Taiba has both blueblood and blue-collar elements in his pedigree (Benoit Photo)
The latest son of Gun Runner to book his spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Taiba is a surprise addition to the field.
The $1.7 million two-year-old in training purchase has always been highly regarded, but he didn’t make it to the races until March 5. Owner Amr Zedan, who also campaigned Medina Spirit, was the one who pressed to run Taiba in the Santa Anita Derby
(G1) off that six-furlong maiden. On paper, it was a massive challenge to stretch out to 1 1/8 miles, versus proven contenders on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, in just his second start.
But Taiba rose to the occasion
, setting up a bid for history on the first Saturday in May. You have to go back to 1883 to find a colt who won the Derby in his third career start, Leonatus.
Here are Taiba’s pedigree fun facts:
1. Gun Runner was third in the 2016 Kentucky Derby.
A leading player on the 2016 trail, Gun Runner won marquee preps at Fair Grounds, the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2), but settled for third behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby. He also placed in the Travers (G1), Pennsylvania Derby (G2), and Breeders’ Cup
Dirt Mile (G1) before reaching a new career high in the Clark H. (G1).
Gun Runner scaled even greater heights in 2017, when taking Horse of the Year honors and the champion older dirt male title. He ended his career riding a five-race winning streak – the Stephen Foster (G1), Whitney (G1), Woodward (G1), Breeders’ Cup Classic
(G1), and Pegasus World Cup
(G1) – and amassed a bankroll just shy of $16 million.
2. Gun Runner has three qualified for the Derby and an Oaks favorite.
In an even more promising sign for the future, three of his later-developing sons have secured Derby berths with strong efforts in the final preps. Cyberknife won the Arkansas Derby
(G3) romper Early Voting was a close second in the Wood Memorial (G2), and Taiba finished with a flourish at Santa Anita.
While Echo Zulu remains his leading Oaks chance, Gun Runner has two fillies currently on the bubble in Shotgun Hottie, most recently third in the Gazelle (G3), and Fantasy (G3) near-misser Beguine.
Thus Gun Runner will have a shot at a rare Derby-Oaks double. The last sire to achieve the feat is Gun Runner’s own male-line ancestor, Native Dancer, courtesy of Kauai King and Native Street in 1966.
3. Gun Runner is bred on similar lines to Derby favorite Epicenter.
Gun Runner is by the undefeated dual-hemisphere star Candy Ride
. The Argentine champion carried his outstanding form to Southern California, memorably setting a track record in the 2003 Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar. Gun Runner’s dam
, Grade 2 winner Quiet Giant
, is a half-sister to 2005 Breeders’ Cup Classic champ and Horse of the Year Saint Liam
. Quiet Giant is herself by the great Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway and Candy Ride appear prominently in the pedigrees of two current Derby contenders – likely favorite Epicenter
and Simplification. As described in their respective editions of pedigree fun facts
, Epicenter and Simplification are both by the Giant’s Causeway stallion Not This Time and out of Candy Ride mares. In that way, they reverse Gun Runner’s cross of Candy Ride over Giant’s Causeway.
4. Taiba’s dam, Needmore Flattery, is an Ohio-bred celebrity.
Needmore Flattery was Ohio’s state-bred Horse of the Year in 2013 and 2014. She earned $732,103 from a record of 17 wins and 10 placings from 39 career starts over four seasons of campaigning.
Fourteen of those victories came in stakes, nine worthy of “black-type” designation, from sprints up to 1 1/8-mile tests like the Queen City Oaks and Best of Ohio Distaff. Needmore Flattery rarely raced on turf, but she scored a black-type victory on the grass as well in the 2015 Vivacious H.
5. Taiba’s dam is by Flatter, who is also the grandsire of Zandon.
Although bred in the Buckeye State, Needmore Flattery is by a Kentucky blueblood who stands at legendary Claiborne Farm – Flatter. One of the successful sons of Hall of Famer A.P. Indy, Flatter has sired champion West Coast and Grade 2-winning millionaire Upstart, now the up-and-coming sire of Derby contender Zandon.
Flatter’s female line descends from Broodmare of the Year Glowing Tribute, the dam of 1993 Kentucky Derby and Travers star Sea Hero among several major winners. Flatter is himself the broodmare sire of such graded scorers as King Fury (out of Grade 1 queen Taris), Merneith, and Alcibiades (G1) vixen Juju’s Map, runner-up to Echo Zulu in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
6. Needmore Flattery is a half-sister to the first winner sired by California Chrome.
Needmore Flattery’s dam, Kiosk
, was newsworthy for another reason. Among the mares bred to 2014 Kentucky Derby hero and two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome
when he retired to stud, Kiosk produced his first winner. Sunkar Time as a youngster was exported to Russia, breaking his maiden at Krasnodar to get “Chrome” on the winning ledger as a sire.
Kiosk, who herself placed in a handful of Ohio-bred stakes, is responsible for three other stakes performers. Her latest is sophomore Flatter Her Again, who romped in the March 26 Southern Park S. As her name implies, Flatter Her Again is by Flatter and thus a full sister to Needmore Flattery.
7. Kiosk’s sire, Left Banker, was a stablemate of Hall of Famer Skip Away.
Left Banker, an obscure son of the Mr. Prospector stallion Afleet, did not earn any stakes credits during his racing career. But he had a famous stablemate of the same age, Hall of Famer Skip Away. Both were trained by Sonny Hine. Left Banker finished runner-up in a couple of Gulfstream Park maidens to future Grade 1 winners Will’s Way and Down the Aisle, and he ultimately won three races from 10 starts.
8. Taiba’s third dam is by the brilliant sprinter Phone Trick.
Kiosk is out of Phone Switch, a daughter of once-beaten sprinter Phone Trick. The winner of his first nine starts, including the 1986 San Carlos H. (G2), Bold Ruler (G2), and True North H. (G2), Phone Trick lost his perfect record when second to future champion Groovy in the Tom Fool H. (G2). One factor was the weight he carried, since Phone Trick had to spot sophomore Groovy 14 pounds. But he reportedly had an ankle issue coming out of that race, and ended up never racing again.
Phone Trick passed on his superior speed at stud, siring Favorite Trick, the only juvenile since Secretariat to be voted Horse of the Year; Caller One, a two-time winner of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in its early days (2001-02); and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies champ Phone Chatter, who like Phone Trick was trained by Richard Mandella.
9. Taiba’s fourth dam is by a close relative of Majestic Prince.
The next dam in the female line, Grand Glory, was a stakes performer on high-profile circuits. Runner-up in the 1985 Forward Gal S. at Gulfstream, she won the 1986 American Beauty S. at Oaklawn and placed in the Pan Zareta H. at Fair Grounds.
Grand Glory’s sire, Grand Rights, is an unraced three-quarter brother to 1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor Majestic Prince. Both Grand Rights and Majestic Prince were sired by the outstanding Raise a Native, himself an unbeaten juvenile star and seminal influence at stud, especially through his son Mr. Prospector.
Majestic Prince is a half-brother to Grand Rights’s dam, Betty Loraine, best known for producing 1974 French Derby (G1) hero Caracolero. Betty Loraine is also the granddam of Secreto, who famously upended El Gran Senor in the 1984 Derby (G1) at Epsom.
10. Taiba’s pedigree features repetitions of Raise a Native.
Raise a Native is a recurring presence on both sides of Taiba’s pedigree. Gun Runner himself sports a duplication of Fappiano, an illustrious son of “Mr. P,” and Raise a Native appears three times in the ancestry of Needmore Flattery. She is herself inbred to Mr. P, and her dam adds another cross of Raise a Native via Grand Rights.
11. Taiba’s female line traces to South America via Puerto Rico.
Taiba’s fifth dam, Etherea, was bred and raced in Puerto Rico, where she was multiple stakes-placed as a juvenile. One of her minor awards came in the Clasico Roberto Clemente in 1973, just months after the baseball legend’s tragic death in a plane crash. By Stevward, a son of Hall of Famer Nashua, Etherea is the ancestress of millionaire Bradester, whose six graded stakes victories include the 2016 Stephen Foster and back-to-back Monmouth Cups (G2).
Taiba’s sixth dam, *Atenea II, was the champion three-year-old filly in Uruguay in 1964. Her sire, Aurreko, is listed as one of Uruguay’s all-time greats with the prestigious Gran Premio Jose Pedro Ramirez (1954) among his trophies.
12. Taiba has a remote maternal connection to a colt unlucky not to win the English Triple Crown.
Taiba’s 10th dam, Mistral, was an Irish-bred exported to Argentina more than a century ago. By leading sire Gallinule, a building-block of modern pedigrees, Mistral descends from a half-sister to Sir Tatton Sykes, arguably unlucky not to become the first English Triple Crown winner. Initially running under the name of Tibthorpe, he was later renamed in honor of Sykes, a baronet whose Sledmere House remains an attraction in Yorkshire.
In 1846, the equine Sir Tatton Sykes won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but suffered a brutal loss in the Epsom Derby. The story goes that his owner/jockey, Bill Scott, was riding drunk and accordingly more of a hindrance in the saddle. Scott redeemed himself in the St Leger at Doncaster, guiding Sir Tatton Sykes to victory and giving the baronet the pleasure of leading him into the winner’s circle. But for the lapse at Epsom, Sir Tatton Sykes would have been the first horse to sweep those three classics. Seven years later, West Australian became the first English Triple Crown winner.