The pedigree is the most important tool I use to determine if a young colt has star potential. In addition, past performances and the will to win are also important factors I look at. However, my friend Kerry Thomas, founder of the Thomas Herding Technique, is better than I am at measuring the emotional conformation of a horse.
Animal Kingdom has always reigned supreme on my list. He has the breeding and mental toughness to easily handle the demanding 10-furlongs of the Kentucky Derby.
Here’s what I wrote about him last December:
Animal Kingdom’s pedigree is as close to WOW as you can get. His sire, Leroidesanimaux, was bred in Brazil but was a multiple graded-stakes champion in North America at the age of four and five and the 2005 Champion Male Turf Horse. Candy Stripes, his grandsire, is the sire of Invasor - the Uruguayan Triple Crown Champion, North American Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male. Leroidesanimaux’ second dam, Kerali, is the dam of super broodmare Hasili - dam of champions Intercontental, Banks Hill, Dansili, Champs Elysees, Cacique and Heat Haze.
Animal Kingdom’s damsire is the legendary Classic Champion Thoroughbred and German Derby winner Acatenango – three-time Horse of The Year in Germany and champion sire in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001. All of the stallions on the damsire line going back six generations are Classic Champion Thoroughbreds and German Derby winners.
If Animal Kingdom continues to improve and move forward as a 3-year-old, he will be tough on the Triple Crown trail.
Although lightly raced, Animal Kingdom looked good in his two starts this year and his last-to-first-place move for the 2¾-length win in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) was impressive. He’s battle-tested and is competitive from anywhere on the race track – in two of his races he raced just off of the pace and in two races he closed from dead last.
Team Valor International, Barry and Kathleen Irwin and trainer H. Graham Motion have done an excellent job of bringing Animal Kingdom to the Kentucky Derby. His work out at Churchill Downs was good and Animal Kingdom is my top pick.
For the rest of my key Derby exotic wagers, I’m sticking with horses I liked on this year’s trail: Midnight Interlude, my pick to win the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Brilliant Speed, my pick to win the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and Nehro who I tagged as a possible upset candidate in the Arkansas Derby (G1). All three of those horses are bred to go long and they will still be running when most of the field is trailing off.
Midnight Interlude has a good mix of speed and stamina in his pedigree. His sire was the speedy War Chant who won the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and was able to stretch his speed out to 9-furlongs when he lost the 2000 Santa Anita Derby by one length to The Deputy.
Groom Dancer, the damsire of Midnight Interlude, was a multiple Group Stakes winner in France who was most competitive running at one mile to 11-furlongs. Most of the races he won were at a distance of 9-furlongs and farther. Triple Crown winner Secretariat is the sire of the third dam and First Landing, the sire of the fourth dam, also sired Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Riva Ridge.
Midnight Interlude finished third in his debut in January and I like the way he has steadily improved with each race. Prior to winning the Santa Anita Derby, Midnight Interlude fired a bullet work out and since that race, he has fired three straight bullet works – two of those were at Churchill Downs on both a good and a sloppy track.
Starting from post 15, Midnight Interlude will be in a good position to avoid traffic problems and he will be tough to beat in the Kentucky Derby.
Brilliant Speed, with Dynaformer as his sire, should like the stretch out to 10-furlongs. Dynaformer has only had three colts run in the Derby and all of them, including 2006 Derby winner Barbaro, finished in the money.
The distaff part of Brilliant Speed’s pedigree is also filled with stamina influences. Passing Mood, the third dam of Brilliant Speed, is also the dam of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Touch Gold and Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval.
Brilliant Speed struggled as a 2-year-old and finally broke his maiden on his fifth attempt winning an 8½-furlong maiden race on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs last December.
But as a 3-year-old, Brilliant Speed has shown vast improvement narrowly losing by a nose his stakes debut in the one mile Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January. A month later at Gulfstream, Brilliant Speed suffered another narrow defeat finishing third, just a half-length shy of first, in the Hallandale Beach Stakes. Brilliant Speed capped off that nice run with a win in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and stamped his ticket to the Derby.
That’s the kind of improvement I like to see in a colt at this time of year and with jockey Joel Rosario in the mount, Brilliant Speed will be tough in the Derby.
In February, Nehro broke his maiden in a one mile race at Oaklawn Park and in March he suffered and narrow loss by a neck to Pants On Fire in the 9-furlong Louisiana Derby (G2). Nehro returned to Oaklawn and a month later he suffered another narrow loss to Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Like Brilliant Speed, Nehro is a fast improving colt who could be peaking at the right time. Nehro will start from the auxiliary gate and should be able to avoid traffic problems. I look for him to be competitive.