Kentucky Derby FAQ

A guide to the Kentucky Derby. Covers age and field size, fastest “2 minutes,” purse, surface, and distance.

Can a horse of any age race in the Kentucky Derby? 

No. The Kentucky Derby is restricted to 3YO horses. High-class horses generally race from about 2YO to around 5YO or 6YO. There are exceptions to this rule, especially if a horse is a gelding. Most horses running in the Derby made their debut at 2YO; in fact, it’s almost a requirement. Since Apollo won the Derby in 1882, no horse has won without a race at 2. You don’t need to win at 2 – just get the experience and (likely) growth.

Because the race is restricted to 3YO, a horse only gets one chance at Derby glory. It’s far from the end of racing – many opportunities exist for horses that may either peak later or missed the Derby due to injury. But it’s a one-shot deal. While horses can’t repeat, trainers can and do. You’ll often see the same trainers around – Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher come quickly to mind.

Is there a limit to the number of horses that can run in the Derby? 

Yes. In 1975, after 23 horses ran in the centennial Kentucky Derby in 1974, Churchill Downs limited the Derby field to 20 starters, using earnings as a qualifier. In 1985, Churchill Downs switched to Graded Earnings, which are earnings that are won in the highest classes of races. However, purses aren’t a perfect proxy for quality – for example, the Delta Jackpot, is a GIII race with a Grade 1 level purse ($1 million). As a result, in 2012, Churchill Downs switched to a qualifying points system.

Even still, 20 is a very large number. It’s not that rare for a race to have the maximum — the typical limit for a U.S. horse race is 14 starters. In practice, fans often see fields that are much smaller, about 8 horse per field. In the Derby, there is more potential for chaos and trouble. It’s crazy at the start and creates a whole slew of bad trips – horses that had winning chances but were blocked in traffic. The large field also adds another level of complexity to understanding the races. It’s no coincidence that it’s the race that I (and most handicappers) spend the most time on each and every year. And, it’s wonderfully exciting to watch, filled with storylines and a good chance for drama each year.

Isn’t it just two minutes? That’s so fast.

Yes. It is one race, lasting just about 2 minutes. That’s it. The Derby might just be the quickest major sporting event in the world, far shorter than, for example, the Super Bowl or World Series or Daytona 500. Yes, there are other races on the day, including the top horses from the other divisions (i.e. turf, older, fillies & mares), but the Kentucky Derby itself happens very quickly. A badly timed bathroom break could force you to miss the entire race.

However, this is a bit misleading. Every thoroughbred born in the United States has Derby dreams, and for those with the talent to match, the process of reaching the Derby begins early and takes years. Qualification forms a regular season of sorts, ranging from September of the previous year until mid-April. I prefer to think of the Derby not as a quick one-shot race, but instead as the culmination of years of preparation and the final stage of a long-term process.

None of this should dampen just how exciting those two minutes actually are. It is the most exciting two minutes in sport.

Is the purse large for the Kentucky Derby?

Yes. It is $2 million and is the largest purse for a race restricted to 3YO.

  • Kentucky Derby: $2 Million
  • Preakness $1.5 Million
  • Belmont Stakes $1.5 Million
  • Travers Stakes $1.25 Million
  • Arkansas Derby: $1 Million
  • Bluegrass Stakes: $1 Million
  • Florida Derby: $1 Million
  • Santa Anita Derby: $1 Million
  • Wood Memorial: $ 1 Million
  • Haskell Invitational: $1 Million
  • Pennsylvania Derby: $1 Million

(Races for $1M or more restricted to 3YO. All are Grade 1, except for the Pennsylvania Derby. Purse data from 2014)

What surface is the Kentucky Derby run on?  The Kentucky Derby is contested over dirt, as opposed to grass, or turf, or a synthetic surface. According to the Churchill Downs website, this is comprised of:

3” Sandy Loam Cushion
5” Sandy Loam Cushion Compacted
12” Clay Base
25” Sandy Loam/Natural Soil

(Sandy Loam is made up of sand, silt, and clay and is apparently great for gardening.)

I stuck my hand in the track when I visited Churchill Downs to see if I could gain understanding. Unfortunately, it just felt like dirt.

Some horses who qualified for the Derby may have done it by gaining points on synthetic surfaces. Three races offer points towards the Derby with a race over an artificial surface – The Grey at Woodbine, The El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields, and the Spiral at Turfway park. This raises the possibility – as was the case with Animal Kingdom’s win in 2011 – that a horse may not have run on dirt coming into the Derby.

Screenshot 2015-03-21 13.00.34

There are no turf races that offer points for the Derby; however, it’s not uncommon to see a 3YO horse try dirt in the winter after showing talent on the turf earlier. Stamina (sometimes) moves well between surfaces. But you have to show it on the dirt – fake or real – before Derby Day to qualify.

Why is 10 furlongs important?

A furlong – the standard distance measure in American horse racing is 1/8 of a mile. So, a furlong is about halfway around the track at the local high school. 10 furlongs, or 1 ¼ miles, on dirt, is a bit of a legendary distance nowadays in horse racing. The ability for a horse to maintain speed over the distance of 10 furlongs is a testament to its breeding and training. It is a champion’s distance. It is very rarely run anymore, and 3YO colts get two chances – in the Kentucky Derby and in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August. It is also the distance of several races for older horses, and importantly, the distance of the $5M Breeders’ Cup Classic, which often pits the best of the 3YO crop against older horses.

How many horses have run 10 furlongs on dirt prior the Derby?

None. No horse has had the opportunity to run this distance before – the longest race was likely the final prep at 9f. The ability to “get” this distance is part of what makes this race so exciting. So, there’s always uncertainty, even for the most well-bred of animals. The extra distance may not sound like much, but after running over a mile at high speed, every horse is tired and seeking the finish line. It is often these final yards that decide a horse race and the Kentucky Derby is no exception.

The stretchout to 10f for 3YO takes time. Debuting 2YO in April at Keeneland run only 4.5f. The Hopeful, a G1 event for 2YO’s in August, is contested at 7f and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 8.5f. The early preps are at this same distance, with the final preps at 9f. No horse will have tried 10f before the Derby.


5 questions for the Travers Stakes

Here are the 5 most important questions for the Travers Stakes:

  1. Does anyone challenge Bayern for the lead and how aggressively is he pressed? I think this is a more important question than whether Bayern can “get” the distance. If he does go unchallenged and puts up moderate fractions, this race could be over.
  2. Will V.E. Day continue his hot form and keep improving?  He’s been on a nice roll since leaving Gulfstream, and I like horses that keep winning quickly as they move up the class chain. You certainly can’t complain about a jockey change to Javier Castellano.
  3. Does Tonalist move forward off the Jim Dandy?  You would think he’d be likely to, but if he doesn’t he’ll take a lot of public money down with him
  4. Which style will we see from Wicked Strong? Will it be the  “new” Wicked Strong (the one with blinkers) to press Bayern? Or might they try to take him back? He’s either versatile, or simply an enigma.
  5. Will Mr. Speaker like the dirt? He’s been training well, but that’s a whole different ballgame. He’s already a Grade I winner on turf and it seems like a worthwhile attempt by Shug. But, that said, there’s plenty of reason he might not translate his speed to the dirt, so price accordingly.

Read “10 words or less about each Travers horse”

Image: Mike L. “Stay Thirsty.” Copyright 2011.

Around the Web: Five for the Travers

We’re just two days away from the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, and there’s tons of great coverage from around the web. Here’s five articles worth considering:

Image: Doug Kerr, “Saratoga Springs, NY.” Copyright 2011.

The G1 Alabama Stakes: Which Filly Wants the Distance?

The Alabama Stakes is a Grade One, $600,000 dirt race for three year old fillies being run this Saturday, August 16 at Saratoga Race Track. These horses will be running 1 1/4 miles for the first time. Some of them will relish the added the distance while others won’t handle it well. By looking at their bloodlines I hope to find clues as to who will and who won’t. First I’ll go over their distaff line. I will look at their dam sires, in particular their 2nd and 3rd ones, which is the biggest indicator of distance. Then by looking at the mares in their family I will learn about their class and ability to run long also. Finally, I’ll visit their sire line to see what impact it will have on their performance. Connecting this jigsaw puzzle will tell me how far they want to run. Let’s look at the field.

Joint Return

Joint Return is trained by John C. Servis. This closer was last seen finishing second in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks. Her dam sire, Brunswick, was a late bloomer. His biggest accomplishment on the track was winning The Whitney Handicap at 1 1/8 miles in 1993 at the age of 4. Her 2nd dam sire is Private Account. He won the G1 Widener Handicap at a 1 1/4 miles but was most famous off the track for producing the undefeated Hall of Fame filly Personal Ensign. Private Account’s female family is traced back to the great broodmare La Troienne. He was a great sire and broodmare sire who gave a good amount of stamina to his offspring. Private Account sired 61 stakes winners including 6 millionaire dollar earners. Joint Return’s third dam sire was the great Damascus. He was a Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner who also set a track record at Aqueduct for 10 furlongs. Damascus gave off a ton of distance to his offspring as well and was known to be especially successful with his daughters. When looking at the mares in her family, you have a winner in her dam Brunswick Star, who is a half-sister to dual Grade 3 victor American Halo. Her 3rd dam, Libras Shiningstar, produced German Champion Ghanayim. And in Joint Return’s 4th dam, Libra, is where you see great amounts of stamina because she gave off two Irish Derby winners (1 1/2 miles) Ribocco & Ribero. This female family also boasts dual French champion, English One Thousand Guineas heroine and Epsom Oaks queen Never Too Late. Joint Return’s sire is Include. He was the 2001 Maryland’s Champion Older Male & Horse Of The Year and earned over 1.5 million dollars. He won the Grade 1 Pimlico Special at 9.5 furlongs and earned 13 triple Beyer Speed Figures over his last 15 starts which showed his brilliance as  a runner. He has sired six G1 winners so far and his best runners have been fillies. Her second sire was Broad Bush. He earned over 2.5 million dollars on the track and as a sire became a Chef-De-Race and gave off quite a bit of stamina to his offspring. He won at a mile and a quarter as well. Joint Return’s third sire was Ack Ack who was the U.S. Champion Horse and Sprinter in 1971. He too gave off brilliance on the track and also a bucket load of Stamina to his offspring. In Conclusion, you are looking at a filly in Joint Return that should have no problems getting this distance based on her bloodlines outlined here. She may actually thrive in it.

Size: Size is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott. In her last outing Size showed her speed while winning the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks. Her dam sire is Pulpit. He won 4 of 6 starts including The Toyota Bluegrass (1 1/8 miles) and Fountain of Youth. As a successful sire his foals have earned over 60 million dollars. With 2014 runners he is the grand sire of Untappable, California Chrome and Tonalist. He also sired the great sire Tapit and Mr. Speaker (winner of Belmont Derby at a mile and a quarter). Her 2nd dam sire is Hall of Famer A,P. Indy. He won the Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1992 and earned close to 3 million dollars. In the breeding shed he is a well established sire of sires. Notable conneections are Mineshaft, Bernardini, Rags to Riches, Malibu Moon, Sky Mesa, Congrats, Majestic Warrior, Flatter, Jump Start and the aforementioned Pulpit. He is known to pass along distance to his offspring. Size’s 3rd dam sire is The Triple Crown Winner Seattle Slew. He also passed along stamina to his progeny as well. Size’s females in her family are/were stocked with class and stamina. Her 3rd dam is a Reines De Course mare Bound who was Grade 1 placed and was also Blame’s granddam amongst other notable horses. Her 4th dam is the Reines De Course mare Special, the dam of great horses Nureyev (sire Theatrical/dam sire Big Brown) and Fairy Bridge (dam of Sadler’s Wells). Finally, her 5th dam is also a Reines De Corse mare Thong who was stakes placed and one of the greatest broodmares of her time. Looking at Size’s sire line she is by First Samurai. A racing career cut short by injury he won 5 times in 8 attempts including The Hopeful and Champagne at two. So far he has sired Last Gunfighter (winner 1 1/4 miles), Executiveprivilege, Lea and Justin Phillip. Her 2nd sire is Giants Causeway who was a multiple winner at a mile and a quarter and was North America’s top sire in 2009-2010 and 2012. Her 3rd sire is Storm Cat, one of the greatest sires of our time. In conclusion, by looking at her pedigree you can see that Size has the ability and may possibly perform better with the added distance of this race.

Miss Besilu This filly is the 2nd of 3 that Bill Mott has running in this race. She brought 2.6 million dollars as a yearling. She last finished third in The G1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Miss Besilu’s dam sire is Quiet American. He never won past 1 1/16 miles but his son Real Quiet won the Kentucky Derby. Her 2nd dam sire, Fappiano, won The Met Mile and Forego. He is more known for being a sire of sires. He was the grand sire of the Triple Crown in 1998 with Real Quiet and Victory Gallop. He also sired great horses such as Cryptoclearance (sired Victory Gallop and Volponi), Champion Sprinter Rubiano and Unbridled (Kentucky Derby Winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner 1990). Her 3rd dam sire is the great Mr. Prospector who was North America’s leading broodmare sire an incredible 9 times. All 3 dam sires add a decent amount of stamina to their offspring. Miss Besilu’s mares on her distaff side include her dam Quiet Dance who won the Gala Lil Stakes, was second in the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II), and earned $224,240. She produced Saint Liam (2005 Eclipse Champion Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner). Her 3rd dam Flight dancer was the dam of 3 important daughters. Miss Besilu’s 5th dam, Gallorette, is a Hall of Famer who raced an astounding 72 times and was named Champion Handicap Mare of 1946. She gave off stamina to burn. Miss Besilu has a great distaff family. Her sire line is strong as well. The great Medaglia D’Oro is her sire. He earned over 5.5 million dollars on the track including winning the Travers Stakes at a mile and a quarter at three. As a sire he has produced superstar filly Rachel Alexandra and Kentucky Oaks champ Plum Pretty, showing that he passes his brilliance on to his offspring along with a decent amount of distance. Her 2nd sire is El Prado. The leading North American sire of 2002, his progeny include Medaglia D’Oro, Artie Schiller, Borrego and Kitten’s Joy. Her 3rd sire is the influential Sadler’s Wells who was a 14 time leading sire in Great Brittan and Ireland. He is the only horse that has a plus 10 AWD number showing that his stamina influence on to his offspring is truly off the chart. Miss Besilu definitely shows me enough in her bloodlines for me to say that this distance should suit her fine.

America This filly is the 3rd Mott horse in this field of 9. Her latest effort was a distant 4th place finish in The Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Her dam sire is Fasliye who was the European Champion 2-year old Colt in 1999. He was a sprinter. As a sire his only Group One Winner was Carry On Katie and most notable offspring was the sprinter Chineur. America’s 2nd dam sire was the great Nureyev. In his brief racing career he never won at over a mile. His breeding career was stellar, siring 135 stakes winners and 20 champions, including U.S. Champion turf queens Theatrical and Miesque. He was also Big Brown’s dam sire. Nureyev put a great amount of stamina in his horses with an Average Winning Distance (AWD) as a broodmare sire of 8.57. Her 3rd dam sire is Northern Dancer. On the track he was a Kentucky Derby winner and off the track he is known as one of the most influential sires in thoroughbred history. America’s 3rd dam is a Reines De Course mare Blush With Pride. She was a Kentucky Oaks winner who won over $500,000 on the track. She was also the granddam of Jazil and Rags to Riches so you know she is full of distance. Her 4th dam, Best In Show, is a Reines De Course as well and was the Broodmare of the Year in 1982. America has a 4X5 cross with the great mare Special on her distaff side. Her sire is A.P. Indy who is one of the best sires around today and won over classic distances. Her second sire is Triple Crown Winner Seattle Slew. Both these 2 horses add brilliance to America’s pedigree. Finally her 3rd sire is Bold Reasoning who won 2 stakes sprints on the track. You can see after viewing America’s pedigree why Bobby Flay paid over $700,000 for her. She is another in this field who should have no problems navigating the distance.

Got Lucky She is one of the two fillies Todd Pletcher has running in the race. She is coming off an allowance win at Saratoga. Got Lucky’s dam sire is Deputy Minister. He was a U.S. and Canadian 2-year-old champion in 1981. He was also a leading North American Broodmare sire in 2007. As a broodmare sire he gave us long distance runners in Sarava, Jazil, Rags to Riches and Curlin. Her 2nd dam sire is Canadian Hall of Famer Vice Regent who sired over 60 stakes winners and was the dam sire of Victory Gallop. Her third dam sire is Northern Dancer who we spoke of before. Got Lucky’s granddam, Get Lucky, was a graded stakes winner. She foaled 3 graded stakes winners (Girolamo Daydreamening and Accelerator)-all by A.P. Indy (Got Lucky’s sire). She is also the granddam of Super Saver and Bluegrass Cat and is a full sister of Rhythm (Champion 2-year-old colt). Her 3rd dam is the Grade 1 winner Dance Number and her 4th dam is Numbered Account who was a 2-year-old champion filly in 1971 and the dam of Private Account (Sire Personal Ensign). Got Lucky is by A.P. Indy and you can read about this sire line in America. I see this pedigree another filly with class/stamina in their mares and strong sire lines but with their first dam sire not being a long distance runner. These dam sires though as a group give off large amounts of distance capabilities to their offspring. Thus Got Lucky has every right to get this distance.

Stopchargingmaria She is the other Pletcher horse and should be the favorite of the race. She comes into it off of consecutive graded wins in The Black-Eyed Susan and The Coaching Club American Oaks. Her dam sire is Montbrook who was a Grade 3 winning sprinter. His was a top sire in Florida who sired 47 stakes winners and whose best offspring was champion sprinter Big Drama. Montbrook is pretty weak when it comes to passing along distance to his offspring. Stopchargingmaria’s second dam sire is Buckaroo who never won past 1 1/8 miles. He was the Sire of the Year in 1985 and sired Horse of the Year Spend A Buck who won The Kentucky Derby in the fourth fastest time. Her 3rd dam sire, the Hall of Famer Buckpasser, was a champion 2 and 3 year old. He was also the Broodmare sire of the year 4 times and his sons did very well as broodmare sires also. Stopchargingmaria’s dam, Exotic Bloom, was a multiple stakes winner. Her 4th dam, Flag Waver, gave birth to 10 winners. And her 5th dam, the Reines De Course mare Beebopper, gave birth to 11 winners. Her female family includes female family includes Grade 1 winner Hatchet Man, Grade 2 winner Stop the Music and graded placed star Vision and Verse, all of whom were successful sires. Stopchargingmaria’s sire is Tale of the Cat. His biggest win on the track was the G2 King’s Bishop Stakes. He won from 7 furlongs to 8.5 furlongs. As a sire he’s given off 1 classic distance winner in Gio Ponti. Mostly though he has passed along sprinting prowess on to his offspring. Her second sire is the Storm Cat, a great sire who was also notable to passing speed on to his offspring and whose best progeny were not classic winner types. Her 3rd sire is Storm Bird who was a champion 2 year old sprinter. He sired Summer Squall, the Preakness Champion of 1990 who later sired Kentucky Derby Champ Charismatic. This is the first filly I have looked at that in my opinion may struggle at 1 1/4 miles. All of her dam sires never won at a classic distance, but Backaroo does pass a small amount of distance off to his offspring and Buckpasser definitely does. The mares in her family are classy enough but when looking at her sire line you see speed for the most part.

Unbridled Forever She is trained by Dallas Stewart and ran a distant second to Stopchargingmaria in her most recent start in The Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Her dam sire is the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid. He earned over 3 million dollars on the track and was the Eclipse Older Male Champion of 2000. As a sire he imparts a good amount of stamina on to his offspring. Her 2nd dam sire is Kingmambo. He was a great miler and as a sire was able to get classic winners. Besides Lemon Drop Kid his son Henrythenavigator was a star miler who finished second in The Breeders’ Cup Classic. Unbridled Forever’s third dam sire is Mr. Prospector who is connected with over a dozen winners in each of the triple crown races. Her dam is Lemons Forever, the upset winner of the 2006 Kentucky Oaks. She also placed third in this race in that same year. She was retired in 2007 and sold for over 2.5 million dollars at the Keenland sale. Unbridled Forever’s second dam is Critikola, a multiple Group 2 winner in Argentina who was later multiple Grade 1-placed in the U.S. This South American female family also boasts Group 1 winners Mr. Carrea and Frau Heidi as well as Chilean champion Staccato. Unbridled Forever’s sire is Unbridled’s Song, who won at a 1 1/8 miles and was a top 10 North American sire until his death last year. His best progeny was Will Take Charge who won the 2013 Travers Stakes. Her 2nd sire, Unbridled, won the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1990 and is known to give off great amounts of stamina to his offspring. And her third sire Fappiano was a miler that gave off Cryptoclearance and Quiet American (sire of Real Quiet). Looking at Unbridled Forever’s bloodlines you can definitely see how she has the potential to run better with the added distance. Having Lemon Drop Kid as your dam sire is an added benefit for this race.

Catch My Drift She is trained by Chad Brown and is 2 for 2 but has never raced in stakes company, so this will be a major class hike for her. Catch My Drift’s dam sire is Yonaguska. He was a multiple Grade 1 winner at short distances and whose best offspring was Musket Man. He has a very low AWD number so his offspring are mostly sprinter types.  Her 2nd dam sire Cherokee Run was the Eclipse Champion Sprinter of 1994. His most famous progeny was War Pass and is another horse who doesn’t give a lot on to his offspring in terms of distance. Runaway Groom is her 3rd dam sire and is a Canadian Half of Famer who won the Travers Stakes and in the process became the only horse in American Racing History to beat a Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont winner in the same race. He was a successful sire who gave off 27 graded stakes winners but was another who wasn’t strong in passing along stamina in Catch My Drift’s bloodlines. Catch My Drift’s 3rd and 4th dams were multiple stakes winners while her 5th dam was stakes placed. Her sire is Pioneer of the Nile. He was the winner of the Santa Anita Derby at 9F and ran 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. He is showing his brilliance as a sire so far with offspring Cairo Prince, Jojo Warrior and Social Inclusion. Catch My Drift’s 2nd and 3rd sire are Unbridled and Fappiano who we already spoke about. I would definitely not recommend this filly based on her pedigree. She looks to be more of a sprinter/miler type and this race is not suited for her in my opinion.

Fortune Pearl Trained by Graham Motion she won the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks in closing fashion. Her dam sire is Chelsey Cat who was unraced and is the leading sire in North Carolina over the past five years. Her 2nd and 3rd dam sires are Storm Cat and Storm Bird who we have gone over in other profiles. Fortune Pearl’s dam, Chelsea’s Pearl, was stakes place and has produced 4 winners from 4 foals. Her 3rd dam was stakes placed while her 5th dam was a multiple stakes winner. Her sire was A.P. Indy whose sire line is strong and gives off a lot of stamina. I also have talked about these horses in past profiles. Fortune Pearl is another filly I just don’t see being able to cover this distance due to a lack of stamina and class on her distaff line.


Out of the 9 entrants in this weekend’s Alabama Stakes I only see 3 fillies who have distance questions. The other 6 fillies are pretty regally bred and I see why their connections are pointing them towards this race. Since I see the probable favorite Stopchargingmaria backing up at the end of this race it makes for a good betting race. I can see a lot of these horses having a chance to win based on their bloodlines and racing performance. Unlike this year’s Kentucky Derby where many of the horses had questions as to who would get the classic distance, most of these horses seem to be bred for it. It should be a good race and good luck playing it.

Image: Max Wolfe, “Alabama Theater Marquee, Birmingham.” Copyright 2007.

Guest Article: Regal Bloodlines — Baffert’s Luminance

[Please welcome Bob Schless and his excellent, detailed pedigree analysis to All Day Racing!  You can also find Bob’s work at  Enjoy! SA]

Horse: Luminance: (Tale of the Cat-Siren Serenade, by Unbridled’s Song), sold for $320,000 at KEESEP sale and is trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc.

Recent Performance:

Luminance’s first career start was a special one. Ridden by Martin Garcia, she made a bold 6 wide move to meet the other horses at the top of the stretch and then asserted her dominance by rolling to a 2 1/2 length victory while smashing the 5 furlong track record (57:39) at Del Mar. What is more impressive is that according to Trakus she ran 30 feet further than the 2nd place finisher, Conquest Archangel. She also showed an ability to rate which is always nice to see. Here is the video of that performance:

Bob Baffert is pointing Luminance to the G1 Del Mar Debutante on August 30th. This filly is bred with a sprinter’s prowess from her sire line but with a good amount of stamina and great class influences from her distaff side. Let’s take a closer her at Luminance and see what makes her bloodlines so special.

Dam line and other mares: Siren Serenade

Luminance is out of the stakes placed mare Siren Serenade. She is full of class as she is a full sister to one winner and a half sister to 4 other winners, including the Grade II winner Saarland ($595,250) and The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner George Vancouver ($700,282). Her second dam, Versailles Treaty, was overly impressive on the race track earning close to 1.3 million dollars while never being out of the money in 20 starts (20- 9-9-2), 15 being Stakes races. At 3 she won the Grade I Alabama, Gazelle and Test and finished 2nd in The Breeders’ Cup Distaff at 3 and 4. She is the granddaughter of Northern Dancer on her sire side and Buckpasser on her female side. Luminance’s 3rd dam, Ten Cents a Dance, was multiple stakes placed who gave off 3 stakes winners. Just as important is that she is a a half sister to General Assembly who has held the Travers Stakes record time of 2:00:00 for 34 years. Her 4th Dam Exclusive Dancer was a multiple stakes winner and her 5th Dam Exclusive was a Reine de Course mare who gave off 5 stakes winners including Exclusive Native (Sire of Affirmed). Other Reine de Course mares on her distaff side include the great Busanda ( Son of War Admiral,Dam of Buckpasser and hails from the great La Troienne Family, Pettitioner (Grand dam of undefeated Danzig) and Natalma (Blue Hen Dam of Northern Dancer). Luminance comes from Family Number 10, the same family where the Hall of Fame filly Beldame came from as well as Belmont winners Sarava (2002) and Drosselmeyer (2010). By looking at the mares on her female tail line I would sum it up with one word, “Royal”.

Dam Sire: Unbridled’s Song

Unbridled’s Song, a Grade 1 winner and one of the top commercial sires of his generation and is a sire of sires, died this past August at age 20. He is a horse who exudes class and quality. Unbridled’s Song won the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, The Florida Derby and The Wood Memorial. His racing career was cut short in 1997 when he suffered a broken cannon bone while training up to The Donn Handicap. His overall earnings on the track were $1,311,800. He was a big strapping colt-over 17 hands-like his dad Unbridled. His size, scope and mass contributes to his awesome profile. He is most noticeably a dirt sire; he really doesn’t sire impactful turf runners. This is noted by an absence of Group winners in Europe. I also believe that he gives off more speed than stamina to his offspring, yet Will Take Charge won at a classic distance. From 15 crops of racing age, Unbridled’s Song has sired:

  • 106 stakes winners
  • 47 Graded Stakes winners
  • 17 Grade 1 Stakes winners-at least one a year for 12 consecutive years
  • Broodmare Sire of 64 Stakes winners
  • 27 seven-figure earners out of 15 crops
  • Sired Will Take Charge, Graydar, Cross Traffic, Midshipman, Embur’s Song, Unrivaled Belle, Unbridled Elaine, Octave, Splendid Bended, Thorn Song, Zensational and Eight Belles.
  • The first stallion since Nasrullah to have 2 different sons reign as Champion Freshman Sire and Champion Juvenile Sire in the same year (2013)

Luminance’s 2nd Dam Sire, Unbridled, earned close to 4.5 million dollars racing while winning the Kentucky Derby and Breeder’s Cup Classic in 1990 in the process. As a sire, 10 of his offspring were Grade 1 winners, 4 were classic winners and 3 received Eclipse awards. He is also the last Kentucky Derby winner to have sired another winner (Grindstone 1996). He is also the last stallion to have sired one winner in each of America’s Triple Crown races (Grindstone, Red Bullet, Empire Maker). Unbridled is one of the few places where you can find Le Fabuleux and that is a powerful staying influence. He is also the broodmare sire of Tapit as well. Her 3rd Dam Sire, Fappiano, was sired by Mr. Prospector and besides Unbridled was the sire of Cryptoclerance  who earned close to 3.5 million dollars on the track. He gives off classic distance to his offspring also. Overall, by looking at Luminance’s Dam Sires, one can see an affinity for dirt and that there is enough stamina there for her to run longer distances as she grows and develops.

Some of you may be reading this and asking yourself, “I’ve read a lot so far about Luminance’s pedigree and haven’t seen anything mentioned yet about her sire. Why is this?” It’s because I feel that the mare is the most important parent of the two, playing a huge part in how far the horse can run and the class of the horse. It is the mare’s physical attributes which influence the developing foal in the womb and the foal also learns habits from its dam when young. Also, foals may also learn the “language of intimidation and submission” from their dam, and this imprinting may affect the foal’s status and rank within the herd. Many times, a mature horse will achieve status in a herd similar to that of its dam; the offspring of dominant mares become dominant themselves.

Sire: Tale of a Cat

Tale of a Cat earned $360,000 on the race track, winning 5 times in 9 starts from 7 to 8.5 furlongs. He broke the Monmouth 8F track record in his maiden score (like Luminance) and won the 1997 King’s Bishop Stakes (7F) by 5 1/2 lengths. He has had a tremendous career as a sire, with top performers including include Gr.1 winners Stopchargingmaria (2014), She’s A Tiger (2013), Lion Heart, Gio Ponti, Cat Moves, My Trusty Cat and Tale of Ekati. In 2013, Tale of the Cat was the leading North American Juvenile Sire by progeny earnings ($1,822,245). Tale of the Cat’s offspring seem to do a bit of everything. They win at 2, 3, and as older runners, they win on dirt, turf, and synthetics, they win short and long, and they win in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres! He also breeds speed and breeds babies that win quick.

Tale of the Cat is one of his dads (Storm Cat) finest producers. Storm Cat didn’t do much on the race track, but in the breeding shed it was a different story. Storm Cat was the leading sire in North America in 1999 and 2000 and the leading Juvenile Sire a record seven times. He is also known as a sire of sires. He is the sire of 180 stakes winners world wide, including 8 champions, and his offspring have earned over 128 million dollars. He too was known to produce precocious and fast horses like Tale of the Cat. Luminance’s 3rd sire, Storm Bird, sired 63 stakes winners including greats like Summer Squall and Bluebird who also went on to be great sires themselves. Luminance shares a 3X5 cross with Mr. Prospector, a 4X4 cross with Northern Dancer, and a 5X5 cross with Native Dancer.

Tale of a Cat’s dam, Yarn, is of interest. She is a full sister to Preach, the dam of Pulpit. She is also dam of Minardi (Group 1 winner) and Granddam of champion Johannesurg and Fed Biz. Her family traces back to the Reine De Course mare Monarchy who is a full sister to Round Table.


After looking at Luminance’s pedigree and her track breaking performance, she can really turn out to be any sort. Tale of the Cat’s offspring have shown to flourish on any surface (this may be the reason she was able to run so big on the Del Mar polytrack). I do feel though that she can and will take well to dirt looking at most of the other colts in her pedigree. In terms of distance her sire has given off Gio Ponti who won at a mile and a quarter as did Unbridled’s Song’s Will Take Charge as well. I can see her being best from a mile to a mile and an eighth. As I studied her pedigree I took note that Tale of the Cat when paired up with Northern Dancer in the female tail line has had good success, as also the case when he is paired with Unbridled’s Song as a broodmare. In Luminance I feel that her bloodlines reek of champions and class and that she has every right to become a superb talent in the coming years.

Image: Dormant Braincell Research Project, “Bob Baffert.” Copyright 2006. Creative Commons 2.0.

The Three Year Old Division: What’s on Tap?

Mainstream coverage of three year olds unfortunately tends to wane after the Belmont Stakes.  But the second-half of the season provides just as many terrific story lines as the Derby trail. The Triple Crown participants join up with new contenders, who typically are either late-developing or may have missed time due to injury.

It’s important to note that there are two informal divisions of three-year olds. The first is generally a Grade I path through either the Haskell at Monmouth and the Travers at Saratoga and then joining older horses in September and eventually for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The second involves a number of Grade II, Grade III, or ungraded stakes races, such as the Ohio Derby and West Virginia Derby.

Here are the key races coming up.  Note the amazing weekend of July 25-27 with three races, including the G1 Haskell.  Check back here for further coverage of the division!


July 19: Ohio Derby, Thistledown Racino, 8.5f, $300k

July 25: Curlin Stakes, Saratoga Race Course,  9f, $100K

July 26: Jim Dandy Stakes, Saratoga Race Course,  9f, Grade II, $600K

July 27: Haskell Invitational, Monmouth Park,  9f, Grade I, $1M

August 2:  West Virginia Derby, Mountaineer Race Track, 9f, Grade II, $750K

August 23: Travers Stakes, Saratoga Race Course, 10f, Grade I, $1.25M

September 1: Smarty Jones Stakes, Parx Racing,  about 8.5f, $300K

September 6:  Super Derby, Louisiana Downs, 9f, $500K

September 20: Pennsylvania Derby, Parx Racing,  GII, 9f, $1M

September 28: Oklahoma Derby, Remington Park, September 28, GIII, 9f $400K

October 4: The Indiana Derby, Indiana Downs,  October 4, G2, 8.5f, $500K


Donnie Ray Jones, “Horse Race – Louisiana Downs”, Copyright 2011.



The Iowa Derby (Grade III)

You can often find value in these late season three-year-old stakes races, often simply by betting against horses that ran in the Triple Crown.  The public recognizes the name and overbets on this reason alone.  This strategy, however, still requires finding either a late developing three-year old.  Often, you can find them in horses that may have missed the Triple Crown due to injury, but usually you can find them in stamina horses that are now beginning to fully develop.  I like to demand recent form and speed, however.  Betting simply on the hope of improvement is a recipe for losses.


  • Vicar’s in Trouble (#8, 3/1) is certainly the most accomplished of the field, but will be overbet, given the Derby experience and past speed.   Will try to do it on the front end.  Needs to be sharp off the layoff.
  • Charge Now (#5, 8-1) emerged out of a Belmont allowance that I previewed and recapped.  He was much the best on paper in that race, but didn’t have to do too much.  The speed figure came back low, and even if that wasn’t a top effort, he’d still have to improve to win here.
  • Embellishing Bob (#1, 7-2) is my pick.  He’s been plenty fast sprinting and beat (by legitimate DQ) hot horse Bayern in the Derby Trial before being trounced by him in the Woody Stephens.  I like the stretch out and the mile work.
  • Russelin (#2, 10/1) goes for conditioner Chris Hartman.  Old Fashioned is an emerging sire and this one has nice speed and style. Still seems like a bit much to find his way to the top.
  • Six Spot (#3, 5-1) should be moved up if the track is wet – a possibility with thunderstorms likely tomorrow — but not otherwise


What I’m thinking of betting:

I like Embellishing Bob at anywhere over 3-1.  I expect that you’ll get this price on the likely second choice as Vicar’s in Trouble will likely get tons of action.  Six Spot deserves a look if the track is wet.   I haven’t seen enough speed from Charge Now to support him here.  I’ve heard Travers for him, but I’ll wait to see more.

Tune in on Twitter at 10:00 ET on Saturday night for coverage of the full slate of Stakes races from Prairie Meadows.  See you then!

Belmont Park, Race 7, Coverage begins at 4:10 P.M. ET

Wednesday, June 25: Race of the Day, Belmont Park,  Race 7, 1 Mile. 1st Level Allowance, plus claiming. 3 year old only. Purse: Purse $77K. 

A sizable purse is on the line for a solid group of 3-year olds routing at Belmont Park.  The scheduling and distance of this race are an ideal for the start of a Travers Stakes campaign, so we could very well see someone of note emerge from this group.

  • Venetian Mask (#2, 5/2) starts off an dominant seven furlong maiden score at Parx.  A son of Pulpit, out of a Carson City mare, this horse should fit the distance perfectly. He’s been training well and adds Rosario.  Legitimate, but this is a deep field.
  • Protonico (#6, 4/1) who joins the Pletcher barn after a brief two-year old campaign that showed promise.  Pletcher is taking the blinker offs — always a sharp move.  A strong win here off the layoff could have Protonico pointed towards the Travers.   Always worth a paddock look of the layoff and trainer change.
  • Big Guy Ian (#3, 6-1) has done very little wrong in his career.  He ran decently in the famed February 22nd allowance at Gulfstream in which Constitution beat eventual Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist and Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong.  Possibly prepping for later today — seems to want longer.  Could see him down the road.
  • All My Memories (#4, 8-1) came into his own last race for Jason Servis, winning impressively over this track.  There’s no reason this one can’t win today and could offer great value for those who bet longshots.
  • Magic Cash (#5, 6-1) comes into the Tony Dutrow barn.  A son of Tapit out of a Storm Cat mare, this horse could be a star.  Training lights-out at Fair Hill, he’d still need an improved performance to win here, but that’s not an unreasonable task.
  • Lietenant Seany O (#1, 3-1) has been finishing second for the Jacobson barn as of late.  Solid, but Jacobson’s runners typically lose form the more they run.  With a tough field here, I’d think he’ll be overbet.

What I’m thinking of betting:

I’ll take a good look at Protoncio and listen to @maggiewolfndale’s analysis, especially with the layoff and trainer change.  The potential is sky-high with this one.   There are still lots of chances, so I’d need to see a decent price of around 4-1 to win.  All My Memories is also probably worth a small bet — especially through multi-race exotics — over 10-1 to win.


Belmont Park, Race 3, 2:05 PM ET

Race of the Day

Belmont Park, Elmont, NY, Race 3, 2:05 PM ET

First-Level Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, 3 year olds, Purse: $77K

An impressive purse is on the line for five three year olds in the third race from Belmont Park. Roman Approval (#1, 6-1) has scratched.

It’s quite possible that we’ll see some stakes runners emerge from this race, with the a slew of competitive graded events still on tap for the second half of the summer.  The race starts with the even-morning morning-line favorite Charge Now (#2, 1/1) for William Mott.  Charge Now is a son of Tiznow.  A Winstar farm homebred, he’s out of the same mare as Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Supercharger.  He’s bred for greatness and has shown speed on the track in his short career.

Getting past Charge Now is difficult, but Lieutenant Seany O (#4, 5-1) has been racing well since in the David Jacobson barn.  He returns to a route — his preferred distance.  He certainly could be a factor today and rates an outside threat to Charge Now. Long Water (#6, 3-1)  is a Kiaran McLaughlin trained, Darley home-bred that has finally begun to touch his potential.  Nevertheless, he’s a bit slower than either Charge Now or Lieutenant Seany O.  Howl (#5, 12-1) comes out of a maiden claiming win and is a bit too slow.  However, he excelled in his first try on the Belmont dirt track, and could put in another solid effort today.  Steve Came Through (#3, 30-1) is outclassed.


  1. Will Charge Now emerge as a contender in the three-year old division? He’s well-bred and has shown good speed on the track.  A superb performance will vault him up the charts.
  2. How will Lieutenant Seany O appreciate the added distance?  He’s been a new horse for Jacobsen, and could very well win if Charge Now does not improve.
  3. Is Howl a potential Belmont Park “Horse for Course”?  It’s one explanation of his improvement last time, although he’s still likely too slow here.


Charge Now should be the best in the race.  But Lieutenant Seany O offers some serious upside at a price, and certainly is a strong contender for second.  We’ll check the exacta prices during our livehost @alldayracing on twitter.