04/29/2014 3:02PM

Non-Kentucky-breds among top 2014 Derby contenders

Barbara D Livingston
Uncle Sigh will try to become the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby since Funny Cide in 2003.

This year’s Kentucky Derby field is among the most regionally diverse in recent memory, with horses bred in five different states and one Canadian province likely to run.

As of Thursday, the projected 20-horse field was set to include runners bred in Kentucky, New York, California, Louisiana, Florida, and Ontario. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the last horse bred outside of Kentucky to win the race, when Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones took his first step toward what would become a Triple Crown near-miss in 2004.

Four of the top five horses in the 2014 field, as measured by Derby qualifying points, were foaled outside of Kentucky, with the only exception being Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong.

The points leader and probable favorite in this year’s race is Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome, who will attempt to become the first California-bred to win the Derby since Decidedly in 1962. Homebred by Martin Perry and Steve Coburn, California Chrome, a son of Lucky Pulpit, is the first California-bred to run in the Kentucky Derby since Rousing Sermon, another son of Lucky Pulpit, finished eighth in 2012.

California Chrome developed a strong local following in his home state as he trained up to the Derby. Trainer Art Sherman bases his operation at Los Alamitos, which recently expanded its track and plans to run a full-fledged Thoroughbred meet later this year. Sherman said the track’s staff and horsemen have been welcoming.

“The people at Los Alamitos are just great,” Sherman said following California Chrome’s victory in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March. “The Quarter Horse people, I have more rooters over there today. You cannot believe it. Every Quarter Horse trainer came over and shook my hand and said, ‘Go get ‘em, Art.’ It made me feel good.”

A pair of New York-breds are scheduled to compete in this year’s Derby after spending much of the prep season going head-to-head at Aqueduct. Samraat and Uncle Sigh finished a battling one-two in the Grade 3 Withers and Gotham stakes.

Samraat, a son of Noble Causeway, was homebred in the Empire State by Len Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm. Dr. Jon Davis’s Milfer Farm in upstate New York bred Uncle Sigh, an Indian Charlie colt owned by Wounded Warrior Stable.

Both horses will attempt to duplicate the success of dual classic winner Funny Cide, who became the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby in 2003.

Gary Contessa, the trainer of Uncle Sigh, said he was well aware of what it means to have a New York-bred on the Derby trail and discussed it prior to the colt’s fifth-place finish in the Wood Memorial.

“It’s not the norm to see a horse win a New York-bred maiden race, then go to the Withers, then go to the Gotham, and then be talked about being one of the favorites in the Wood,” he said. “As far as learning experience, [he] kind of went from kindergarten to fifth grade to high school to college.”

Vicar’s in Trouble will attempt to become the first Louisiana-bred Kentucky Derby winner. An Into Mischief colt bred by B. Wayne Hughes’s Spendthrift Farm, Vicar’s in Trouble will be the first Louisiana-bred to run in the Derby since Zarb’s Magic finished 13th in 1996.

Regardless of his finish, Vicar’s in Trouble will break new ground as the first graduate of the fledgling Equine Sales Co. of Louisiana to race in the Derby. He commanded $8,000 at the auction company’s inaugural yearling sale in September 2012.

There will be at least two Florida-breds among this year’s Derby contenders: Blue Grass Stakes winner Dance With Fate (bred by Best A Luck Farm); Fountain of Youth winner Wildcat Red (bred by Moreau Bloodstock International and Winter Racing Enterprise). Possible late addition Pablo Del Monte was also bred in Florida, by trainer Wesley Ward.

They will be the first Florida-breds to race in the Derby since 2011, when five Sunshine State horses left the starting gate, led by third-place finisher Mucho Macho Man. Florida is the second-most prolific producer of Derby winners behind Kentucky with six, most recently Silver Charm in 1997.

Rounding out the list of contenders bred outside of Kentucky is We Miss Artie, bred in Ontario by Richard Lister. The Spiral Stakes-winning son of Artie Schiller will be the first Canadian-bred to run in the Derby since eventual Belmont winner Victory Gallop finished second in 1998. Two Canadian-breds have won the Kentucky Derby: Sunny’s Halo in 1983 and Northern Dancer in 1964.