Distance Verdict: Borderline. No conformation photos of this one are available. Bodexpress’ pedigree is solid for 1 1/8 miles, but can a maiden win the Kentucky Derby? Rules are being broken all the time in racing. First, Street Sense was the first modern horse to win the Derby off just two preps. Now it’s commonplace. Justify was the first in eons to win after not racing as a 2-year-old. So why not? Three maidens have won the Kentucky Derby, with the last of them Brokers Tip in 1933. Possible? Yes. Likely? Not really.

Gray Magician
(Graydar - Burg Berg, by Johannesburg)

Trainer: Peter Miller
Race Record: 8: 1-3-2 ($584,140)
Last Race: 2nd UAE Derby (Gr.2)
Derby Points: 41

Gray Magician raced mid-pack, on the outside of Plus Que Parfait, early on. He made a wide move around the turn to get up for second, just 3/4 of a length behind Plus Que Parfait. The final time was 1:58.41 for the 1 3/16 miles. Gray Magician got his final furlong in 12.86.  

Gray Magician is the third foal and second stakes winner in his immediate family. His full brother Lombo won last year’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3). Although there’s little black type in the first three generations of his distaff line, Gray Magician’s first four dams are black type earners. His dam is a stakes-winning turf miler, while second dam Snowberg is a stakes-winning sprinter who ran third in the Santa Margarita Handicap (G1) at 1 1/8-miles. The third and fourth dams were winning sprinters. 

Young sire Graydar is a two-time stakes winner at 1 1/8-miles, and he’s currently the No. 3 third-crop sire by earnings. 

Damsire Johannesburg is a world-class sprinter/miler. His daughter’s offspring are producing the same. He’s the damsire of one winner at 1 1/4-miles in the U.S., Collected. 

Derby Distance Verdict: Borderline. It’s all about class. Any horse can run any distance. The issue is the class of the horses they face. Compare running 1 3/16 miles against European horses whose form doesn’t transfer to dirt, and those who aren’t competitive against Grade 2 and Grade 3 company, versus facing the likes of Omaha Beach and Tacitus. Colts who compete in Dubai so far haven’t transferred their form to Kentucky. I don’t expect this year to be any different.

(Hard Spun - Zaftig, by Gone West)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Race Record: 4: 2-1-1 ($260,000)
Last Race: 2nd Louisiana Derby (G2)
Derby Points: 40 Louisiana Derby

Spinoff has flashed talent in his short four-race career. In the Louisiana Derby, he raced three wide on the outside of By My Standards in the initial stages while his rival got a cozy rail trip. Spinoff was game in defeat, missing the victory by only 3/4 of a length. 

Spinoff is the fourth foal and second black type earner in his immediate family. His half-brother Rugbyman is stakes placed at 1 1/16 miles. Their sprinter/miler dam earned more than $400,000 while capturing the 1-mile Acorn Stakes (G1) and Nassau County Stakes (G3) at seven furlongs. She was also third in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Zaftig’s half-sister, Zo Impressive (Hard Spun), captured the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose (G1) and placed in the Acorn Stakes, plus the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Gulfstream Oaks (G2). Her offspring include Souper Tapit, a stakes winner at 1 1/8-miles, plus two turf sprinter/milers. Spinoff’s second dam Zoftig won the Selene Stakes (G1) at 1 1/16 miles and placed in three other graded stakes, including the Pucker-up (G3) at  1 1/8 miles. Zoftig’s half-sister bore Verve’s Tale, a graded stakes winner at nine furlongs, and Tale of Verve, who was second in the 2015 Preakness.

Hard Spun is also the sire of Hidden Scroll. His offspring tend to grow into their talent. He’s sired five stakes winners at the routes, including Alabama heroine Questing, and the long-winded Hard Aces. Gone West is the damsire of 65 graded or listed stakes winners in the U.S. and Canada, including Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Awesome Feather, Belmont Stakes hero and sire Union Rags, Blue Grass Stakes hero Brilliant Speed, and Grade 1 winners Healthy Addiction, Game Face, Frost Giant and Violence. His daughters produce everything from brilliant sprinters to classic winners. 

Derby Distance Verdict: Borderline.
The breeding and talent are there, but like many Pletcher runners, he’s lightly raced and could get chewed up by the Triple Crown rigors. He could be more competitive as a later 3 or 4-year-old.  

Win Win Win

(Hat Trick (JPN) - Miss Smarty Pants, by Smarty Jones)

Trainer: Michael Trombetta
Race Record: 6: 3-2-1 ($367,300)
Last Race: 2nd Blue Grass Stakes (G2)
Derby Points: 50

Win Win Win played bumper cars at the start of the Blue Grass Stakes, had to steady in rush hour traffic at the 5/16 pole before the turn, then took a five-wide detour through the clubhouse before finally getting clear running room in the stretch. He ducked in, and then out down the stretch, while steadily passing tired horses. Unfortunately, it was too late to catch Vekoma. 

Win Win Win is the third foal and first black type earner in his immediate family. His dam is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winning turf miler Unbridled Humor and his second dam, Devotion Unbridled, is a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles. The third generation includes sprinter/miler types, some of whom placed at 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 miles, including Grade 1 stakes-placed Globetrotter and juvenile graded stakes winner Poker Player. 

Hat Trick, the first Group 1-winning son of Sunday Silence to stand in North America, is the sire of 11 graded/listed stakes winners in the U.S. and Canada. His offspring are slower maturing, best as 3 to 5-year-olds, and capable at all distances. His offspring find their greatest success over the lawn, although a few have won minor stakes on dirt.

Smarty Jones needs no introduction to racing fans. The two-time classic winner is a young damsire, with only four stakes winners to his credit. Three are sprinters, but one, Sky Captain, captured the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day Stakes over Woodbine’s Polytrack. 

Derby Distance Verdict: Borderline.
Win Win Win set a new track record in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, besting four other rivals. How fast was he going in the Blue Grass? Win Win Win got his final furlong in 12.69, the fastest in the race. Vekoma clocked 13.45 and Signalman a 13.31. Hat Trick’s babies aren’t known for their precocity, so the speed flashed by Win Win Win is promising. He’s fast once he gets into the clear. The solid dark bay isn’t a large, muscular colt, but he stretches out his neck and body, 

However, that’s the problem. In the last 18 years, six closers — two on a sloppy track — have won the Kentucky Derby. These types generally run second through fourth, mainly due to traffic issues. Still, don’t count out Win Win Win. He’s worth consideration this year. 


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