05/02/2014 6:06PM

Kentucky Derby 2014: Who is bred for the distance?

Barbara D. Livingston
Intense Holiday's pedigree ranks as the best of this Kentucky Derby field by distance capabilities.

No matter their résumé heading into the race, each horse in the Kentucky Derby field will be entering uncharted territory on Saturday when they stretch out to a mile and a quarter.

For most, the Derby’s 10 furlongs will be the longest distance they will ever have to run in competition. Since there is no racetrack performance to base an opinion on, one helpful tool to measure a horse’s distance capability is the average winning distance of the sire’s and dam’s progeny.
While there are always exceptions, the AWD numbers can provide a quick snapshot of a sire’s ability to impart stamina on his progeny or a dam’s capabilities as a producer. For example, if a stallion’s AWD is 7.75 furlongs, then the average distance of a race won by one of his offspring is between 7 1/2 furlongs and one mile. An average foal by that sire should be more likely to handle a route of ground than one by a sire with a lower AWD number.

Taking into account the comparative AWDs of the sires and dams of this year’s Kentucky Derby runners, Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes winner Intense Holiday emerges as the horse that appears the most capable of handling the classic distance from a pedigree standpoint.

Intense Holiday, owned by Starlight Racing, is out of the unplaced Unbridled’s Song mare Intensify, who had the highest AWD number among all the dams in this year’s Kentucky Derby field at 8.25 furlongs. Intense Holiday is Intensify’s lone winner from two foals to race, with wins at a mile and 1 1/16 miles. Those starts create the dam’s high average, which is admittedly somewhat misleading as it is solely based on Intense Holiday’s own race record.

The dark bay or brown colt is by the late Harlan’s Holiday, who ranked sixth among this year’s Derby sires with an AWD of 7.07 furlongs from eight crops of racing age. The offspring most applicable to Triple Crown discussion is Denis of Cork, who finished third in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, then returned to finish second in the Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles.

Intense Holiday is the field’s only starter to have both his sire and dam rank in the top six by average progeny winning distance.
The only other horse to have both sire and dam finish in the top ten among the Derby entrants was Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong.
The bay colt is by 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun, who ranks eighth among 2014 Derby sires with an AWD of 6.96 furlongs. His four crops of racing age include Questing, the champion 3-year-old female of 2012, who won that year’s Grade 1, 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes by nine lengths.

Owned by Centennial Farms, Wicked Strong is out of the winning Charismatic mare Moyne Abbey, who is the dam of three winners from as many foals to race. She ranks fifth among Derby mares with an AWD number of 7.99 furlongs. Wicked Strong has won both at a mile and 1 1/8 miles, while half-sister Abbey Street, by Street Boss, won her maiden at 1 1/16 miles. Moyne Abbey’s first foal to race, a Fusaichi Pegasus colt, won his maiden going 1,300 meters (about 6 1/2 furlongs) in Korea.

Also of note, this year’s Kentucky Derby field features two sires represented by first-crop runners: 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneer of the Nile (AWD of 7.11 furlongs, fifth among Derby sires), who is the sire of Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Vinceremos; and Two Step Salsa (AWD of 6.43 furlongs, 17th), sire of Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes winner Dance With Fate.

This year’s field also has three horses that are the first runners by their dams. Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome is out of the winning Not For Love mare Love the Chase (AWD of 7.17 furlongs, 12th), while Grade 3 Spiral Stakes runner-up Harry’s Holiday is out of the unraced Orientate mare Daisy Mason (AWD of 6.33 furlongs, 18th). Pablo Del Monte is out of the winning Bring the Heat mare One Hot Wish (AWD of 5.5 furlongs, 20th).

The Derby stallion with the highest AWD number among this year’s field is the late Dynaformer, the sire of Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Medal Count, whose 22 crops of racing age have won at an average distance of 9.13 furlongs. Dynaformer, the sire of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, is the field’s only sire with an AWD number over 1 1/8 miles, and he is one of just two in the field with a figure greater than a mile. The other is Giant’s Causeway, sire of Pablo Del Monte, at 8.54 furlongs.

Rankings of Kentucky Derby starters by pedigree distance capabilities

Horse Sire Rank Dam Rank Total Score Combined Rank
Intense Holiday 6 1 7 1
Wicked Strong 8 5 13 2
Tapiture 4 10 14 3
Vinceremos 5 9 14 3
We Miss Artie 10 4 14 3
Medal Count 1 14 15 4
Danza 15 2 17 5
Commanding Curve 7 11 18 6
Uncle Sigh 13 6 19 7
Samraat 11 8 19 7
General a Rod 14 7 21 8
Chitu 18 3 21 8
Pablo Del Monte 2 20 22 9
Ride On Curlin 3 19 22 9
Candy Boy 9 13 22 9
Harry's Holiday 6 18 24 10
Vicar's in Trouble 12 15 27 11
California Chrome 16 12 28 12
Wildcat Red 15 17 32 13
Dance With Fate 17 16 33 14

Average progeny winning distance of sires represented in the Kentucky Derby

Stallion Horse(s) in Derby Crops of Racing Age Avg. Racing Distance
Avg Winning Distance
Dynaformer Medal Count 22 8.98 9.13
Curlin Ride On Curlin 3 7.54 7.57
Tapit Tapiture 7 7.36 7.37
Pioneerof the Nile Vinceremos 2 6.99 7.11
Harlan's Holiday Intense Holiday
Harry's Holiday
8 7.21 7.07
Master Command Commanding Curve 3 6.9 6.98
Hard Spun Wicked Strong 4 7.04 6.96
Candy Ride Candy Boy 7 6.95 6.9
Artie Schiller We Miss Artie 5 6.97 6.84
Noble Causeway Samraat 4 6.79 6.75
Into Mischief Vicar's in Trouble 3 6.46 6.65
Indian Charlie Uncle Sigh 13 6.78 6.62
Roman Ruler General a Rod 6 6.67 6.57
Street Boss Danza 3 6.53 6.5
D'wildcat Wildcat Red 8 6.57 6.5
Lucky Pulpit California Chrome 5 6.43 6.45
Two Step Salsa Dance With Fate 2 6.67 6.43
Henny Hughes Chitu 5 6.42 6.31

Average progeny winning distance of mares with offspring in the Kentucky Derby

Mare Horse in Derby Starters Winners Avg. Winning Distance
Intensify Intense Holiday 2 1 8.25
Champagne Royale Danza 4 4 8.11
Sea Gift Chitu 5 4 8.02
Athena's Gift We Miss Artie 2 2 8
Moyne Abbey Wicked Strong 3 3 7.99
Cradlesong Uncle Sigh 6 6 7.98
Dynamite Eyes General a Rod 2 2 7.67
Little Indian Girl Samraat 7 6 7.66
Kettle's Sister Vinceremos 2 2 7.5
Free Spin Tapiture 5 4 7.45
Mother Commanding Curve 2 2 7.38
Love the Chase California Chrome 1 1 7.17
She's an Eleven Candy Boy 3 2 7.08
Brisquette Medal Count 6 4 7
Vibrant Vicar's in Trouble 4 3 6.98
Flirting With Fate Dance With Fate 4 3 6.63
Racene Wildcat Red 6 6 6.35
Daisy Mason Harry's Holiday 1 1 6.33
Magical Ride Ride On Curlin 2 2 5.83