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As the press fills with stories, hunches and reports about our 2012 Derby contenders, THE VAULT offers some “fun facts,” together with a focus on the tail female of the Derby favourites. 

Churchill Downs, 1901: Echoes of a proud history.....

With all the hoopla in the last few weeks before the Kentucky Derby, it’s easy to forget that just to make the list of the Top Twenty starters, out of thousands of thoroughbreds born in 2009, makes each one of our 2012 Derby contenders a special kind of baby — no matter what happens on May 5. And our dashing Derby prospects are babies — meaning that they still have a lot to learn, some maturing to do and, for at least 40% of the field, have yet to show what they’ve really got. After all, just like it is among human babies, not every individual is going to be precocious.

This article from THE VAULT concentrates on a few fun facts with which Derby fans can compare these exceptional colts, beginning with their respective Dosage Index (DI) and Centre of Distribution (CD).

To help those new to the business of handicapping, we need to stress that both the DI and CD of any thoroughbred are, in actuality, trends used by breeders more than “facts” per se. What we mean by this is that both DI and CD are attempts to consolidate pedigree information along the lines of stamina and speed influences. The CD and DI of a thoroughbred are tied to the influences of chef-de-race stallions found in a horse’s pedigree over the first 4 generations. But influences are just that and no more than that — even the great Secretariat’s speed-stamina profile did not quite capture what he showed us on the track!

"Little Big Red" (Available at secretariat.com)

A thoroughbred’s Dosage Profile, from which its DI and CD derive, is calculated based on the number of stamina-speed sire influences of chefs-de-race in a thoroughbred’s pedigree. There are five categories: Brilliant, Intermediate, Classic, Solid and Professional, with “Brilliant” denoting a preference for shorter distances (speed influence) and “Professional,” longer distances (stamina influence). Horses classified as “Classic” have an almost-equal speed and stamina ratio. The numbers assigned in all 5 categories (even if 1 or more are 0) constitute the Dosage Profile. Then, through a numerical ponderation formula, the DI and CD are calculated and they indicate a trend represented by a ratio of stamina-to-speed influences that may (or may not) indicate the conditions under which a horse does best. The higher the DI or CD, the greater the speed influence. 

So let’s begin by looking at the DI of several 2012 Derby contenders.

Dullahan registers the highest DI at 4.20.

Went The Day Well registers the lowest DI at 1.91, indicating a stamina-longer distance preference, based on sire influences. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

Went The Day Well registers the lowest DI at 1.91, indicating a stamina-longer distance preference, based on sire influences. Photo and copyright, The Blood-Horse.

Other than Dullahan, Derby contenders with a DI ratio that seems to favour speed and shorter distances include Hansen and Prospective, the latter currently listed at #15 in graded stakes earnings. Other than Went The Day Well, those Derby babies whose DI ratio shows a stamina- longer distance profile include Creative Cause @ 1.43, Alpha @ 1:67, I’ll Have Another @ 2.11, Union Rags @ 2.14, Done Talking @ 2:33, Daddy Nose Best @ 2:43 and El Padrino @ 2:60, with both Gemologist and Sabercat @ 2:73. Contenders with sire influences that indicate a speed-stamina balance  (DI 3:00) are Bodemeister, Daddy Long Legs, Isn’t He Clever, Liaison, Mark Valeski, Take Charge Indy and Trinniberg. One of the most famous examples of a Derby winner with a DI of 3:00 was the great Secretariat.

Will he or won't he? Trinniberg's owner only decided to send his colt to Louisville late last week.

There are two Derby contenders that show a distinct speed-shorter distance CD: Daddy Long Legs @ 1.11, with both Isn’t He Clever and Trinniberg @ 1:00.

Coolmore's Daddy Long Legs, another son of Scat Daddy, holds the highest CD @ 1:11.

The lowest CD belongs to Creative Cause @ 0.29, with Alpha @ 0.44, I’ll Have Another @ 0.50, Went the Day Well @ 0.56, Liaison @ 0.60 and Take Charge Indy @ 0.66 rounding out the top six horses in the field whose pedigree favours stamina and longer distance.

If we look again at Triple Crown Winner Secretariat, whose CD was 0.90, those Derby babies of 2012 who come closest to this figure are Daddy Nose Best @ 0.83, Mark Valeski @ 0.88, followed by the undefeated Gemologist and Hansen @ 0.89, with Dullahan @ 0.92.

(But when we look at the CD’s of the other 10 Triple Crown winners, we also see just how misleading this kind of information can be if used as the sole criteria for picking a Derby winner: Sir Barton @ 1.00, Gallant Fox @ 0.57, Omaha @ 0.75, War Admiral @ 0.52, Count Fleet @ 0.25, Whirlaway @ 0.10, Assault @ 0.46, Citation @ 0.04, Seattle Slew @ 0.68 and Affirmed @ 0.55. Then add, for good measure, Man O’ War @ 1.17, Alydar @ 1.10 and Little Current (whom many feel should have won the Triple Crown) @ 0.22 and one sees that while the CD is a useful indicator of the ratio of speed-to-stamina in an individual’s pedigree, it can also prove very dodgy for punters!)

Impressive winner of the Arkansas Derby, Bodemeister, registers a CD of 0.72 which comes close to a speed-stamina balance, with a slight edge on speed.

Neither a high nor a low DI and/or CD make any Derby contender better or worse. Rather, these trends should be taken as one way of looking at the compatibility between a horse’s pedigree and what will be asked of him on that first Saturday in May.

Which colts are coming out of the gate with the most number of starts or, put another way, the greatest amount of racing experience?

Daddy Nose Best, with 10 starts under his belt, is the most experienced in the field. Creative Cause, Dullahan and Sabercat come next, with 8 starts apiece. The least experienced runner, in terms of number of starts, would be Bodemeister who has only run 4 times and was unraced at 2. Lightly-raced horses with only 5 starts are Gemologist, I’ll Have Another, Mark Valeski, Daddy Long Legs and Went The Day Well. At 6 starts apiece we find Hansen, El Padrino, Alpha, Union Rags and Take Charge Indy.

The handsome El Padrino comes into the Derby with 6 previous starts under his belt, a figure he shares with the likes of Alpha, Union Rags, Hansen and Take Charge Indy.

The trainer with the most Derby wins is Bob Baffert. And his experience as a trainer of Derby winners is going to be an invaluable asset to Bodemeister. How a colt is trained is paramount to realizing its full potential and, in a 20-horse field, it seems certain that only those (precocious) colts who can win from a variety of tactical positions have the best chance. Keeping in mind, of course, that pulling a poor post position can be equally damaging to an otherwise good colt’s chances of winning. Still, we doubt the prospects of a one-style racehorse in general — unless they’re Zenyatta — and especially on the Triple Crown trail, since it’s too easy for other trainers and jockeys to strategize a way of beating them.

Given his Derby experience, Bob Baffert will undoubtedly have a racing strategy on the first Saturday in May!

One perspective on our Derby hopefuls that gets little popular press is the matrilineal influence in their pedigrees. The latest research tells us that the dams of our Derby babies are at least as important an influence upon their potential as are their sires. Specifically, mitochondrial DNA — passed undiluted from a mare to her offspring, whether filly or colt — has a decisive influence on lung capacity and, as a result, on just how far and how fast that baby will go.

In a Derby field that is being praised as one of the deepest in many years, it’s striking to see the high percentage of favourites who boast a strong tail female. Too, the pervasive influence of Mr. Prospector, Secretariat and Northern Dancer is noteworthy, reminding us that, as John Sherrifs said in an interview before the 2010 Breeders’ Cup “…it has taken 300 years to produce the thoroughbred of today.”

Union Rags (Dixie Union ex. Tempo)

Union Rags’ pedigree shows inbreeding to Northern Dancer (3 X4), Mr. Prospector (3 X 4) and Native Dancer (5 X 5). His broodmare (BM) sire is Gone West, whose own BM sire is Nijinsky II. Gone West descends from Secretariat through a daughter, Secrettame. The colt is a potential candidate for the large heart X through his dam, who traces back to both the Princequillo sire line through Gone West and the Blue Larkspur sire line through Nijinsky. This makes Tempo a “double copy” mare with twice the chance of passing down a large heart X trait to either a son or a daughter. Union Rags’ tail female is a strong one, filled with names (other than those already mentioned) like Bull Page and his daughter, Flaming Page (who produced both Nijinsky and Fleur, the dam of The Minstrel) as well as Nearctic and the incomparable Hyperion. And these are powerful influences that hint what Tempo’s bloodlines carry to her accomplished son. Like many of our 2012 Derby babies, Union Rags’ tail female is indeed a “work of art.”

An adorable Union Rags at 2 days old. A royal baby with a royal bloodline.

Hansen (Tapit ex. Stormy Sunday)

Hansen is inbred to Mr. Prospector (4 X 5) and Raise A Native (4 X 5). His BM sire is Sir Cat, a son of Storm Cat who was sent to Chile. Next to his connection to Hansen, Sir Cat’s most successful progeny to date is the millionaire Surf Cat, who stands in California. Hansen is a potentially large heart X candidate, since his dam traces back to the War Admiral sire line. However, Hansen is only the second offspring of Stormy Sunday, so it is hard to guess at her influence as a single copy mare (one with a 50% chance of passing a large heart on to a son). However, Hansen’s tail female is loaded with talent. Storm Bird, a 2 year-old champion in the UK and the sire of Summer Squall, Belmont Stakes winner Temperance Hill, as well as Storm Cat (Storm Bird ex. Terlingua, Secretariat’s daughter) and Private Account, the sire of the great Personal Ensign, appear within the first 4 generations of Hansen’s pedigree. All this makes him an interesting individual to watch throughout the Triple Crown series, since there is a lot going on in his pedigree that makes him a bit of a wild card — in the very best sense!

Hansen as a foal with his dam, Stormy Sunday.

Gemologist (Tiznow ex. Crystal Shard)

Gemologist is inbred to Northern Dancer ( 3 X 5 X 5) and Native Dancer (4 X 5). His broodmare sire is none other than the mighty Mr. Prospector, whose exploits as a sire hardly need to be expounded here and who may very well have more to do with Gemologist’s coming into the Derby as an undefeated colt than his sire, the great Tiznow. Although Gemologist is her most successful progeny to date, Crystal Shard’s offspring have all raked up earnings save for one, making her a fairly consistent producer of decent horses, due to the influence of her own BM sire, Northern Dancer. Although not linking back to a large heart X sire line, Gemologist boasts a very strong tail female. His dam’s “credentials” are impeccable, even if her Derby darling is the only millionaire among her offspring. As well, Gemologist’s pedigree on the bottom over 4 generations includes Raise A Native, the sire of not only Mr. Prospector, but also Alydar and Majestic Prince, as well as Exclusive Native, who sired Affirmed.

The undefeated Gemologist boasts a very impressive female family -- and a sire noted for his heart and determination!

Dullahan (Even The Score ex. Mining My Own)

Dullahan is inbred to Mr. Prospector (3 X 5) and Raise A Native (4 X 5). His sire, Even The Score, is a useful son of Unbridled’s Song whose best progeny to date, other than Dullahan, is Take The Points. Although the colt cannot lay claim to a large heart X influence, his dam is very accomplished in her own right — of 4 foals, she has already produced a Kentucky Derby winner in Mine That Bird. Dullahan also bears a rather striking resemblance to his dam, another reason to suspect a prevailing influence from his tail female in his pedigree. Dullahan’s BM sire is the fabulous Smart Strike, sire of champions Curlin, English Channel, Fleetstreet Dancer, Lookin’ At Lucky, Soaring Free, Papa Clem and Tenpins. Smart Strike is considered to be Mr. Prospector’s “all-weather” son, a definite plus in Dullahan’s favour come Derby Day. As well, Smart Strike has shown himself to be a very good BM sire influence. Other than these individuals in his beautiful pedigree, Northern Dancer and his son, Vice Regent, Raise A Native and Classy N’ Smart, dam of Canadian Triple Crown winner, Dance Smartly and champion Smart Strike round out the significant influences in Dullahan’s tail female. Note that each of these influences in his female family carry a promise of scope, soundness and distance, making the handsome chestnut son of Mining My Own a horse to watch.

Dullahan has a mighty tail female and even as a yearling, looked like a descendant of his BM sire, Smart Strike.

Bodemeister (Empire Maker ex. Untouched Talent)

Our boy Bode is inbred to Northern Dancer (4 X 4), Secretariat (4 X 5) and In Reality (4 X 5). His sire, Empire Maker, is an impressive individual with  an impressive bloodline that includes both Unbridled and Toussaud. Toussaud was the winning daughter of the talented El Gran Senor, a Northern Dancer son who was trained by the great Vincent O’Brien and campaigned in the UK. As gutsy as was his BM sire, Bode’s dam was a winning daughter of Storm Cat, whose own broodmare sire is the mighty A. P. Indy. In other words, Bode’s tail female reflects a strong dose of the powerful Northern Dancer-Secretariat nick and this bodes well for Bode! Untouched Talent is a double copy mare for the large heart X, since both her sire and dam trace back to the Princequillo sire line through Secretariat. Indeed, of all the colts who go to the gate that first Saturday in May, it is Bodemeister who carries the most influence of Big Red in his pedigree. As well, his tail female includes Seattle Slew and Roberto, both mighty sires in their own right. Is this boy the “real deal”? How could he not be!

The late Robert Frankel with Bode's sire, Empire Maker.

El Gran Senor was one of the best of his generation and noted for never, ever giving up.

Toussaud and her goat. Also trained by Robert Frankel, who admired her greatly, Toussaud is Bode's paternal grandam.

Daddy Long Legs (Scat Daddy ex. Dreamy Maiden)

Daddy Long Legs is inbred to Mr. Prospector (3 X 5), Raise A Native (4 X 4) and Northern Dancer (5 X 5). A Coolmore champion, the colt’s most recent win came last month in the UAE Derby in Dubai and showed off his power and determination to advantage. Daddy LL came home ahead of a strong field that included Wrote (IRE), Helmet (AUS), Yang Tse Kiang (JPN) and the winner of the Epsom Oaks. Clearly, Daddy LL has inherited some of the brilliance of his grandsire, Johannesburg, who was easily the best 2 year-old in the world in 2001. Meadowlake, Daddy LL’s BM sire, is a useful sire whose best progeny was the champion, Meadow Star. Meadowlake’s offspring were often plagued by leg issues but this stellar son of Dreamy Maiden looks to be a sturdier type. Despite a rather average BM sire, Daddy LL’s tail female is solid, featuring individuals like Round Table, Moccassin, Raise A Native and Northern Dancer’s son, Viceregal within his first 4 generations. However, there is no doubt that it is his sire line that impresses most. Whether or not that is enough to overcome the possible disadvantages of shipping in from Ireland and running on dirt remains to be seen.

Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway ex. Dream of Summer)

Creative Cause is inbred to Nearctic (5 X 5). The colt’s sire is none other Giant’s Causeway, one of the truly great Coolmore runners and a proven sire. His dam, Dream of Summer, retired a millionaire and remains far the best progeny of his BM sire, Siberian Summer. Dream of Summer’s own BM sire, Skywalker, earned over $2 million with victories in both the Santa Anita Derby and the Breeders Cup Classic. Rounding out CC’s tail female are Relaunch (by In Reality), Icecapade and Caro. In Creative Cause, who has never finished out of the money in all of his 8 starts, we have a colt who descends from very gifted parents and whose dam was a winner at 5 and 6. In fact, of all our Derby babies, only Creative Cause and Take Charge Indy boast dams who were very accomplished on the track. No question that this grey son of Giant’s Causeway has inherited some very powerful mitochondrial DNA….but are his best racing years still to come?

Creative Cause is one of 2 in the Derby field with a dam who retired as a millionaire.

Alpha (Bernardini ex. Munnaya)

Alpha is inbred to Northern Dancer ( 3 X 5). The beautiful bay is a son of the young sire, Bernardini, who is off to an impressive start. On top, Alpha has a pedigree studded with stardom: A. P. Indy, Quiet American, Seattle Slew, Secretariat and Spectacular Bid. But is his tail female as strong? His dam, Munnaya, won the Oaks Trial Stakes in the UK and has produced several offspring, of which Alpha is without question the best. The colt’s BM sire is the last British Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II, giving him a total of 3 Triple Crown winners on 2 continents within the first 4 generations of his pedigree, top and bottom. Nijinsky was a potent BM sire as well as a sire of sires. Munnaya’s own BM sire was the powerful Alydar, an individual whose great heart will always be legendary to North American racing fans. Like Nijinsky, Alydar was also an impressive BM sire, giving Alpha two very potent influences within the first 3 generations of his maternal line — and it is within these generations that such influences are most potent. However, if despite his deep tail female, the strongest influence in his bloodline comes from his sire, then Alpha may prove to be better over a shorter distance and more deadly in the Preakness than the Derby.

Alpha, Ramon Dominguez up, after winning the Withers, just like his daddy before him!

Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy ex. Take Charge Lady)

The talented Take Charge Lady was a champion in her day, retiring with earnings of over $ 2 million dollars.

Take Charge Indy is inbred to Secretariat (3 X 4) and Bold Ruler (4 X 5 X 5) and his sire, the great A. P. Indy, clearly needs no introduction. His dam, the fabulous Take Charge Lady, ran against Azeri, You and Sightseek and acquitted herself with distinction, starting 22 times with 11 wins and 2 places. She will always be remembered as a gutsy, take-no-hostages runner whose heart never quit. TC Indy’s broodmare sire, Dehere, was a champion 2 year-old in 1993 and has also sired the millionaires Graeme Hall, Natural Blitz and Keiai Guard. Dehere is still another product of the highly successful Secretariat-Northern Dancer cross. Even though TC Indy is by far his dam’s best progeny to date, Take Charge Lady is a double copy mare for the large heart X, tracing back to both Blue Larkspur and Princequillo. This means that her son has double the chance of receiving this trait from her. But whether or not this is the case, there is simply no question that Take Charge Indy didn’t receive a very powerful dose of mitochondrial DNA from his talented mother. Another intriguing dimension of this Derby baby is that he shares the same DI as Secretariat, who shows up in his pedigree in both the 3rd and 4th generations.

Take Charge Indy (inside) coming to win the Florida Derby. If he draws a decent post position, will he be the "dark horse" in the Derby field ?

Sabercat (Bluegrass Cat ex. Miner’s Blessing)

The magnificent Sabercat is inbred to Mr. Prospector ( 3 X 4), Secretariat (4 X 5), Tom Rolfe ( 4 X 5), Northern Dancer (4 X 5) and Bold Ruler ( 5 X 5). So it’s easy to see that this colt’s 4th generation ( top and bottom) are enough to rattle anyone’s sabre! Of his dam’s 8 foals to date, 6 have hit the board in terms of earnings although Sabercat is by far the most impressive. The colt’s BM sire is Forty-Niner, a son of the prepotent Mr. Prospector who sired Distorted Humor; Forty-Niner’s own BM sire was the impressive Tom Rolfe. Besides those individuals already mentioned, Sabercat’s female family also features Halo, Raise A Native, Hoist the Flag and Hail to Reason — all very sound sires. This adds up to a good tail female, giving Sabercat no excuses as far as maternal bloodlines go on the first Saturday in May.

Is Sabercat ready to bring his best game to the Derby?

I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley ex. Arch’s Gal Edith)

I’ll Have Another is the only horse in the field inbred to the outstanding Danzig (4 X 4), together with Mr. Prospector ( 4 X 4); Northern Dancer ( 5 X 5 X 5) is the third influence. Flower Alley, the sire of I’ll Have Another, retired with earnings of over 2 million and is a son of proven sire, Distorted Humor, whose Funny Cide took the Derby and Preakness in 2003. I’ll Have Another’s BM sire is Arch, the popular sire of ArchArchArch, Blame and the 2006 Canadian HOTY, Arravale, among others. Arch’s sire, Kris S., is the sire of Zenyatta’s dam, Vertigeneux. But that’s just the tip of the (proverbial) iceberg: his other offspring include champions like Action This Day, Rock Hard Ten, Brocco, Hollywood Wildcat, Kicken Kris, Kissen Kris, Kudos, Prized and Soaring Softly. Add the likes of Pleasant Tap (by Pleasant Colony, who won both the Derby and Preakness), Roberto and Alydar’s winning daughter, Althea, within the first 4 generations and it would be fair to say that this colt’s female family is brimming with the kind of potential that makes I’ll Have Another a really exciting Derby prospect.

The tail female of I'll Have Another just screams " Winner!"

Daddy Nose Best (Scat Daddy ex. Follow Your Bliss)

Still another son of Scat Daddy shows up for the Run For The Roses and this colt is heavily inbred to Mr. Prospector ( 3 X 4 X 5 ) , Raise A Native ( 4 X 5 X 5) and Northern Dancer ( 5 X 5 X 5), with a more modest dose of Storm Bird ( 4 X 5) thrown into the mix. In 10 starts, this Daddy has finished in the money 6 times and he’s getting much better as time goes on. Daddy Nose Best’s dam only has 2 foals, of which her Derby baby is by far the best, but Follow Your Bliss’ sire is Thunder Gulch, himself a Derby and Belmont winner and the BM sire of Daddy Nose Best. Pine Bluff a very very good 3 year-old by Danzig who took the Arkansas Derby, the Preakness and the Rebel is Follow Your Bliss’ own BM sire; as a sire, Pine Bluff has 29 stakes winners with combined earnings of over 26 million. So this baby has what it takes from his female family. The problem is that he’s only raced twice as a 3 year-old and in the kind of races you never hear about unless you are devoted to the sport.

Daddy Nose Best was brilliant in the Sunland Derby. Have a look (below) at his performance in that race.

El Padrino ((Pulpit ex. Enchanted Rock)

The striking chestnut with the wide, white blaze is inbred to Mr. Prospector (3 X 3), Secretariat (4 X 5) and Blushing Groom (4 X 5).  Remember Blushing Groom? He was not only an impressive runner in France for the Aga Khan IV, but then went on to be an absolutely model BM sire and sire, most famously producing Blushing John, Nashwan and the wonderful Sky Beauty, who took the Filly Triple Crown in 1993. As if that weren’t enough, Blushing Groom also sired Snow Bride, who became the dam of the enigmatic UK champion, Lammtarra. His influence within the first 4 generations of El Padrino’s sire line is well-worth noting, simply because he had such a huge influence on the modern thoroughbred. El Padrino’s BM sire is Giant’s Causeway and his potency through a daughter like Enchanted Rock, who only started once and was unplaced, is not to be ignored. Her dam, Chic Shrine, a daughter of Mr. Prospector, started 16 times and finished in the money 50% of the time, suggesting a rather more solid female influence than seems readily apparent. Too, the combination of Storm Bird, Rahy, Raise A Native and the aforementioned Blushing Groom in El Padrino’s 4th generation only adds to his potential. This is another colt getting a Derby boost from a very good female family, which, at least in part, accounts for his consistent performance on the track thus far. And that kind of determination should never be under-estimated in a 20-horse field where almost anything can happen.

The Pletcher-trained El Padrino is not to be overlooked because he's always been a colt you could count on to do his best.

Went The Day Well (Proud Citizen ex Tiz Maie’s Day)

The only inbreeding in this Derby baby’s pedigree is to Nashua ( 5 X 5) even though his pedigree is be-speckled with thoroughbred jewels, top and bottom. His sire, Proud Citizen, is by Gone West and finished third to War Emblem and Magic Weisner in the Preakness. Proud Citizen’s best offspring to date is millionaire Proud Spell, although he’s a consistent sire of horses with modest earnings and a few who made over $200 K. On the other hand, Went The Day Well’s (WDW) BM sire is the mighty Tiznow and his dam’s BM sire is the outstanding Roberto, giving the colt a very impressive tail female. He is only Tiz Maie’s Day’s first foal, so we need to look beyond her to other influences like these within the first 4 generations of WDW’s female family. Other than the obvious pluses of Tiznow and Roberto, in WDW’s 4th generation we find Hail To Reason and the extremely talented son of Majestic Prince, Majestic Light. All of which adds up to a very strong tail female and one that might well propel the Graham-Motion-trained colt to a win come Derby Day.

Went The Day Well goes to the post in the Spiral Stakes. Watch his performance below. Photo and copyright, Amber Chaflin.

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