If you knew nothing about Hofburg as a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender, his name alone would be a substantial clue. Only a colt of the most exquisite bloodlines, physique, and comportment could bear such a name worthily, evoking the stateliness of Imperial Vienna.

The Hofburg is a palatial building complex whose origins date back as far as the 13th century. For centuries the home of the Habsburg dynasty, it was further expanded and developed during the height of the empire. Although both dynasty and empire were swept away at the conclusion of World War I, the Hofburg endures as the seat of the Austrian President and as one of the world’s great cultural attractions. From its museums, to the chapel, national library, treasury, and the riding school where the famed Lipizzaners strut their stuff, the Hofburg is an architectural expression of European history.

By way of analogy, Hofburg the colt is steeped in royalty both human and equine. He’s a homebred for Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, well known for a string of outstanding champions on both sides of the Atlantic. Prince Khalid has campaigned several of Europe’s all-time greats, including unbeaten Frankel, 1986 superstar Dancing Brave, and most recently the all-conquering filly Enable. His American roster is typically known for excelling on turf, but he’s had high-profile successes on dirt, exemplified by the likes of Arrogate and Empire Maker (grandsire of American Pharoah).

Hofburg was bred in the purple as a son of leading sire Tapit and Soothing Touch, a pedigree pattern highlighted by inbreeding to Hall of Famer A.P. Indy.

“Regal would probably describe his pedigree,” said Leif Aaron of Juddmonte’s Kentucky division.

Juddmonte had bought Soothing Touch for $550,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. Bred from a female line artfully cultivated by the Niarchos Family, the mare descended from French champion two-year-old filly Coup de Genie. In turn Coup de Genie is a full sister to champion Machiavellian (sire of Street Cry, himself the sire of Zenyatta and Winx). Coup de Genie and Machiavellian were out of Coup de Folie, a granddaughter of Natalma, the dam of breed-shaping sire Northern Dancer.

Soothing Touch placed three times from six starts but soon proved her value as a broodmare. Her very first foal was multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Emollient. While Emollient won twice on dirt, and placed second in the Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct, she was most effective on turf and synthetic surfaces. Two of her marquee victories came on Keeneland’s old Polytrack, a nine-length demolition job in the 2013 Ashland (G1) and a defeat of her elders in the Spinster (G1) that fall. On turf, Emollient captured the American Oaks (G1) at now-defunct Hollywood Park, finished a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita, and added a fourth Grade 1 title to her resume in the 2014 Rodeo Drive (G1).

As soon as Hofburg arrived on February 11, 2015, he already reflected his noble parentage.

Juddmonte photo of Hofburg as a weanling via his official Twitter account, @Hofburg_

Hofburg as a weanling

“When he was born he had a very unique marking which really made him stand out,” Aaron recalled.

“From day one he had a lot of class and presence. He’s always been a very smart and professional horse.”

According to the notes taken after the foaling, the chestnut colt was described as “handsome / strong / well-proportioned / correct / has class and presence.”

So when the time came, a suitably aristocratic name was required. Hofburg.

“He was named that because he is all class and beauty,” Aaron noted.

“He has been just a very straightforward horse from birth through the breaking process. We’d ask him to do something and he’d do it.”

Hofburg joined Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, in keeping with the established pattern for all of Soothing Touch’s American-based runners. In addition to Emollient, another half-sibling, Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Courtier, was a notable turf three-year-old of 2015.

Because Emollient is by Empire Maker, and Courtier is by his son Pioneerof the Nile, it was only right for Soothing Touch to meet the next generation in that male line, Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, sire of her now-yearling colt. She reportedly returned to him last year, and this season she is scheduled to visit new stallion Arrogate.

By the time her American Pharoah and Arrogate offspring come of age, Hofburg might have added another entire wing onto the family castle.

Weanling photo courtesy of Juddmonte / @Hofburg_