05/09/2006 12:00AM

Barbaro ran to his breeding

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Barbaro, by the stamina source Dynaformer, is the first Derby winner since 2001 with a classic distance pedigree.

LAS VEGAS - Last Saturday was a good day for pedigree handicappers as normalcy returned to the Kentucky Derby after a four-year hiatus. The victory by Barbaro was satisfying because it was the first time since Monarchos in 2001 that a runner who was bred to enjoy 1 1/4 miles ran to his pedigree and won the race. Interestingly, Monarchos and Barbaro's sire, Dynaformer, descend from the same female family.

From 2002 to 2004, speed ruled in the Derby. In 2002, War Emblem surprised the industry when he wired the Derby. While his sire, Our Emblem, possessed a pedigree as good as any stallion (Mr. Prospector out of champion Personal Ensign), Our Emblem took after his brilliant sire rather than Personal Ensign, finding his niche as a sprinter who placed in several stakes. Conversely, Our Emblem's stakes-winning full brothers Miner's Mark and Traditionally were most effective over classic distances.

Funny Cide's victory in 2003 was more palatable since he is by Distorted Humor, a son of Forty Niner who has proven himself as a serious stallion many times over. In addition, Funny Cide's performances leading up to the Derby, including a game second in the Wood Memorial behind Empire Maker, made him a contender. While Funny Cide's victory was legitimate, there is no doubt that he was aided by Empire Maker's foot problems, which surfaced in the weeks leading up to the Derby and caused him to miss valuable training time.

The 2004 Derby victor, Smarty Jones, who was the most dominant winner of this trio, had the most unlikely Derby pedigree of the three. Smarty Jones is by Elusive Quality, a very talented miler who was brilliant on dirt and turf. Smarty Jones remains an aberration - the only runner by Elusive Quality to perform at racing's highest level at classic distances. Elusive Quality is a solid source of high speed, and his progeny are sprinter-milers.

Last year, Giacomo's improbable Derby victory was more a result of a race falling apart than a horse who was bred for the distance. Giacomo is by Horse of the Year Holy Bull, a tiring 12th in the 1994 Derby who was an example of a horse outrunning his pedigree. Holy Bull is by Great Above, a stakes-winning sprinter who only sired sprinter-milers. Great Above was by turf sire Minnesota Mac and out of the multiple sprint champion Ta Wee, a half-sister to Dr. Fager. Aside from one gutsy effort when he doggedly held on to defeat Concern by a nose in the Travers Stakes, Holy Bull was kept to nine-furlong distances the remainder of 1994 and skipped the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Bred to mares far superior to those who were sent to Great Above, Holy Bull has been a successful stallion, and his offspring - not surprisingly - are characterized more by their speed (Confessional, Macho Uno) than their stamina. Because of the class of Holy Bull and the mares to whom he has been bred, his runners have often won at middle distances.

Balance of stamina over speed

Barbaro is by 21-year-old Dynaformer, one of the dwindling number of stamina sources in this country. Dynaformer is by Roberto, a champion at 2 in England and best known for his upset of the previously unbeaten Brigadier Gerard in the 1972 Benson & Hedges Gold Cup (now the Juddmonte International Stakes). Like most of Darby Dan Farm's horses, Roberto was bred for the classics. Sired by Hail to Reason, Roberto was out of Bramalea, a high-class stakes winner by champion Nashua. Nashua sired many top stayers, including multiple champion Shuvee.

Dynaformer is out of Grade 1 winner Andover Way, who was by His Majesty (a full brother to Graustark), another stamina influence. Unlike today's breeders, who embrace speed as the end-all, Darby Dan, like other prominent breeders of that era, strived to improve the breed and recognized that a balanced blend of stamina and speed was the recipe to produce classic winners. Andover Way was such a combination, as her sire, His Majesty, was mated to the unraced On the Trail, a daughter of the speed influence Olympia. Breeding On the Trail to Roberto resulted in stakes winner Darby Creek Road, and her foal by Graustark was the stakes winner Regal Road, the third dam of Monarchos.

Barbaro has this balanced blend of stamina and speed. Inheriting an ample amount of stamina from his sire, Barbaro gets a solid dose of speed from his late damsire, Carson City. His second damsire, King's Bishop, was a stakes winner and successful sire who also had this attractive combination of stamina over speed. King's Bishop was by Round Table, and his stakes-winning dam, Spearfish, was a full sister to stakes winner and stallion Gummo. Barbaro's third damsire, Nearctic, is the sire of Northern Dancer.

Blueblood runs second

After a frustrating winter and spring, the royally bred Bluegrass Cat returned to his good juvenile form by finishing second in the Derby behind Barbaro.

By Storm Cat, Bluegrass Cat descends from one of racing's great female families. His unraced dam, She's a Winner (A.P. Indy), is a full sister to Accelerator and multiple stakes winner Daydreaming. A stakes winner at 2, Accelerator was second to Captain Bodgit in the 1997 Wood Memorial but was injured shortly thereafter and did not race until his 4-year-old season, when he was a fast-closing second in the Metropolitan Handicap.

Bluegrass Cat's stakes-winning second dam, Get Lucky, is a full sister to Rhythm, a 2-year-old champion and Travers winner, as well as Not for Love, a successful sire.

His third dam, Dance Number, won the Beldame Stakes and Shuvee Handicap and was out of Numbered Account, the 2-year-old champion filly of 1971, who also produced Private Account and Polish Numbers. Numbered Account had a full sister, Playmate, who produced champion Woodman, and another sister, Special Account, is the third dam of Heritage of Gold.