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Bloodlines of KY Derby Runners 2007-2011

Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway
Julian Herber / ALLSPORT; Getty Images Sport

As the first weekend in May approaches and the Derby preps are in full swing, the lineages of the last few years of runners began to intrigue me. My question was specifically if there was a particular cross that appeared more often than others between Sires and Broodmare Sires. What I learned was that getting a horse that

  1. grew up quick enough,
  2. was lucky enough to amass enough earnings, and
  3. was able to compete at that high of a level

was just as much about luck as it is about pedigree. For every AP Indy you see, you get a Roy or a Cuvee or a Yonaguska. Not that they're bad stallions, but they're not the cornerstones of the breed.

This is the list of stallions with more than two entries into the Kentucky Derby since 2007:


No surprises, honestly. Maybe Mineshaft, but that's really just in comparison to the other 5, as their average stud fee hovers around $100,000. But that's only half the story. The average mare being sent to the breeding shed in these cases is going to be of an extremely high quality. You don't pay that kind of money unless you have a great producer or a great runner as a broodmare.

Now for Broodmare Sires with more than two entries into the Kentucky Derby since 2007:


A few surprises here: Belong to me ($5k stud fee) and Dehere (you just don't hear of him very often since he was in Japan/Australia for a while). But generally just a solid group of well bred and high producing sires. Anytime you are sharing a list with Mr. Prospector and Storm Cat, you're in great company. Despite the fact that Belong to Me is just 37th on the Broodmare Sire list in 2012 and only costs $5k to breed to, he still is a quality producer in this regard.

Oddly enough, there were only two sire-Broodmare sires crosses that appeared more than once:

  • Smart Strike - Belong to Me: Lookin at Lucky and Papa Clem
  • Tiznow - Turkoman: Colonel John and Mr. Hot Stuff (who are both out of the mare Sweet Damsel)

While there are some random stallions (Siphon (BRZ), Hook and Ladder) for the most part, both lists are a very representative collection of the best regarded stallions in North America. The odd thing is that there is only one Indian Charlie (though Uncle Mo was basically an entrant, but since he didn't get to the gate, he doesn't count).

On a slightly different note, I can only find two dams that have produced multiple Kentucky Derby starters: Ormonda (Brevity, Osmand) and Sweet Damsel (Colonel John, Mr. Hot Stuff). Now that's a powerful pedigree. I'm sure there are more out there, but I can't find any, as they seem to be anecdotes to the races instead of prime stories.

So what does this mean? Honestly, I don't think it means anything. So when you hear anyone make a definitive statement about sires and Derby starters, you can pretty much dismiss the talk. The bottom line is if you have a well bred mare, breed her to the best stallion that fits her in terms of size, conformation, and pedigree, and pray that you get lucky. You've got a 1 in 2000 chance of getting a Derby entrant, if all pedigrees and thoroughbreds are considered equal. When you go to the Yearling Sale at Keeneland, you have to pick based off of conformation, not solely pedigree, if you really want the cream of the crop (and yes, being a derby entrant is a pretty arbitrary measure for being elite, but it's what I'm looking at right now). The difficulty in assessing these crosses in retrospect is that the main tool I (and most) use for looking at any cross, True Nicks (or any variety of nicking program), is automatically an A++ rating, since basically any Derby starters are SWs, which throws the entire comparison off. So it's like self-fulfilling prophecy when you try to use the tools available to assess the mating.

What I do know is breeding to Belong to Me is a great long term investment. You just have to get a filly and get her to Smart Strike, ASAP!