• Pedigree Profiles of Top Kentucky Derby Candidates

    POSTED Feb 28, 2014

    I’ll admit it: I’ve never been one to put much stock in pedigree when it comes to determining the outcome of a horse race. After all, did anybody see Johnny Manziel’s dad strut his stuff at the NFL Combine this past week? Does anybody actually care what the old man’s 40-yard dash time was... or is?

    I think not.

    Yet, clearly, horse racing is different than football. For one thing, human athletes aren’t “bred,” much to the dismay of some of my more athletic — and immature — friends.

    And there’s big money in those planned matings. In 2013, over half a billion dollars was spent at the various Keeneland sales alone. In 2006, a record $16 million was spent on a single horse — The Green Monkey, a son of Forestry who never won a race and has flopped as a sire as well.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Still, there’s something to be said for pedigree. Just like the phrase “now, there’s a level-headed chap” is rarely applied to any of the Baldwin brothers, Kentucky Derby Champion is a title generally reserved for three-year-old colts and fillies with some stamina in their bloodlines.

    So, with the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 kicking off on Wednesday, I thought it would be a good time to do a little research on past Derby winners and present Derby contenders. I want to find out which animals have the pedigrees to win and which do not.

    First, let’s look at the Kentucky Derby winners over the past 15 years:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    What does the fox... uh, I mean numbers... say:

    1) Every Derby winner since 1999 was sired by a stallion with an average winning distance (AWD) of 6.6 furlongs or greater.

    2) Just two (War Emblem and Smarty Jones) of the past 15 Derby champs had a sire whose progeny competed in routes (races of a mile or greater) in less than a third of their starts.

    3) 14 of the last 15 Derby winners had sires whose progeny improved their average Brisnet speed figure by at least two points when routing as opposed to a sprinting.

    Now let’s take a gander at the individual KDFW Pool 3 contenders:

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    What the numbers say:

    A) Based solely on bloodlines, Bayern, California Chrome, General A Rod, Uncle Sigh, Vicar’s In Trouble and Wildcat Red are all Derby tosses.

    B) Intense Holiday, Samraat and Tamarando are question marks in the pedigree area.

    While I certainly don’t think a horse’s breeding necessarily dictates its performance on the track — remember, Secretariat was believed to have distance limitations — these stats do make the case that good parenting matters.

    If you need further proof, just look at Justin Bieber.

    Anonymous said...

    This is a theory that I have tried to consider strongly when talking about the added distance. I believe, however, that the dam's sire's AWD should also be taken into consideration but not weighted as highly as it is a generation removed. I would divide it by two and add that halved value to the sire's AWD. In the case of Secretariat, I am confident that Princequillo added a lot of stamina influence. Any factors such as siblings' AWD's should also be figured in. For example, Tapiture has two full siblings who were only capable of winning at shorter distances. That should put a skeptical light on his ability to go a mile and a quarter.

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    Kentucky Derby Champion is a title normally reserved for three-year-old colts and fillies with some stamina in their pedigree, just as the statement "now, there's a level-headed chap" is rarely attributed to any of the Baldwin brothers. I hope to see more intriguing factoids from your perspective in the future. Thank you so much for your contribution!
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