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Kentucky Derby: Figuring out who is likely to get the distance
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|
|My Man Sam||13||4||17||8|
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|
|Street Cry||Trojan Nation||11||7.99||7.89|
|Kitten's Joy||Oscar Nominated||8||7.74||7.80|
|Paddy O'Prado||Cherry Wine||2||7.26||7.48|
|Uncle Mo||Mo Tom||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)|
|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|
|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|
|Goodbye Stranger||Tom's Ready||4||4||6.50|
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.
These AWD numbers are just numbers, good for people that do writing for a living. The most important thing is time. Every horse can run 1 1/4 mile and it is a matter of how fast. Without the time factored in when comparing sires' past performance, these AWD numbers remain just numbers.
Results outweigh AWD theoreticals, in my opinion. If you saw Nyquist Fla Derby, Exaggerator SA Derby, it is obvious that AWD numbers are not holding up so far. A 3 yr old that can get 1 1/8 miles in 1:50 or less wins the Derby.
How many chances have Uncle Mo, Danzing Candy, Trappe Shot progeny had at longer than a mile? While I do have doubts about all three, this is a nonsense article because of the Freshman sires involved. Additionally, the mother alone isn't the only source of stamina. The entire female family is the most relevant Derby distance indicator. See American Pharoah, Cali Chrome, etc.
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