Fun facts about 2017 Kentucky Derby contender pedigrees

May 06, 2017 Kellie Reilly/

After summing up the pedigree connections between the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders and gladiators of Derbies past, let’s look at some additional fun facts about their ancestry.

In post position order:

1. Lookin at Lee descends from a strong female line going back to a full sister to Fair Play, a Hall of Famer himself but best remembered as the sire of Man o’ War. Derby rival McCraken (see #15) comes from another branch of the same line.

2. Thunder Snow’s broodmare sire, Dubai Destination, was nominated to the 2002 Triple Crown – also by Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor. The pedigree has many more American elements than you might think for a horse whose parents come from Australia and Great Britain.

3. Fast and Accurate is inbred to the last English Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II (himself by 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion Northern Dancer). Paternal grandsire Tapit has a Nijinsky II mare as his granddam, and Fast and Accurate’s dam is by Nijinsky II’s son Green Dancer.

4. Untrapped descends from a full sister to Hall of Famer Round Table, who was third in the 1957 Derby. His nearer maternal-line relatives Pulpit (1997) and Johannesburg (2002) were fourth and eighth, respectively. Because Untrapped also descends from the male line of Pulpit, his pedigree has the “Rasmussen Factor.”

5. Always Dreaming is a descendant, via his California-bred female line, of two West Coast standouts of the 1950s. His third dam (great-granddam) is by Terrang, the 1956 Santa Anita Derby hero (and Kentucky Derby 12th) who added the Santa Anita Handicap in 1959. Further back is *Noor, the Aga Khan-bred import who earned lasting fame for his defeats of 1948 Triple Crown legend Citation.

6. State of Honor’s second dam (maternal granddam) is by Lord Avie, the champion two-year-old colt of 1980 who was ruled out of the 1981 Triple Crown by injury. Lord Avie was himself the grandson of two rotten-luck Derby stories – Sir Gaylord, the 1959 favorite scratched due to injury on the eve of the race, and *Gallant Man, who had victory in his grasp in 1957 when Hall of Famer Willie Shoemaker infamously misjudged the wire, and lost a heartbreaker.

7. Girvin’s fourth dam in the maternal line, Monique Rene, was a 15-time stakes winner on the Louisiana circuit in the early 1980s. She actually appears twice on his dam’s side, also via her grandson, the speedy Yes It’s True. But going much further back, Girvin traces in the tail-female line to the family dubbed “American No. 1,” responsible for several Derby winners in the race’s early history, including Hall of Famers Ben Brush (1896), the great filly Regret (pictured) (1915), and Exterminator (1918). Then there was a long gap until Gato Del Sol (1982).

8. Hence’s sire, Street Boss, is going for an amazing Derby double. He’s also sired this year’s Hong Kong Derby hero, Rapper Dragon, who made history by becoming the first ever to sweep the Four-Year-Old Series at Sha Tin. On the female side of the pedigree, Hence springs from a family that continues to produce Derby participants – including rival Classic Empire (see more on him as #14).

9. Irap, the only direct male-line descendant of Man o’ War in Derby 143, boasts a champion dam and half-brother. He’s out of Silken Cat, Canada’s champion two-year-old filly of 1995, whose first foal was Eclipse Award-champion sprinter and successful sire Speightstown. Irap’s fifth dam is Broodmare of the Year Hildene, dam of Hall of Famer Hill Prince and champion First Landing (sire of 1972 Derby/Belmont star Riva Ridge) among others. At another remove, this is the same maternal line as Derby rival Sonneteer (see #12).

10. Gunnevera traces to one of the all-time great British racemares, Sceptre, who won an incredible four classics in 1902. She beat males in the 2000 Guineas and St Leger and fellow fillies in the 1000 Guineas and Oaks. But for an unlucky tilt at the Epsom Derby, where she wound up fourth, Sceptre might have run the table in all five British classics. At another remove, this female line is responsible for Kentucky Derby winners Chateaugay (1963) and Barbaro (2006).

11. Battle of Midway descends from the same family as 1999 Derby and Preakness (G1) star Charismatic. Out of Grade 1 winner Rigoletta, he’s also related on the dam’s side to champion female sprinter Musical Romance, who clinched her title in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

12. Sonneteer is out of a half-sister to Dublin, the 2009 Hopeful (G1) winner who was third in the 2010 Arkansas Derby (G1) and seventh in the Run for the Roses. His further family is excellent, and shares a common ancestress with Irap (see #9).

13. J Boys Echo descends from the same female line as Shut Out, hero of the 1942 Derby and Belmont. Also, J Boys’ dam, 2005 Forward Gal (G2) winner Letgomyecho, sports an unusual pedigree pattern. She’s inbred to the outstanding Argentine-bred *Tatan, a Triple Crown winner in his homeland.

14. Classic Empire is bred on a similar cross to 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. Turning to his maternal line, Classic Empire hails from the prolific family of rival Hence (see #8). More distantly, it’s the same tap-root line responsible for a handful of Derby winners, most recently Sunny’s Halo (1983). Notable among their maternal relatives who’ve tried the Derby in the intervening years is Cryptoclearance, fourth in 1987 but ultimately a $3.3 million-earner and influential sire.

15. McCraken traces in his tail-female lineage to Fairy Gold, the terrific broodmare who produced Hall of Famer Fair Play (Man o’ War’s sire) and 1916 Belmont winner and sire Friar Rock. She’s left a similarly enduring legacy through her daughters. Derby rival Lookin at Lee (see #1) descends from Fairy Gold’s daughter Golden View, while McCraken goes back to an arguably more influential daughter of Fairy Gold, *St Lucre. Leading lights in this sector of the family include Irish classic champion and outstanding matron Al Bahathri.

16. Tapwrit, a $1.2 million yearling purchase, is out of 2006 Spinaway (G1) heroine Appealing Zophie. Also on the dam’s side is a rare inbreeding to 1965 Derby winner Lucky Debonair. Tapwrit himself features more typical duplications, including a repetition of 1977 Triple Crown legend Seattle Slew (as does Patch; see #20).

17. Irish War Cry is a direct maternal-line descendant of the great Irish racemare Pretty Polly, who won 22 of 24 starts. By defeating males in the 1904 St Leger, she completed the English “Triple Crown” for fillies that commenced with the 1000 Guineas and Oaks in her own division. Pretty Polly also beat the boys in other prestigious events throughout her career, including consecutive editions of the Coronation Cup (1905-06). She was just as important as a broodmare. Irish War Cry descends from the portion of her family that was cultivated by the genius Italian owner/breeder/trainer Federico Tesio.

18. Gormley descends from two of the elite turf mares of the 1980s. Hall of Famer Miesque, the 1987-88 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) star, makes an appearance via her classic-winning son Kingmambo. Gormley counts champion Estrapade, whose major wins over males include the 1986 Arlington Million (G1), as his fourth dam in the direct female line. Following the matrilineal chain further, this is the potent family of the great 19th century speed merchant Domino. On the list of Derby winners coming from this line are 1978 Triple Crown sweeper Affirmed, the filly Winning Colors (1988), Mine That Bird (2009) and I’ll Have Another (2012) – and that’s just a selection.

19. Practical Joke shares a distant ancestress in common with five Derby heroes, most memorably Swaps (1956) and California Chrome (2014). Those two celebrities descend via the marquee line of the family, while Practical Joke comes from what might be termed a “cadet” branch. A few sires appearing deep on the maternal side of Practical Joke’s pedigree are rarely seen – e.g. Hall of Famer Coaltown, second to legendary stablemate Citation in the 1948 Derby; the brilliant but nearly sterile Boojum, via his similarly infertile son Snark; and 1925 Derby victor Flying Ebony.

20. Patch’s second dam is a full sister to Banshee Breeze, the champion three-year-old filly of 1998. Like Untrapped (see #4), Patch carries the “Rasmussen Factor” of inbreeding to a superior female, in his case Tamerett. That significant broodmare appears once on each side of Patch’s pedigree, by way of her grandson Gone West and her son Known Fact. Moreover, Patch descends from the same tap-root mare as 1941 Triple Crown hero Whirlaway and fellow Hall of Famer Damascus, the beaten favorite in the 1967 Derby who rebounded to take the Preakness and Belmont.


Have these fun facts helped you to zero in on your Derby horse? Check out the companion pedigree post that focuses more on the contenders’ sires and grandsires with Derby experience.

  • Ticket Info

    Sign up for race updates and more