It’s that time of year when the Kentucky Derby field is shaping up. I thought it might be fun to examine the sires of the top twenty contenders based on Blood Horse’s List. Some of the sires are not surprising and have done well in the sim. Others are quite surprising for one reason or another. The following sires are broken down by categories. Some horses certainly belong in multiple categories but I put them where I thought they fit best.
There are two sires who have multiple horses on the list – Candy Ride, sire of Game Winner and Vekoma and War Front who has Omaha Beach and War of Will. Candy Ride is one of the leading sires by earnings in the US and has been for many years. He gets both precocious youngsters like his two Derby contenders as well as Honeybee Stakes winner Chocolate Kisses and San Vicente winner Sparkyville, both of whom are also from this crop. In the game Candy Ride has not received the respect he deserves as a leading sire and also produces horses that tend to need time to develop instead of the precocious types he gets in real life. War Front seems to be the opposite of Candy Ride. He has been a top ten sire from 2015-2018. He gets a good combination of sprinters and routers as well as turf and dirt horses. Most of his best runners in real life get shipped to Europe to run on the grass and often they are sprinter/milers. He’s sired several champions there. Omaha Beach represented his twentieth grade one winner but having two Derby contenders who route on the dirt is certainly surprising.
There are two sires who are no surprise on the list Tapit and Quality Road. Both have been major sires over the past few years and while Tapit has a longer history than Quality Road the latter has been on fire since his first crop hit the ground. Tapit has the top point earner in the race, Tacitus. Tacitus won both the Wood Memorial and the Tampa Bay Derby nicely. He will certainly take a lot of money at the windows come Derby day. Quality Road also has a horse who will be among the favorites, Roadster the impressive winner of the Santa Anita Derby. He beat a strong field including Game Runner in that spot circling the field and running them all down at the end.
Three very nice sires could be propelled into even higher echelon’s with Derby wins this year. Lookin’ At Lucky seeems like the obvious choice to lead off this group. For years he was credited with being a sire who could get you a good horse, not a great one. That was before Accelerate won five grade ones last year including the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was named Champion Older Male. Country House will represent him in the Derby. Hard Spun has always been a consistent sire with runners such as Wicked Strong and Questing. He has a much higher price tag than the other sires in this grouping but I would not list him as elite either. His runner is Spinoff who was second in the Louisiana Derby. First Samurai is the last sire here with Cutting Humor set a track record in the Sunland Park Derby. First Samurai has had winners on dirt and turf (including G1 winner Lea who won G1s on both surfaces) but he is the lowest priced sire on the list.
Daaher has sired Haikal the winner of the Gotham Stakes and was third in the Wood Memorial. The deep closer was making his first start around two turns in the Wood Memorial and he made a belated run that got him within four lengths of the top two. Haikal was just Daaher’s second graded stakes winner and the sire who stands for $3,000 has sired 135 foals from eight crops of racing age. That’s actually fewer than he has sired in the sim where he has 174 foals, two of which are stakes winner. First Samurai is our other surprise sire. He has Cutting Humor on the Derby list. Cutting Humor set a track record with a big win in the Sunland Park Derby. Cutting Humor returned to finish off the board in the Arkansas Derby. First Samurai is not a bad sire but his best runners need time, like Lea and Justin Phillip, both of whom won their biggest races at age five. In the game First Samurai has sired only one grade one winner.
There are two sires who are quite young but very promising with their first few crops. The first is Goldencents, sire of By My Standards. By My Standards was an upset winner of the Louisiana Derby. Goldencents was the #2 leading freshman sire in 2018 and #1 second crop sire in 2019 (so far). By My Standards is his first graded winner but he has sired a number of stakes runners and has been supported strongly by breeders. Goldencents has done similarly in the game with no graded winners but a number of stakes horses. The other young stallion with a Derby prospect is Noble Mission. Noble Mission, a full brother to the immortal Frankel would not be an immediate choice to sire precocious dirt runners. He was the #6 leading freshman sire in 2018 and is in the same position for 2019 second crop sires. He had fourteen winners last season even though he only ran one race as a two year old himself. Code of Honor was grade one placed in his two year old season and won the Fountain of Youth this year. He’s also thrown in two duds, his last race was a third place finish in the Florida Derby. In the game Noble Mission already has five graded winners including a grade one winner. 72% of his winners are turf runners.
Sires Who Have Passed Away
Three sires have passed away since producing these three year olds. The biggest name is Scat Daddy, who of course sired Justify last year. This year he has Anothertwistoffate who is #20 on the Blood Horse list. Anothertwistoffate is best known for his win in the El Camino Real Stakes over a synthetic race course. Scat Daddy was for a long time considered just a turf sire but even before Justify he had produced a steady group of dirt winners. The second sire represented here is City Zip, sire of Improbable. A G1 winning two year old Improbable finished a strong second in both the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby. City Zip was generally known for siring sprinters but this colt is out of an A.P. Indy mare. It’s also worth noting that City Zip’s half brother is Ghostzapper. The final sire in this list is Arch, sire of Tax. Tax was claimed for $50,000 but has gone on to be a legitimate graded performer. He won the G3 Withers Stakes and was second to Tacitus in the Wood Memorial.
Sires Shipped Overseas
There is a superstition in racing that as soon as a sire is shipped overseas that sire gets hot in the USA. Ironically there are more horses in this category than any other. The best example of this superstition may be Take Charge Indy sire of Rebel Stakes winner Take Charge Toddy. Take Charge Indy was sold before his first foals even hit the track. His first crop earned enough for him to be third on the first crop sires list and he did one better as a second crop sire. New Year’s Day was a shuttle stallion to Brazil. He did not come back home this year but it is possible he next year after a big win by Maximum Security in the Florida Derby. Also an import to Brazil who was not sent back was the Sunday Silence stallion Hat Trick. He has Win Win Win in the race. The colt was second in the Bluegrass and third in the Tampa Bay Derby. The last sire on the list is General Quarterrs with Signalman. A fan favorite, General Quarters himself had a quirky pedigree and never found good standing as a sire. He was sent to Turkey and even with a potential Derby horse he almost certainly will not come back. Signalman was third in the Bluegrass and is on the bubble for getting into the Derby Field.