Monday, May 6, 2013

Ancestral Herd Influence Has Dramatic Impact On Outcome Of Kentucky Derby 139; Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profiles On Derby Mark

© 2013, Calvin L. Carter

          Well, with Kentucky Derby 139 in the history books, I’m filled with both feelings of disappointment and excitement. Despite having profiled Orb as a potential Derby winner, it’s disappointing that since I started this blog in 2009 I did not cash any exotic tickets. At the same time, it’s exciting that the debut of my Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile was a success in illustrating how the influence of the Ancestral Herd has a tremendous impact on the outcome of classic races.

          The Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile is a numerical scoring system I use to determine if a colt may have the potential to be a classic champion.           Overall, with a few exceptions, the profiles of the Derby horses were very close in determining the finish of the Kentucky Derby 139.  Most important, the profiles show how over half the field – and key horses such as Verrazano, Goldencents, Itsmyluckyday, Overanalyze and Palace Malice – could have been eliminated from the handicapping analysis as classic contenders.
          Like an intricate puzzle, the pedigree contains many secrets of what champions are made of and the proprietary key puzzle pieces, the Tesio Index and Ancestral Herd Index, comprise the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile. The Ancestral Herd Index is a new feature I recently added to calculate the profile and that was included because of my study of the late Federico Tesio, a world renowned owner, breeder and trainer of Thoroughbred racehorses who bred closely to the Ancestral Herd. During his lifetime, Tesio bred an incredible 21 Italiano Derby winners.

The profile is tool I use to measure potential and it does not take into account other factors such as the horse’s will to win. Another thing to keep in mind is that horses, for many different reasons, sometimes fail to live up to their potential.

Failure of horses to live up to their potential can easily explain the high ranking of Will Take Charge (ranked 4th), Frac Daddy (ranked 5th) and Oxbow (ranked 7th). They all have high profile scores but have failed to live up to their potential.

Upon post-race handicapping analysis, they should have been throw outs based on their previous past performances. However, it’s important to note that my long shot pick of Will Take Charge was checked hard at the top of the stretch by an exhausted Verrazano who was backing up. We’ll never know if that kept Will Take Charge from hitting the board.

Kentucky Derby winner Orb (ranked 8th) is a good example of a horse with a high herd dynamic and Emotional Conformation that is so necessary to win in classic competition. In Horse Profiling: The Secret to Motivating Equine Athletes, published by Trafalgar Square Books, Equine Behaviorist Kerry Thomas and I wrote that the horse’s Emotional Conformation, will to win, is the final piece of the breeding puzzle. That will to win and his Ancestral Herd breeding is why I profiled Orb as a colt that could have classic potential.

From the pedigree perspective, Orb has a strong Ancestral Influence but his Tesio Index was weak and that is why he was not ranked higher in the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile. If you add in those other missing key pedigree factors to the Tesio Index, Orb’s profile jumps up and he would have been ranked near the top of the list.

Orb is a descendant of the Ancestral Herd of both Bold Ruler and Fappiano and those Ancestral Herds have produced numerous Classic Champion Thoroughbreds.

In the decade of the 1970’s, the Ancestral Herd of Bold Ruler produced seven Kentucky Derby winners: Orb’s great grandsire, Seattle Slew (1977), Bold Forbes (1976), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Cannonade (1974), Secretariat (1973), Dust Commander (1970) and Spectacular Bid (1979).

The 1984 Kentucky Derby winner, Swale, was the last Kentucky Derby winner from the Ancestral Herd of Bold Ruler and Orb’s victory ended a 29-year drought of Derby winners from that line.

Unbridled, the damsire of Orb, won the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic and he’s a descendant of the Fappiano branch of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd. Classic Champion Thoroughbred descendants of the Unbridled Ancestral Herd include: Grindstone (1996 Kentucky Derby), Red Bullet (2000 Preakness), Empire Maker, (2003 Belmont), Birdstone (2004 Belmont), Mine That Bird (2009 Kentucky Derby) and Summer Bird (2009 Belmont).

Other descendants of Mr. Prospector that won the Kentucky Derby since 1990 include: I’ll Have Another (2012), Street Sense (2007), Smarty Jones (2004), Funny Cide (2003), War Emblem (2002), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) and Thunder Gulch (1995).

From the pedigree perspective, the success of Orb in winning the Kentucky Derby is primarily due to the powerful nick influence of the Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd with the Fappiano Ancestral Herd. The powerful influence of Orb’s great grandsire, Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and grandsire, Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, over his damsire, Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, propelled Orb to Derby glory.

My other Derby picks, Revolutionary (ranked 1st) and Mylute (ranked 3rd) – the top two finishers in the Louisiana Derby (G2) – made strong showings in the Derby finishing third and fifth. Golden Soul, the surprise second-place finisher, should really not have been a surprise as he had a high Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile of 1:43.03 (ranked 6th) and he finished fourth in the Louisiana Derby just 4¾-lengths behind Revolutionary and Mylute.

Normandy Invasion (ranked 14th) has a high Tesio Index but his Ancestral Herd Index was low giving him a profile of 120.61 and that is why he was ranked so low in the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile list.

Like Orb, Normandy Invasion is a descendant of the Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd on the top and bottom of his pedigree but the influence of damsire Boston Harbor is not nearly as strong as the damsire influence or Unbridled in Orb’s pedigree.

When horses such as Normandy Invasion lack the key pedigree influences they need to be competitive, classic champions, sometimes that deficiency can be overcome by their high herd dynamic, Emotional Conformation. To get some perspective on that I consulted with my friend Kerry Thomas after the running of the Kentucky Derby to get his take on the performance of Normandy Invasion.

Kerry said that Normandy Invasion has the physical ability and Emotional Conformation to win the Kentucky Derby but he can only sustain that mental drive for a short period of time and his early run at the top of the stretch was why he came up short at the finish.


Anyone who’s followed my blog for any length of time knows that my study of Thoroughbred pedigrees and the late Federico Tesio, a world-renowned owner, breeder and trainer of Thoroughbred racehorses, has had a tremendous impact on my analysis of classic champion prospects. The result of that research is what I call the Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile and it is a powerful tool I use to determine if a young colt has to potential to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred.

In addition, the behavior of the horse or Emotional Conformation is the final piece of the breeding puzzle. Behavior was the key puzzle piece Tesio relied on to breed his numerous champion Thoroughbreds and, during his lifetime, he bred an incredible 21 Italiano Derby winners.

The Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile and the Emotional Conformation of the horse are important tools that have enabled me to pick the classic champions Orb, I’ll Have Another, Animal Kingdom, Pour Moi, Super Saver, Lookin At Lucky, and Summer Bird.


If you would like to get involved in horseracing, please check out my website:

Classic Champion Thoroughbreds is a unique, innovative bloodstock consulting firm, dedicated to helping clients make informed decisions, eliminating doubt and guesswork, in buying and breeding Thoroughbreds.

Classic Champion Thoroughbreds provides its clients with the important information necessary to achieve their goals and realize their dreams of competing at the highest level. Every evaluation includes a detailed pedigree analysis and a Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile of young horses that may be classic racing prospects. Each analysis and profile draws upon the time-tested breeding theories of great Thoroughbred breeders as well as those of Classic Champion Thoroughbreds owner Calvin L. Carter. (Upon request, clients can also receive from Thomas Herding Technique Founder Kerry M. Thomas an Emotional Conformation Profile behavioral analysis of the horses they plan to buy or breed.)

In the spirit of Federico Tesio, Classic Champion Thoroughbreds serves the needs of its clients – helping them to eliminate the doubt and guesswork in buying and breeding Thoroughbred Champions. Whatever your need, if you already own horses or if you are new and want to get established, please feel free to contact me and Classic Champion Thoroughbreds will work with you to realize your goals and dreams.


  1. Great perspective as always.

  2. Jball,

    Thanks for the compliment and for being a faithful follower, contributor to my blog - I appreciate that.

  3. Calvin, I see now that Golden Soul should not have been a surprise. He had a rough trip last out and still finished fourth, and then Departing won the Illinois Derby to help flatter Revolutionary, Mylute and Golden Soul. (Let's see how Departing does in his next race.) That plus your index perhaps should have persuaded me to try Golden Soul on some tickets.

    Thank you for the blog. I love reading it.

  4. Oh! On the other hand... I was persuaded to use Lines of Battle... :-)

    I am so done with Aidan and his Derby horses. So done.

  5. Hello Calvin!

    Looking forward to your Belmont analysis.

    My top two selections in the Derby were Revolutionary and Orb and like you, I didn't score any exotics. For me it was on account of Golden Soul.

    In the Preakness, I played WPS across the board on Will Take Charge.

    In the Belmont more often than not it usually bodes well to be not too far off the pace. In addition to Golden Soul, Orb and Revolutionary, what are your thoughts on Overanalyze? Particularly in relation to heard dynamics.

    May give Will Take Charge another shot...but I'm having my doubts. That's when he'll run a big one, right? ; )


  6. Mark,

    Thanks for the comments and for following my blog. Just got back late yesterday from the holiday weekend and I'm getting caught up.

    It looks like the Belmont is taking shape. Code West and Freedom Child look like interesting new shooters.

    I was willing to give Will Take Charge the benefit of the doubt because of his trip in the Kentucky Derby. But, he never did much in the Preakness to redeem himself. I won't be using him in the Belmont.

    On observation of his previous races, Overanalyze strikes me as a horse that has some talent but lacks the focus necessary to be competitive at the classic level. That's reflective in his 4-0-1 record in 8 starts. Also, his breeding does not "wow" me as a horse with classic potential.

    I'm looking forward to see if Orb can rebound to redeem himself in the Belmont.

  7. Yeah...I'm withdrawing my enthusiasm for Will Take Charge as well. Was listening to Wayne Lukas discuss that one getting better as he ages. Perhaps we'll see better of him in time.

    The more I look at Code West and Freedom Child, the more I'm intrigued by them.

    Also think that Orb rebounds in the Belmont.

    Revolutionary, Palace Malice, Golden Soul getting a break may compromise his chances some. In addition, to the two those two new shooters that maybe didn't get as much taken out of them in their previous.

    The way that you combine your breeding analysis with herd dynamics I find quite informative.

    Better fortunes to you in the Belmont!


    1. Mark,

      Thanks for the compliment.

      The Belmont field is taking shape and I'm slowly getting caught up with my analysis.

      Looks like there will be several descendants of the Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd entered in the race - Orb, Freedom Child and Incognito.

      Unlimited Budget - descendant of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd - looks interesting.

  8. I am also a pedigree consultant to a group that buys a lot of foreign turf horses. I've read your blog for some years and noticed that we both agree on many horses but I am proud to say that many of my followers think I've done as well or better than you have.
    I don't go into pedigrees deeply as you do. I have a quite simple method using pedigree patterns where I decide on the horse's potential in a matter of minutes.
    You may find it interesting to read my blogs, especially going back a few years.
    We might have something interesting to talk about.

    1. Backstretch,

      Thanks for following my blog. It's always good to meet a fellow horse lover and racing fan.

      Thanks for the link to your blog. I'll check it out.