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Apr 24, 2009

The Leading Kentucky Derby Pedigrees

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Speed, class and a traffic-free trip are all important elements in a successful Kentucky Derby win, but the most vital component of a triumphant victory is a pedigree capable of moving a horse forward in the 1 1/4-mile race.

Chocolate Candy is a colt that on paper looks to be a notch or two below the top contenders. He hasn't defeated any horse of note and sports a pair of losses to Pioneerof the Nile in his two Grade I events. On the other hand, eliminate him at your own risk, as the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained three-year- old could very well have the strongest pedigree of the expected 20-horse field.

Chocolate Candy's sire Candy Ride won the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic at Del Mar in track record time six years ago completing a perfect six-for-six lifetime mark. In addition, Chocolate Candy's damsire is none other than the '77 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, while his dam's mother, In Memory, is a half-sister to the '78 Triple Crown champion Affirmed.

Speed on the sire line with endurance on the dam side has been the winning formula for many of the more recent champions on the first Saturday in May, with Big Brown, Street Sense, Giacomo and Smarty Jones all fitting this mold. The two colts that adhere closest to that blueprint in this year's field are Quality Road and Dunkirk.

Elusive Quality, one of the nation's top milers in the late '90s, has already sired a Derby champion in Smarty Jones, and Quality Road could very well hand him his second victory in five years. Elusive Quality's grandsire is the late, great Mr. Prospector, one of the most influential sires of all time.

Descendants of Mr. Prospector have won eight of the last 14 Kentucky Derbies.

Moreover, Quality Road's dam, Kobla, is a full sister to the 1997 Eclipse Award winning three-year-old filly, Ajina, winner of the 10-furlong CCA Oaks, so there is definitely a lot to like concerning his chances for even more improvement as the distances increase.

Dunkirk has a pedigree very similar to his Florida Derby rival, as Mr. Prospector shows up in his fourth generation on the sire line. Both colts have something else in common (along with Chocolate Candy), as 1978 Triple Crown runner-up Alydar is the sire of the second dam on the female side.

In Dunkirk's case, it's Private Status, whose daughter Secret Status won the 2000 Kentucky Oaks while finishing second in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes. His damsire, A.P. Indy, was 1992's Horse of the Year after winning the Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic.

Given all this information, one wager that must be made on Derby Day is a boxed trifecta using Quality Road, Dunkirk and Chocolate Candy.


A lot has been made of the length of time it took Garrett Gomez to decide which colt to ride in the Kentucky Derby, Pioneerof the Nile or Dunkirk, a decision that should have been a slam-dunk based on what each colt has accomplished.

When was the last time a jockey took this long to choose between a horse that has eclipsed over $1 million in earnings (with a pair of Grade I victories) vs. a colt that has never even won a stakes race?

Jockeys do not have a crystal ball and they certainly have a history of choosing the wrong horse. Back in 1964, Bill Shoemaker stayed with Hill Prince over eventual winner Northern Dancer, and 10 years ago, Jerry Bailey decided to go with Worldly Manner after riding Charismatic to victory in the Lexington Stakes. Chris Antley picked up the mount on the D. Wayne Lukas-trained three- year-old, who not only won the Derby but grabbed the Preakness as well.

Jerry Bailey also gave up the mount on Go For Gin in 1994 after piloting him in his five previous races. Chris McCarron swooped in and won the Derby in gate-to-wire fashion.

Despite losing Gomez, Dunkirk will still have a familiar face on top as Edgar Prado picks up the mount. Prado, who rode the Todd Pletcher-trainee in his debut, won the 2006 Kentucky Derby with Barbaro, while Go-Go's best mount was a seventh-place finish aboard Southern Rhythm 15 years ago.


Trainer Chris Block has decided to forego the Kentucky Derby and point Giant Oak to the turf. That announcement was met with cheers from the Summer Bird camp, as the Tim Ice-trained colt will now be eligible to compete in the Run for the Roses.

Summer Bird, like Dunkirk, has raced just three times in his career, with his last battle a fast-closing third to Papa Clem in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby.

His breeding suggests he'll be even better at 10 furlongs.

His sire Birdstone prevented Smarty Jones from racing immortality by defeating him in the '04 Belmont Stakes. Birdstone's sire, Grindstone, won the 1996 Kentucky Derby and his sire, Unbridled, took home the Roses in 1990. Additionally, Unbridled's grandsire is Mr. Prospector.

Summer Bird's female line is just as impressive. His dam, Kong Kong Squall never won a race but her sire Summer Squall (a half-brother to A.P. Indy) sired Charismatic to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1999. Moreover, Kong Kong Squall's mom, Hong Kong Jade, is a half-sister to Boundary, the sire of last year's Derby-Preakness winner, Big Brown.

Todd Pletcher's Join in the Dance is next on the graded earnings list but the front-running colt needs a defection to, pardon the pun, join the dance. On a related note, WinStar Farm, who already has two stone closers in the Derby in Hold Me Back and Mr. Hot Stuff, owns Pletcher's come-from-behind colt Advice, who won last Saturday's Lexington Stakes. It will be interesting to see if Advice somehow fails to enter since Pletcher would rather have Join in the Dance in the race to ensure a fast pace for Dunkirk.


The new Top 10 is almost a carbon copy of last week's list, as the front four remains unchanged. Unlike last year when Big Brown was the prohibitive 2-1 favorite, the betting choice in this year's event will go off anywhere between 7-2 to 9-2 offering solid value on any and all contenders. And don't forget, the favorite has won the last two years while the favorite or second choice has won four of the last five.

1) Dunkirk; 2) Quality Road; 3) I Want Revenge; 4) Friesan Fire; 5) Chocolate Candy; 6) Pioneerof the Nile; 7) Desert Party; 8) Hold Me Back; 9) Papa Clem; 10-T) Regal Ransom and Summer Bird.

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