From dominant sire lines to deep maternal families, the 2022 Kentucky Derby
(G1) field has connections to past editions of the “Run for the Roses.”
Pioneerof the Nile and Uncle Mo have already sired a Derby winner.
Two sires of contenders are already responsible for a Derby winner. Pioneerof the Nile, himself runner-up in the 2009 Derby, sired 2015 Triple Crown star American Pharoah. He has two chances on Saturday, albeit with outsiders Tawny Port and Pioneer of Medina.
Champion Uncle Mo, who was scratched from the 2011 Derby, sired 2016 hero Nyquist. Uncle Mo has a prominent player in Mo Donegal.
Ten contenders descend from the sire line of Native Dancer.
Although Native Dancer suffered his lone career defeat in the 1953 Kentucky Derby, by a head after a frustrating trip, the "Gray Ghost" has left his genetic imprint on the breed. Ten of Saturday’s runners trace to his sire line, all via Native Dancer’s son Raise a Native.
Smile Happy descends from Raise a Native’s Derby-winning son, Majestic Prince (1969), who is himself the paternal ancestor of Super Saver. The 2010 Derby hero, Super Saver is the grandsire of Smile Happy (by Runhappy).
The other nine contenders hail from various branches of the line established by Raise a Native’s prolific son, Mr. Prospector.
Five of them count the “Mr. P” stallion Fappiano as their male-line ancestor. Messier is by 2003 Derby runner-up Empire Maker, also sire of the aforementioned Pioneerof the Nile who has Tawny Port and Pioneer of Medina. Empire Maker is by Fappiano’s 1990 Derby champion Unbridled. Taiba and Cyberknife are both by hot young sire Gun Runner, who goes back to another Fappiano son, Cryptoclearance. Gun Runner was third in the 2016 Derby, and late-running Cryptoclearance was fourth in 1987.
Mr. P’s son Gone West factors in the sire line of both Ethereal Road and Zozos. Ethereal Road is by Quality Road, the 2014 Derby favorite until he had to scratch. Quality Road, like 2004 Derby winner Smarty Jones, is a son of Elusive Quality. Zozos is by Munnings, a son of champion sprinter Speightstown.
Both also-eligibles hoping to draw into the field, Rich Strike and Rattle N Roll, trace to Mr. P’s son Smart Strike as grandsons of Curlin, third in the 2007 Derby. Rich Strike is by Keen Ice, seventh in the 2015 Derby, while Rattle N Roll is by Connect.
Northern Dancer has six male-line descendants in the field.
Six contenders come from the sire line of 1964 Kentucky Derby victor and breed-shaping patriarch, Northern Dancer.
Half of these are representatives of the Storm Cat branch via Giant’s Causeway. The late, great “Iron Horse” has a final chance of siring a Derby winner in Classic Causeway. But Giant’s Causeway’s up-and-coming son Not This Time has two major chances with Epicenter and Simplification.
Two others hail from the Danzig branch, both as grandsons of War Front. Tiz the Bomb is by Hit It a Bomb, while Summer Is Tomorrow is a son of Summer Front.
Happy Jack, as a son of Oxbow, descends from the Deputy Minister branch via Awesome Again. Oxbow, sixth in the 2013 Derby before rebounding in the Preakness (G1), sired last year’s promoted Derby runner-up Hot Rod Charlie.
Seattle Slew is the male-line ancestor of four contenders.
The 1977 Triple Crown legend has had his influence expanded by his Hall of Fame son, A.P. Indy. Morning-line Derby favorite Zandon is by A.P. Indy’s grandson Upstart, who ran the worst race of his life when 18th in the 2015 Derby.
The other “Slews” trace to A.P. Indy’s grandson Tapit, ninth in the 2004 Derby. While Charge It is by Tapit himself, White Abarrio and Barber Road are both by Tapit’s son Race Day.
Sunday Silence is the key influence in the Japanese hope.
Considering how 1989 Derby and Preakness hero Sunday Silence
refashioned the Japanese Thoroughbred, it’s fitting that Japan’s hope Crown Pride
embodies his legacy. Not only does he hail from Sunday Silence’s sire line, but Crown Pride also descends from the Hall of Famer on his dam’s side. He’s inbred 3x4 to the Hall of Famer
, so if seeing Crown Pride gives you a sense of déjà vu, it’s not just the power of suggestion.
Derby connections abound among broodmare sires.
Thunder Gulch, the 1995 Derby champ, sired the dam of Classic Causeway. Cyberknife’s dam is by Flower Alley, ninth in the 2005 Derby. Flower Alley went on to sire 2012 Derby and Preakness scorer I’ll Have Another.
Into Mischief, sire of the past two Derby winners, now seeks to score as the broodmare sire of White Abarrio. Forestry, broodmare sire of Nyquist (2016), is likewise the damsire of Zozos.
Smart Strike, broodmare sire of 2009 Derby shocker Mine That Bird, plays the same role in the pedigrees of Messier and Rich Strike. Messier is bred on the same cross as Mine That Bird, who was himself from the Unbridled male line. Rich Strike is intensely inbred to Smart Strike, who’s also his male-line ancestor as described above.
Two sons of the aforementioned Giant’s Causeway fit in this category as well. Eskendereya, ruled out of the 2010 Derby as the hot favorite, sired the dam of Pioneer of Medina. Creative Cause, fifth in the 2012 Derby, is the broodmare sire of Zandon.
A.P. Indy’s tribe is well represented in the broodmare sire camp. Flatter (paternal grandsire of Zandon) also sired the dam of Taiba. Pulpit, fourth in the 1997 Derby, is the damsire of Mo Donegal. Pulpit’s son Tapit appears in that capacity in Happy Jack’s pedigree.
Two contenders are out of mares by Derby third-placers. Charge It’s broodmare sire, Indian Charlie, was the beaten favorite in 1998, and the damsire of Smile Happy, Pleasant Tap, took third in 1990. Transatlantic champion Johannesburg, eighth in the 2002 Derby, is the damsire of Rattle N Roll.
Candy Ride, mentioned above as the sire of Gun Runner, also looms large as the broodmare sire of Epicenter and Simplification. Likewise, War Front is the damsire of Ethereal Road. Tiz the Bomb is out of a mare by Hall of Famer Tiznow, and Crown Pride’s dam is a daughter of the outstanding King Kamehameha.
Several sires have a shot at the Oaks/Derby double.
In the 148-year history of the Churchill Downs classic, only four times has a stallion sired the winner of Derby and its counterpart for fillies, the Kentucky Oaks (G1), in the same year. King Alfonso (1885), *McGee (1918), Bull Lea (1952), and Native Dancer (1966) could welcome a new member into the exclusive club. Four stallions have runners in both races, and a fifth sire has a Derby also-eligible.
Gun Runner goes for the double with his undefeated champion daughter Echo Zulu in the Oaks, where he also has Beguine as the also-eligible, before Taiba and Cyberknife try the Derby. Upstart likewise has a prime Oaks chance in Kathleen O., who could be the opening act for Derby fancy Zandon.
Uncle Mo’s filly Cocktail Moments would be a surprise in the Oaks, unlike Mo Donegal in the Derby. Munnings sends out unbeaten UAE Oaks (G3) heroine Shahama in addition to Derby hope Zozos. Connect needs Rattle N Roll to draw into the Derby as number 22 on the list, but his daughter Hidden Connection is safely in the Oaks field.
Contenders share distant matrilineal connections to Derby winners.
Tiz the Bomb’s female line
belongs to the family labeled 3-l, responsible for 1948 Triple Crown legend Citation as well as Silver Charm, the 1997 Derby and Preakness champ who just missed in the Belmont (G1). While their connections are buried far back in the 19th century, Tiz the Bomb has a nearer maternal tie to A.P. Indy.
Rattle N Roll is a member of the 17-b tribe, whose famous progeny include 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha; Hall of Famer Johnstown, the Derby and Belmont hero of 1939; and 1962 Derby scorer Decidedly.
Zandon comes from the same family as Derby stars Majestic Prince and Real Quiet (1998), both denied the Triple Crown in the Belmont.
Cyberknife descends from the family of 1941 Triple Crown sweeper Whirlaway, who was himself from the family of 1926 Derby hero Bubbling Over.
Crown Pride traces to the female line that has come up with three Derby winners, from Elwood (1904) and Sir Huon (1906) to Hall of Famer Twenty Grand (1931).
Messier belongs to the 12-b family that was particularly successful in the 19th century, with its representatives including early Derby winners Baden-Baden (1877) and Leonatus (1833). (If Leonatus rings a bell, it’s because he’s back in the news as the only horse to win the Derby in his third start – the stat that Taiba is trying to defy).
Classic Causeway hails from the 9-f family responsible for Bold Forbes, the 1976 Derby and Belmont victor, as well as Country House who was awarded the 2019 roses.
Simplification has a remote 16-g ancestress in common with Shut Out (1942), but he boasts a close tie with Hall of Fame distaffer Ashado. Smile Happy descends from the same 6-d female line as 2003 Derby champ Funny Cide, while Ethereal Road traces to the 3-j family like Dust Commander (1970), Pioneer of Medina belongs to the 5-i tribe that produced Flying Ebony (1925),Rich Strike’s family labeled 9 claims Hoop, Jr. (1945), and potential pacesetter Summer Is Tomorrowironically comes from the 20-b family of War Emblem, who wired the 2002 Derby.
Other noteworthy familial ties
Charge It’s granddam is Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady, dam of champion Will Take Charge, as well as fellow Grade 1 winners Take Charge Indy and As Time Goes By. Take Charge Lady is also the granddam of Omaha Beach, scratched as the 2019 Derby favorite. Zozos hails from the family of Tapwrit, the 2017 Belmont scorer.
Mo Donegal doesn’t belong to the same numbered family (3-g) as Sunday Silence (3-e), but both share a remote British ancestress in common. While both White Abarrio (9-e) and Taiba (8-j) can claim notable British relatives far back in their female lines as well, Happy Jack deserves a special mention both for directness and recency.
Happy Jack’s sixth dam is *Carrozza, who captured the 1957 Epsom Oaks for Queen Elizabeth II. Carozza is out of a full sister to Sun Chariot, winner of England’s Fillies’ Triple Crown in 1942 for the Queen’s father, King George VI.
Secretariat can be found in 19 of 22 pedigrees.
Nearly all of the Derby entrants can count Secretariat as an ancestor at some point. The 1973 Triple Crown legend factors especially as the broodmare sire of A.P. Indy, Gone West, and Storm Cat.
The outliers lacking Secretariat are Tawny Port, Summer Is Tomorrow, and Rich Strike.