“I never met a Kentucky Derby I didn’t like,” said famous turf writer Joe Hirsch, and I would certainly agree.
The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby did not disappoint. As always it was a very exciting race. Favored Bodemeister (Empire Maker) took the lead early, and took the field through record fractions. At the top of the lane, he had a three length lead, but he gave way in the final 1/16 to I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley). The son of Flower Alley went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths at odds of 15-1.
I’ll Have Another bucked a couple of Derby trends. He became the first Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1) winner since Sunday Silence (Halo) in 1989 to win the roses, and he became the first horse ever to win from post position 19. Also, Mario Gutierrez became the first jockey to win the Derby in his first mount since Stewart Elliot piloted Smarty Jones (Elusive Quality) to victory in 2004. Not only did he give his jockey his first win, but it was also the first Derby victory for owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill.
Second choice, Union Rags (Dixie Union), was pinched out of the gate, all but sealing his fate, but he finished well to be 7th. An interesting note, Trakus reports that he ran the fastest final 1/16. Dullahan (Even the Score) and Went the Day Well (Proud Citizen) came on very strongly at the finish, and, along with Union Rags, should be taken seriously if they run in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes (Grade 1).
As for the upcoming Preakness Stakes (Grade 1), I’ll Have Another has already arrived in Baltimore to prepare for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
The last Kentucky Derby winner to take the Preakness was Big Brown (Boundary) in 2008, and as is well known, no horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed (Exclusive Native) in 1978. Other Derby runners that may challenge him are Bodemeister, Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway), Hansen (Tapit), Union Rags, and Went the Day Well. New shooters that are in the mix right now include Cozzetti (Cozzene), Hierro (Hard Spun), Paynter (Awesome Again), and Tiger Walk (Tale of the Cat).
The 138th Kentucky Oaks (Grade 1) made history of its own. It was won for the first time by a female jockey. Rosie Napravnik finished second in last year’s Oaks with St. John’s River (Include) before winning the lilies this year with Believe You Can (Proud Citizen). Believe You Can tracked pacesetter Broadway’s Alibi (Vindication) early, before the two of them fought a fine battle in the stretch with the Proud Citizen filly eventually getting the better of her rival by 3/4 lengths. Favorite Grace Hall (Empire Maker) finished third. Believe You Can gave her owner Brereton Jones, trainer Larry Jones and sire Proud Citizen all their second win in the Kentucky Oaks after Proud Spell (Proud Citizen) in 2008.
This week, there is one race that has an impact on the Triple Crown Trail, the Peter Pan Stakes (Grade 2) at Belmont Park. The race is headlined by Jerome Stakes (Grade 2) Winner The Lumber Guy (Grand Slam). This race is New York’s prep race for the Belmont Stakes (Grade 1). The Test of a Champion will be run on June 9.
Talk Pedigree to me: Believe You Can
Believe You Can (Proud Citizen) achieved immortality on Friday by winning the 138th running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She began her career with a fourth place finish in a maiden at Monmouth Park, and broke her maiden second time out Delaware Park. She then took an Allowance Optional Claimer at the same track before moving up to stakes company. She won her stakes debut in the Tempted Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. She finished her two-year-old season with a 6th place finish in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs to On Fire Baby (Smoke Glacken). She started her sophomore season with a win in the Silverbulletday Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds. After finishing off the board in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G3), she won the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in her final prep for the Kentucky Oaks.
Her sire is Kentucky Derby (G1) Runner-Up Proud Citizen. He comes from the same family as the great international influence Northern Dancer. The son of Gone West won 3 times in 16 starts. His biggest win came in the 2002 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G2) before running second to War Emblem (Our Emblem) in the Derby. As a sire, he has produced 17 stakes winners (4%), and his best runner to date is Champion Proud Spell. He is having a fantastic year this year, and is currently in 6th place on the general sires list. Along with Believe You Can, his top runners this year are Went the Day Well, Mark Valeski, and Vamo A Galupiar (CHI). An interesting note is that both of Proud Citizen’s Oaks winners aare inbred to the full siblings Northern Dancer and Arctic Dancer 4×4.
The dam of the Oaks winner is the unraced El Prado (IRE) mare El Fasto. She is the dam of three foals to race, all of whom are winners, and she is a half-sister to Grade 2 Winner Classic Elegance (Carson City). It is interesting to note, that El Fasto, just like her daughter is inbred to the family of Northern Dancer. She has a 5×4 cross to Almahmoud.
Seth Kochera is a graduate of Georgetown College, working in the horse industry. He studies bloodlines and racing performance and shares his knowledge with KyForward readers. He’ll be following the road to the Triple Crown. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.