05/05/2016 8:00AM

Kentucky Derby: Figuring out who is likely to get the distance

Barbara D. Livingston
Brody's Cause stands out among the Kentucky Derby entrants on average winning distance of his sire and dam's progeny.

While the Kentucky Derby is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for every horse in the field, the same could be said for many about the distance they will run Saturday. The final furlong in the 1 1/4-mile race will be uncharted territory in competition for all of its entries, many of whom will never race the classic distance again.

Because there is no prior form to help judge who will have something left in the tank for that last eighth of a mile in the Churchill Downs stretch, a useful tool to help determine each horse’s distance potential is the average winning distance of his sire and dam’s progeny.

Though far from an exact science, AWD numbers can provide a snapshot of a sire or dam’s ability to impart stamina to his or her offspring. The higher a sire or dam’s AWD, the more likely his or her foals can handle a route of ground.

The AWD figures can help identify longer-priced horses who are capable of filling out exotics based on their natural stamina.

Previous horses who finished at or near the top of their race’s AWD rankings at double-digit odds include 2013 Derby runner-up Golden Soul at 35-1, 2013 Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow at 15-1, 2014 Belmont Stakes runner-up Commissioner at 28-1, and 2015 Belmont third-place finisher Keen Ice at 17-1.

Taking into account the comparative AWDs from the sires and dams of this year’s Derby entries, two-time Grade 1 winner Brody’s Cause stands out as the horse who appears best equipped to handle the classic distance from a pedigree standpoint. Brody’s Cause, owned by the Albaugh Family Stable and trained by Dale Romans, is the only horse in the field whose sire and dam both ranked in the top five by AWD, giving him the best combined score.

Horse Stallion Rank Dam Rank Combined Score Combined Rank
Brody's Cause 1 5 6 1
Lani 7 1 8 2
Shagaf 6 2 8 2
Oscar Nominated 3 6 9 3
Trojan Nation 2 7 9 3
Creator 7 3 10 4
Cherry Wine 7 4 11 5
Gun Runner 11 4 15 6
Mohaymen 7 8 15 6
Destin 1 15 16 7
My Man Sam 13 4 17 8
Majesto 6 11 17 8
Suddenbreakingnews 8 9 17 8
Mo Tom 10 10 20 9
Exaggerator 5 16 21 10
Whitmore 4 17 21 10
Mor Spirit 9 13 22 11
Nyquist 10 12 22 11
Outwork 10 16 26 12
Danzing Candy 14 14 28 13
Tom's Ready 12 16 28 13
Laoban 10 18 28 13

He is a son of European Horse of the Year Giant’s Causeway, who boasts the highest AWD of the Derby sires at 8.48 furlongs. Giant’s Causeway is the only stallion in this year’s class whose foals win races at an average distance of a mile or greater, well ahead of second-place Street Cry, the sire of Trojan Nation, at 7.89 furlongs.

While a Kentucky Derby win has evaded Giant’s Causeway at stud, he has sired classic winners in England, France, Canada, and Chile, showing that class and distance are not an issue for the son of Storm Cat.

Giant’s Causeway is also the sire of Tampa Bay Derby winner Destin, who finished tied for eighth in the AWD rankings.

Stallion Horse(s) in Derby Crops of Racing Age Avg. Racing Distance (furlongs) Avg. Winning Distance (Furlongs)
Giant's Causeway Brody's Cause 13 8.55 8.48
Giant's Causeway Destin 13 8.55 8.48
Street Cry Trojan Nation 11 7.99 7.89
Kitten's Joy Oscar Nominated 8 7.74 7.80
Pleasantly Perfect Whitmore 9 7.65 7.68
Curlin Exaggerator 5 7.67 7.63
Bernardini Shagaf 7 7.57 7.62
Tiznow Majesto 12 7.55 7.62
Tapit Creator 9 7.47 7.48
Tapit Lani 9 7.47 7.48
Tapit Mohaymen 9 7.47 7.48
Paddy O'Prado Cherry Wine 2 7.26 7.48
Mineshaft Suddenbreakingnews 10 7.30 7.34
Eskendereya Mor Spirit 3 7.42 7.31
Uncle Mo Nyquist 2 7.03 6.99
Uncle Mo Outwork 2 7.03 6.99
Uncle Mo Mo Tom 2 7.03 6.99
Uncle Mo Laoban 2 7.03 6.99
Candy Ride Gun Runner 9 7.04 6.96
More Than Ready Tom's Ready 13 6.96 6.86
Trappe Shot My Man Sam 2 6.55 6.67
Twirling Candy Danzing Candy 2 6.68 6.44

Brody’s Cause is out of the multiple Canadian stakes-placed Sahm mare Sweet Breanna, who is the dam of two winners from two foals to race and ranked fifth among Derby broodmares by progeny AWD at 8.47 furlongs. Her first foal is the Midnight Lute filly Midnight Sweetie, who earned each of her three victories at a mile and 70 yards or greater and ran second in the two-turn Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds.

United Arab Emirates Derby winner Lani and Gotham Stakes winner Shagaf finished tied for second in the AWD standings.

Lani, a son of seventh-ranked Tapit, is out of the Derby’s highest-ranked broodmare by AWD, the Japanese Group 1-winning Sunday Silence mare Heavenly Romance, who is the dam of six winners from six runners. Her foals have won a combined 24 races, with just two at a distance of less than a mile. Both of those came in 1,600-meter races, which measure out to about 7.95 furlongs, just under the eight furlongs that make up a mile.

Heavenly Romance’s AWD of 9.77 furlongs is nearly a furlong better than second-place Muhaawara, the dam of Shagaf, who checks in at 8.80 furlongs.

Mare Horse in Derby Starters Winners Avg. Winning Distance (furlongs)
Heavenly Romance Lani 6 6 9.77
Muhaawara Shagaf 2 2 8.80
Morena Creator 1 1 8.75
Quiet Giant Gun Runner 1 1 8.50
Lauren Byrd My Man Sam 2 1 8.50
C. S. Royce Cherry Wine 1 1 8.50
Sweet Breanna Brody's Cause 2 2 8.47
Devine Actress Oscar Nominated 2 1 8.42
Storm Song Trojan Nation 10 4 8.29
Justwhistledixie Mohaymen 3 3 7.81
Uchitel Suddenbreakingnews 2 2 7.63
Caroni Mo Tom 7 6 7.59
Unacloud Majesto 10 7 7.37
Seeking Gabrielle Nyquist 1 1 7.36
Im a Dixie Girl Mor Spirit 6 5 7.22
Talkin and Singing Danzing Candy 2 2 7.00
Dream of Summer Destin 5 4 6.84
Dawn Raid Exaggerator 3 3 6.50
Nonna Mia Outwork 2 2 6.50
Goodbye Stranger Tom's Ready 4 4 6.50
Melody's Spirit Whitmore 1 1 6.00
Chattertown Laoban 1 0 N/A

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Muhaawara, a stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song mare, has had two winners from two foals to race, including the More Than Ready filly Gharbeya, who was a winner in France at about 1 5/16 miles.

Four first-crop sires are represented among this year’s contenders, meaning their numbers could change dramatically.

The also-eligible Cherry Wine’s sire, Paddy O’Prado, sports the highest AWD figure of this year’s rookie Derby stallions and is the only newcomer in the top half of the standings.

The son of El Prado’s runners have been raced at an average distance of 7.26 furlongs and win at 7.48 furlongs, suggesting that their ceilings might be higher than the typical offspring of Paddy O’Prado has been tested at. Cherry Wine ranks fifth in the combined AWD rankings, making him one to watch in the Preakness Stakes if he does not draw into Saturday’s race.

Uncle Mo’s historic first crop has four colts among the 22 entries: champion Nyquist, Outwork, Mo Tom, and Laoban. However, there have been questions about their ability to handle the classic distance, and the sire’s AWD figure doesn’t do much to ease those concerns.

The sire’s 6.99-furlong AWD figure seeds him 10th in the field, with the lowest being fellow first-cropper Twirling Candy, the sire of Danzing Candy. He ranks 14th at 6.44 furlongs. Uncle Mo’s highest-placed son in the combined rankings is Mo Tom, who sits in ninth on the list.