April 23, 2011

Far too often, when evaluating Kentucky Derby contenders, only the sire’s breeding and accomplishments on the track receive serious consideration. However, as any pedigree aficionado knows, the damline is significantly more revealing, so I thought it would be interesting to examine the dams of Derby winners since 2000 to see if there are any patterns or remarkable areas of intersection—and there are.

Dams of Derby Winners Since 2000:

2010 Supercharger (A.P. Indy-Get Lucky, by Mr. Prospector)
2009 Mining My Own (Smart Strike-Aspenelle, by Vice Regent)
2008 Mien (Nureyev-Miasma, by Lear Fan)
2007 Bedazzle (Dixieland Band-Majestic Legend, by His Majesty)
2006 La Ville Rouge (Carson City-La Reine Rouge, by King’s Bishop)
2005 Set Them Free (Stop the Music-Valseuse, by Tyrant)
2004 I’ll Get Along (Smile-Don’t Worry Bout Me, by Foolish Pleasure)
2003 Belle’s Good Cide (Slewacide-Belle of Killarney, by Little Current)
2002 Sweetest Lady (Lord at War-Sweetest Roman, by The Pruner)
2001 Regal Band (Dixieland Band-Regal Roberta, by Roberto)
2000 Angel Fever (Danzig-Rowdy Angel, by Halo)

Strong Stamina Breeding:

At first glance, the damsires of this group are striking as stamina influences (that is, all but Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Smile). Looking deeper, other strong distance horses repeatedly appear among the ancestors of this group of mares, chief among them Bold Ruler who’s present in the pedigrees of six of the 11. Through his sons Halo and Roberto, Hail to Reason is present in four, while through his sons His Majesty and Graustark, Ribot is present in three. Round Table and Herbager are found in two each.

Solid (if Not Spectacular) Racing Mares:

Of the 11 mares noted above, only one—Mining My Own—was unraced. All 10 starters were winners, with the most prolific being Smarty Jones’ stakes winning dam I’ll Get Along who won 12 of 39 starts. She was also arguably the most precocious, breaking her 2-year-old maiden going 6 furlongs, at first asking, by over 12 lengths. After breaking her maiden first out, Fusaichi Pegasus’ dam Angel Fever ran second in Monmouth’s juvenile Colleen Stakes, came up lame and then never raced again. The other stakes winners: Giacomo’s juvenile stakes winning dam Set Them Free, and Barbaro’s dam La Ville Rouge who was Grade 2-placed on turf.

Overall, seven of the 10 starters either won or placed going at least 8 furlongs.

Descendants of Great Race Mares and Producers:

Overall, this is quite a remarkable bunch of mares in terms of being born from families that produce good horses—that probably shouldn’t be surprising, given the necessary quality they should possess in order to be bred to the best stallions. However, not all Kentucky Derby entrants are endowed with this kind of class—and, judging by history, it does make a difference. Not surprisingly, the weakest family class foundation is found in the second-longest shot Derby winner ever, Mine That Bird. Breaking them down:

  • Supercharger’s dam Get Lucky won the G3 Affectionately (8.5f); her second dam Dance Number won the G1 Beldame (10f) and her third dam Numbered Account was champion 2-year-old filly. She is also a direct damline descendent of La Troienne. In addition to Super Saver, Get Lucky is also the second dam of Derby and Belmont Stakes runner-up Bluegrass Cat. This is also the family of G1 Gulfstream Park Handicap (10f) winner and sire Private Account.
  • Mining My Own’s lightly raced dam Aspenelle finished second in the Canadian Oaks (9f); her second dam Little To Do won the Selene (8.5f).
  • Mien’s dam Miasma was stakes placed in England (7f) while her third dam Friendly Circle won the G3 Rare Treat (8.5f). As a broodmare, Friendly Circle produced multiple G1 winning champion Hidden Lake, as well as sire and G3 Lingfield Derby Trial (12f) winner Ginistrelli.
  • Bedazzle’s dam Majestic Legend ran second in the Jenny Wiley (8.5f) while her third dam Lianga was 1975 champion sprinter in France after winning (among others) the G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois (8f) and G1 Prix de L’Abbaye de Longchamp (5f), as well as the July Cup at Newmarket and Sprint Cup at Doncaster. Majestic Legend’s half-brother Mr. Greeley ran second behind Desert Stormer in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
  • La Ville Rouge’s dam La Reine Rouge won and placed in her only two races, at 2, but you have to go back into her bloodline, her sixth dam to be precise, to find the champion War Plumage, winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks (11f). This is the family of Prince George's Stakes (8.5f) winner Silver Doctor.
  • Set Them Free’s dam Valseuse and second dam Barbarossa were unraced, but in the 1930s, her fourth dam Mistress Ford won a slew of prestigious French races including the Prix de Diane (10.5f) and Prix Vermeille (12f). This family is rich in European turf champions including Squill (France), Baiser Vole (France) and Mister Slippers (Germany).
  • I’ll Get Along’s dam Don’t Worry Bout Me won the My Dear Girl (6f); her second dam Stolen Base ran second in the Orchid Handicap (12f). Like Supercharger, I’ll Get Along is a direct descendent of La Troienne. Don’t Worry Bout Me is also a half-sister to G1 Delaware Handicap winner Basie, as well as G1 Arlington Classic-placed (9f) Passing Base.
  • Belle’s Good Cide’s unraced dam Belle of Killarney was the daughter of Cherished Moment, runner-up in the G3 Ashland (7f); further back in the family is Teresina, winner of the English Goodwood Cup (21f), Jockey Club Stakes (14f) and runner-up in the classic Cesarewitch (18f). Interestingly, the fifth dam of Funny Cide, Bravura, was also the fifth dam of that same year’s Derby runner-up Empire Maker.
  • Sweetest Lady’s dam Sweetest Roman was only a modest winner and you have to go back to her fourth dam Quiz Song to find a stakes winner, of the Correction Handicap (6f). This is the family of Carter Handicap winner Apache who set new track records in winning the Empire City Handicap (9.5f) and the Yonkers Handicap (8.5f).
  • Regal Band’s dam Regal Roberta never broke her maiden in 10 starts, but her second dam Regal Road won the My Fair Lady (8.5f). In addition to producing Regal Road, Monarchos’ fourth dam On The Trail also produced G1 Top Flight (9f) victress Andover Way—better known perhaps as the dam of stamina sire Dynaformer.
  • Angel Fever’s dam Rowdy Angel never won in 13 starts, but her second dam Ramhyde won the Virginia Belle (6f); further back is Erin, winner of the Gazelle (8.5f) and placed in the Coaching Club American Oaks (11f). Angel Fever’s full-brother Pine Bluff won the G1 Preakness.
So, as you consider your Kentucky Derby 2011 selections, don't forget to dig deep into the damside for indicators of stamina and success.
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