Pedigree Handicapping – Kentucky Derby Distance Sires

Perhaps the biggest question when handicapping the Kentucky Derby is whether or not a young three-year-old is up to the challenging mile and a quarter distance. Their pedigree, starting with the sire, can provide important clues.

Fifteen stallions have sired the 20 horses likely to break from the Derby starting gate on May 5 and we used the stallion data within Betmix Angler to analyze the success of their progeny at distances of 9 furlongs or longer. The full results, sorted by Win % are shown in the chart below.

Of the stallions with over 25 runners to sample it's no surprise to see Tapit and Awesome Again leading the way in Win %. While the Derby has eluded Tapit so far, he is the sire of three of the past four Belmont Stakes champions. Awesome Again won the Breeders' Cup Classic (at Churchill) and has long been known as sire of later-developing two-turn types. His distance runners have been much more profitable for bettors too with a positive Win ($34.30) and Place ($13.50) flat bet profits.

Perhaps the surprise among the top three is Into Mischief who is known more as a speed influence. His signature win came in the CashCall Futurity (G1) at 8.5 furlongs, the longest distance he ever raced. He's truly become one of North America's top stallions but his best runners so far have excelled around one turn: Canadian champion sprinter Miss Mischief, two-time Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, Champagne/Allen Jerkens Memorial S. winner Practical Joke, etc. The latter posted his sire's best Derby finish when 5th last year. Into Mischief's two other Derby starters Vyjack and Vicar's in Trouble finished 18th and 19th, respectively.

It's obviously a small sample size for Take Charge Indy, whose first crop are just three-year-olds this year. In fact his first Derby contender, Noble Indy, is also his lone distance winner from four starters after taking the 9-furlong Louisiana Derby in late March. Creative Cause also has a smaller sample but there's reason to believe this distance success will continue as he's a son of Giant's Causeway and a full brother to Destin, a Grade 2 winner at 14 furlongs and the nose runner-up in the 2016 Belmont Stakes.