Triple Crown champion Justify leads a posse of Kentucky Derby (G1) veterans with offspring in Saturday’s 149th Run for the Roses. Adding to the intrigue, some of those past Derby rivalries will be renewed by the next generation.
Sons of Kentucky Derby veterans
Justify beat Good Magic in the 2018 Derby and Preakness (G1) en route to the Belmont (G1) during his perfect season, and now they’ll square off again vicariously. Justify’s son Verifying will try to make more history for his sire, while Good Magic has two contenders, Reincarnate and Mage.
If Verifying succeeds, he would make Justify the 13th Derby winner to sire a Derby winner. That would be a fun stat since Justify is the 13th Triple Crown champion. The most recent father and son to capture the Derby are Unbridled (1990) and Grindstone (1996).
Good Magic’s sire, Hall of Famer Curlin, himself has two colts in the field, Lord Miles and Skinner. Curlin was third in the 2007 Derby, and the runner-up that day, Hard Spun, sends out Two Phil’s on Saturday.
The respective fourth and fifth from the 2017 Derby, Classic Empire and Practical Joke, are likewise represented by proxy. Their names give them away, as Classic Empire’s son Angel of Empire takes on the Practical Joke colt Practical Move.
Influential sire Tapit, ninth behind Smarty Jones in the 2004 edition, hopes to celebrate a Derby winner at last. No mystery about his contender – Tapit Trice.
Gun Runner, third in the 2016 Derby before reigning as 2017 Horse of the Year, has Disarm taking up the challenge. The fifth-placer in the 2012 Derby, Creative Cause, is the sire of King Russell, who is third on the also-eligible list.
Sires of Derby winners back for more
Perennial leading sire Into Mischief bids for a record-tying third Derby winner, after Authentic (2020) and Mandaloun (2021). Rocket Can and Sun Thunder give him two chances. Into Mischief could have another, with Cyclone Mischief as the first also-eligible. Cyclone Mischief needs a defection by Friday morning to draw into the field.
If Into Mischief can make it a Derby hat trick, he’d become the fifth stallion, and the first in seven decades, to accomplish the feat. The last was Calumet Farm’s patriarch Bull Lea, sire of Triple Crown legend Citation (1948), Hill Gail (1952), and Iron Liege (1957). The others are Virgil, courtesy of Vagrant (1876), the great Hindoo (1881), and Ben Ali (1886); Falsetto, sire of Chant (1894), His Eminence (1901), and Sir Huon (1906); and *Sir Gallahad III, responsible for Triple Crown hero Gallant Fox (1930), Gallahadion (1940), and Hoop Jr. (1945).
Uncle Mo, sire of 2016 Derby champ Nyquist, relies on Kingsbarns to put him in the club of two-time Derby-winning sires.
Kentucky Oaks/Derby double?
Into Mischief also has a couple of smart fillies in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (G1), last year’s champion juvenile filly Wonder Wheel and Pretty Mischievous. Another daughter, Hoosier Philly, is on the outside looking in, as the third also-eligible.
Curlin’s filly Julia Shining would rate a top chance in the Oaks, if she can draw in as the second also-eligible. She’s a full sister to two-time Eclipse Award champion Malathaat, the 2021 Oaks winner.
Onetime Derby favorites seek compensation as sires
Like Uncle Mo, a champion who missed his 2011 Derby due to illness, Violence and Quality Road were onetime Derby favorites in their respective years, only to be ruled out by injury. Both will try to gain compensation through their sons.
Violence has champion and morning line favorite Forte going to bat for him, as well as an outsider in Raise Cain. Quality Road’s son Jace’s Road is likewise a longshot aiming to outperform his odds.
Blame versus Zenyatta 2.0?
Forte is out of a mare by Blame, who will forever be remembered for edging hitherto unbeaten Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. Supermare Zenyatta has a “nephew” in the Derby, Confidence Game; his mother (dam), Eblouissante, is a half-sister to Zenyatta.
Confidence Game hails from the maternal clan labeled 4-r that’s responsible for five Derby winners, most recently Monarchos (2001).
Midnight Bisou’s half-brother, families of Silverbulletday and Barbaro
Aside from being by Justify, Verifying has a big half-sister to look up to in champion Midnight Bisou, a five-time Grade 1 winner who bankrolled more than $7.4 million.
Hit Show is out of Actress, winner of the 2017 Black-Eyed Susan (G2). King Russell’s dam is a full sister to Believe You Can, the 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner. Continuar is out of a three-quarter sister to Japanese superstar Almond Eye, an earner of $17.6 million.
Raise Cain is out of a half-sister to Unrivaled Belle, heroine of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Tapit Trice’s dam, Danzatrice, is a half-sister to champion two-year-old filly Jaywalk. Lord Miles is also out of a half-sister to a champion juvenile filly, Caledonia Road.
Mage’s dam, Puca, is a half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Finnegans Wake. Their female line traces to the dam of Hall of Famer Twenty Grand, the 1931 Derby and Belmont winner.
Sun Thunder’s granddam, Maryfield, won the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in 2007. Rocket Can’s granddam is Grade 1 star Tough Tiz’s Sis.
Forte hails from the family of champion Essential Quality, third as the favorite in the 2021 Derby and later the star of the Belmont and Travers (G1). Both are descendants of the celebrated matron *La Troienne, from the same branch as 2004 Derby and Preakness hero Smarty Jones.
Practical Move comes from the family of champion Vino Rosso, a competitor in the 2018 Triple Crown who became the next year’s top older dirt male and conqueror of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Angel of Empire and Disarm are “cousins” from the same immediate family, tracing to the ancestress of Hall of Famer Tiznow.
Jace’s Road can claim Hall of Famer Silverbulletday as a relative further back in his maternal line. More remotely, they belong to the same family as 1996 Derby victor Grindstone.
Two Phil’s shares a common ancestress with 2006 Derby legend Barbaro. Mandarin Hero traces to the same ancestress as Northern Dancer (1964) and Cannonade (1974), two of the four Derby winners from the family labeled 2-d along with Spectacular Bid (1979) and Giacomo (2005).
Derby champ Big Brown among the maternal grandsires
Big Brown, who dominated the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, sired the dam of Mage. Several other maternal grandfathers – i.e., broodmare sires or damsires – of Derby 149 competitors had run for the roses themselves.
The aforementioned Tapit has no fewer than four grandsons in the line-up – Kingsbarns, Hit Show, Disarm, and Rocket Can. Champion Afleet Alex, third in the 2005 Derby before romping in the Preakness and Belmont, sired the dam of Practical Move.
Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness champion, is the broodmare sire of both Confidence Game and Cyclone Mischief. Lemon Drop Kid, ninth in the 1999 Derby before winning the Belmont, is the damsire of Raise Cain.
General Quarters and Dunkirk, the 10th and 11th in the 2009 Derby, are the broodmare sires of Two Phil’s and Tapit Trice, respectively. Proud Citizen, the 2002 Derby runner-up, sired the dam of King Russell.
Medaglia d’Oro, fourth in the 2002 Derby, is the broodmare sire of Sun Thunder, and Scat Daddy, 18th in 2007, factors in the same role for Reincarnate. Both prominent stallions are also paternal grandsires of Derby contenders; Medaglia d’Oro is the sire of Violence (mentioned above with Forte and Raise Cain) and Scat Daddy sired Justify (Verifying).
As you’d expect, all three Japanese contenders can boast of descent from Sunday Silence. The 1989 Derby and Preakness-winning Hall of Famer appears in the ancestry of their dams.
Northern Dancer, “Mr. P” sire lines proliferate
The Northern Dancer sire line is responsible for 12 of the 23 entrants. Eight derive from Storm Cat –Verifying, Continuar, Practical Move, Rocket Can, Sun Thunder, Cyclone Mischief, Mandarin Hero, and King Russell. Forte and Raise Cain descend via Sadler’s Wells; Two Phil’s via Danzig; and Derma Sotogake via Deputy Minister.
Mr. Prospector’s sire line furnishes nine entrants. Four descend from his son Smart Strike, the Curlin duo (Skinner and Lord Miles) and Good Magic duo (Reincarnate and Mage). Candy Ride himself sired Confidence Game and Hit Show, and via his son Gun Runner, he has a third descendant in Disarm. Angel of Empire comes from the branch established by Unbridled, while Jace’s Road arrives via Gone West.
The lone scion of the Seattle Slew sire line is Tapit Trice, via his Hall of Fame son A.P. Indy. Kingsbarns represents the sire line of Caro, via Indian Charlie.
As we observe the 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s record-crushing conquest of the Triple Crown, his deep-seated influence is nearly universal in the 2023 Derby field.
By siring the dams of Storm Cat, Gone West, and A.P. Indy, Secretariat has ensured that his genetic heritage is perpetuated, and frequently repeated as these sires are crossed in modern pedigrees. Twenty-two entrants can claim descent from Secretariat, however remote; the lone exception is Derma Sotogake.