Keeler Johnson's Kentucky Derby Top 10: Pedigree Ratings

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November 11th, 2018

Analyzing pedigrees is a big part of searching for promising Kentucky Derby contenders. A horse might show promise sprinting, but does it have the pedigree to excel going the Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles?

With this in mind, I’ve poured over the pedigrees of the horses in my Kentucky Derby Top 10 and have rated their pedigrees on scale of 1 to 5. Who’s bred to handle 1 ¼ miles, and who could be questionable as the distances grow longer? Here’s my take....
You won’t find a much more classic-oriented pedigree than that of Game Winner. His sire, Candy Ride, was a Grade 1 winner going 1 ¼ miles and has already sired the Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Gun Runner, while Game Winner’s dam—the unraced mare Indyan Giving—was sired by the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner A.P. Indy, a renowned source of stamina. The Kentucky Derby distance certainly shouldn’t be an issue for Game Winner. Pedigree Rating: 5
  1. Instagrand

It will be interesting to see how far Instagrand ultimately wants to run, since his sire—Into Mischief—was more of a sprinter/miler and has generally sired similar runners at stud. But Into Mischief’s son Audible did finish third in the 2018 Kentucky Derby, and Instagrand could potentially draw some stamina from his dam, Assets of War, a daughter of the accomplished two-turn runner Lawyer Ron. Notably, Instagrand’s full sister Aerial Assets has been very productive running a mile or farther. Pedigree Rating: 3
  1. Improbable

Improbable has a pedigree of contrasts. His sire, City Zip, was generally known for siring sprinters and milers (often on grass), though his son Collected did win the 2017 Pacific Classic (gr. I) going 1 ¼ miles. But backing up the speed of City Zip is the stamina of A.P. Indy, the sire of Improbable’s dam Rare Event, who was a four-time winner going a mile or farther on both dirt and turf. There’s certainly enough stamina in Improbable’s pedigree to suggest that he can be very effective on the Derby trail, and he might also have a future on grass. Pedigree Rating: 3
  1. Code of Honor

“By Noble Mission out of a Dixie Union mare” is a pedigree that doesn’t exactly scream dirt (it’s more turf-oriented), but it certainly shouldn’t be lacking in stamina! Noble Mission (a full brother to European superstar Frankel) was a three-time Group 1 winner going 1 ¼ miles or farther in Europe, and while Code of Honor’s dam Reunited was best as a sprinter, her sire Dixie Union was a Grade 1 winner going 1 1/8 miles and sired the 2012 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags. Pedigree Rating: 4
  1. Roadster

Like Code of Honor, Roadster has a pedigree with plenty of stamina, but also plenty of turf influences. His sire, Quality Road, has proven to be a remarkably versatile sire of dirt and turf runners over all distances, and while Roadster’s dam—Ghost Dancing—was a tried-and-true sprinter, her previous foals include the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (gr. I) winner Ascend and the Louisville Handicap (gr. III) third-place finisher Moro Tap, two runners who excelled going long on turf. Pedigree Rating: 4
  1. Preamble

If there’s one horse in my top ten who is definitely bred like a sprinter/miler, it’s Preamble. His sire, Speightstown, was a sprinter who has primarily sired sprinters and milers. His dam, Beautician, was likewise more of a sprinter/miler, and her sire—Dehere—excelled over similar distances. If there’s one consolation, it’s that Speightstown has proven versatile enough to sire Golden Ticket and Haynesfield (both Grade 1 winners going 1 ¼ miles on dirt), but overall, Preamble will probably have to outrun his pedigree if he’s going to make his mark on the Derby trail. Pedigree Rating: 2
  1. Knicks Go

Although Knicks Go’s dam, Kosmo’s Buddy, was best as a turf sprinter, her foals (including Knicks Go and his half-siblings Chanel Number One and Super Buddy) have all won going a mile or farther. Throw in the fact that Knicks Go’s sire is Paynter, runner-up in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and winner of the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational, and there’s no reason to think Knicks Go can’t be effective going 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday in May. Pedigree Rating: 4
  1. Signalman

The dam side of Signalman’s pedigree might be geared toward sprinting; after all, his half-brother, Alec Thomas, did his best running going shorter, while his damsire, Trippi was likewise a sprinter/miler who tended to reproduce himself at stud. But there is some hope for Signalman’s ability to run long—his sire, General Quarters, was a two-time Grade 1 winner going 1 1/8 miles, so if Signalman takes after General Quarters (which appears to be the case thus far), maybe he can run a bit farther than his overall pedigree suggests. Pedigree Rating: 2
  1. Vekoma

Much like Signalman, the bottom half of Vekoma’s pedigree is packed with sprinting speed—his dam, Mona de Momma, was a Grade 1-winning sprinter sired by Speightstown, and Vekoma’s half-sister has also been a clear-cut sprinter thus far. But Vekoma’s sire is the previously-mentioned Candy Ride, known for imparting stamina to his progeny, so that might be enough to balance out the speedier dam side of Vekoma’s pedigree. Pedigree Rating: 3
  1. Maximus Mischief

Like Instagrand, Maximus Mischief is a son of Into Mischief, which introduces some pedigree question marks right off the top. But whereas Instagrand has some stamina on the bottom half of his pedigree, Maximus Mischief’s dam and dam sire—Reina Maria and Songandaprayer, respectively—leaned much more in the sprinter and sprinter/miler direction as racehorses, though Songandaprayer did carry his speed well enough to finish second in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) going 1 1/8 miles. But ultimately, if Maximus Mischief is going to be a player on the Derby trail, he may have to hope that the genetic lottery dealt him a surprise dose of stamina from unclear sources. Pedigree Rating: 1