05/11/2015 11:43AM

Well-bred Divining Rod a new challenger in Preakness Stakes

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Divining Rod won the Lexington Stakes last month at Keeneland, then bypassed the Kentucky Derby in favor of the Preakness.

Roy Jackson had a Kentucky Derby horse.

Divining Rod had enough points to make the gate after a three-length win in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 11, and Jackson had already ponied up the $6,000 required for late nomination into the Triple Crown races. The ticket to Louisville was his to punch.

By the time the horse was unsaddled, Jackson had already made his decision, and his vision for the colt reached beyond the first Saturday in May.

“I’d just like to see him go on and hopefully win a few more stakes at some point,” Jackson said after the Lexington. “He’s well enough-bred that maybe someday down the road he could try and stand somewhere [at stud].”

Looking at Divining Rod’s pedigree, it’s not hard to see why one would get excited about the colt’s stallion potential, especially if his on-track resume passes muster. A win on Saturday in the Preakness Stakes would go a long way toward checking that box.

Divining Rod is a son of Tapit, who set the North American record for progeny earnings in 2014, led by champion Untapable and Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist. The fact that Untapable’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff handed her sire the record in early November made the feat even more impressive.

Tapit, a 14-year-son of Pulpit, stands at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Ky. for an advertised fee of $300,000, putting him in the rarified air of sires like Storm Cat, A.P. Indy, and Distorted Humor, who were the last sires to command that price in 2008. His roster of Grade 1 winners in 2015 includes Untapable, Ring Weekend, Constitution, and Frosted, already matching his total output from last year.

Divining Rod’s female family is just as enticing, starting with his dam, Precious Kitten. The daughter of Catienus was purchased privately by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables between her 4-year-old and 5-year-old campaigns after racing as a homebred for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Precious Kitten had already become a multiple Grade 1 winner for her original owners, winning the Matriarch Stakes and the John C. Mabee Handicap, before changing hands. She earned another Grade 1 for the Jacksons in the Gamely Stakes before starting her broodmare career.

“[The Ramseys] had a lot of the family, and [Ken] had two or three other fillies and I think he was just trying to raise a little capital to do some other things,” Jackson said. “We were lucky enough to be able to get involved here, and fortunately, she’s produced a nice colt.”

Divining Rod is the third foal out of Precious Kitten, and the first to race out of the mare. The first two foals are unraced fillies, and he has a yearling half sister by Medaglia d’Oro.

While her race record is inarguably stellar, what makes Precious Kitten stand out most is her family tree. She is out of the Ramsey breeding program’s cornerstone broodmare, Kitten’s First, whose star offspring is turf champion Kitten’s Joy, who was North America’s leading sire in 2013 and ranked third last year. Divining Rod has last year’s leading sire on the top side of his pedigree and the leading sire from two years ago on the bottom.

Kitten’s First is also the dam of Grade 3-placed stakes winner Justenuffheart, whose foals include champion Dreaming of Anna and Grade 2 winners and sires Lewis Michael and Justenuffhumor. Grade 3 winner Cassatt, by Tapit, can also be found on the page, further showing the strength of the family’s cross with the gray stallion.

Jackson said the decision to cross Precious Kitten with Tapit was a group effort, crediting bloodstock agent Doug Cauthen and Headley Bell of Mill Ridge Farm with helping him make the decision.

“It just seemed to fit,” he said about the mating.

Divining Rod enters the Preakness with two wins in five starts for earnings of $249,800. The Lexington was his first stakes win, after a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes and a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. He is trained by Arnaud Delacour.

The Preakness will be a homecoming of sorts for Divining Rod, who got his start in Maryland with a 2 ¾-length debut score last November at Laurel Park. A big effort on Saturday could ensure he has a place in Kentucky when his racing career is over.