Taking Stock: Young Stallions Dominate Derby Points Leaders

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Upstart's Zandon wins the Blue GrassCoady

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Led by Three Chimneys's Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}), young stallions with either first- or second-crop representatives account for 11 of the 20 leading point getters for the GI Kentucky Derby, and quite a few of these stallions, Gun Runner included, have the top 12 leading points earners for the GI Longines Kentucky Oaks as well.

First-Crop 3-year-olds

Gun Runner, whose first crop is three, has, incredibly, sired four individual Grade I winners so far, the latest of which is Zedan Racing's remarkable Taiba, who won the GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby Saturday in only his second lifetime start. A $1.7-million purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-year-olds in training sale, Taiba has earned 100 Derby points, tying him for fifth place on the list with Crown Pride (Jpn) (Reach the Crown {Jpn}) and Gold Square's Cyberknife (Gun Runner), a $400,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase who won the Gl Arkansas Derby the weekend before. Gun Runner is also represented by Klaravich Stables's Early Voting, who lost Saturday for the first time in three starts when second by a neck to Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo) in the GII Wood Memorial S. Early Voting, who has 50 points, was a $200,000 Keeneland September yearling.

Among filles, Gun Runner has the undefeated Grade I winner Echo Zulu, last year's champion 2-year-old filly, with 130 points for the Oaks (as well as Shotgun Hottie, outside the top 12 with 41 points). A $300,000 Keeneland September yearling who races for L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds, Echo Zulu is second only to Kathleen O. with 150 points.

Echo Zulu won her season debut in the GII Fair Grounds Oaks by a nose from Hidden Connection (Connect), a Grade III winner at two from the first crop of Lane's Ends's Connect (Curlin)–also the sire of 2-year-old Grade I winner Rattle N Roll, sixth most recently in the GI Toyota Blue Grass S. An $85,000 OBS June 2-year-old racing for Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds, Hidden Connection has 57 points for the Oaks, which puts her among the leading 12.

Juddmonte's late Arrogate (Unbridled's Song) hasn't dazzled like Gun Runner, but his first-crop daughter Secret Oath is one of the best 3-year-old fillies in the country. She was third last out in the Arkansas Derby to Cyberknife and prior to that had dominated fillies at Oaklawn, including a 7 1/2-length score in the GIII Honeybee S. A homebred for Briland Farm, Secret Oath has 80 points for the Oaks, but note that Yuugiri (Shackleford), who won the GIII Fantasy at Oaklawn when Secret Oath took on the boys and has 114 points for the Oaks, was a well-beaten third in the Honeybee.

Coolmore America's Cupid (Tapit) is the sire of first-crop daughter Desert Dawn, an Arizona-bred who won the GII Santa Anita Oaks Saturday by a neck from the previously undefeated Adare Manor (Uncle Mo). She has 108 points for the Oaks and is a homebred for H and E Ranch.
GIII Gotham S. winner Morello (Classic Empire) lost for the first time in four starts in the Wood Memorial after a bad start, finishing sixth, and will reportedly not head to the Derby. Nevertheless, the first-crop son of Coolmore America's Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) has 50 Derby points and races for Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Craig Taylor, and Diamond T. Racing. He was a $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old.

Second-Crop 3-year-olds

Taylor Made's Not This Time (Giant's Causeway) is the sire of GII Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter, who leads all colts with 164 points for the Derby. Epicenter races for Winchell Thoroughbreds and was a $260,000 Keeneland September buy. Not This Time, who had his second top-level winner Saturday when first-crop 4-year-old filly Just One Time won the GI Madison S., is also represented by GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S. winner Simplification, with 74 points. Simplification, who was third in the GI Curlin Florida Derby Saturday, races for Tami Bobo and was a $50,000 RNA at Keeneland November as a weanling. Both Epicenter and Simplification, by the way, are from Candy Ride mares–which is the reverse cross of Gun Runner, who is by Candy Ride from a Giant's Causeway mare.

Airdrie's Upstart (Flatter) has been a revelation this season. He's the sire of Jeff Drown's Zandon, a $170,000 Keeneland September yearling who won the Blue Grass Saturday and sits second on the Derby-points list with 114 behind Epicenter. Upstart is also the sire of Winngate's Kathleen O., a $275,000 OBS April 2-year-old who is undefeated in four starts and won the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks earlier this month.

Like Upstart, Darley's Nyquist (Uncle Mo) has contenders for both the Derby and Oaks with second-crop 3-year-olds. The Derby-winning stallion's son Slow Down Andy, a homebred for Reddam Racing, won the GIII Sunland Park Derby at the end of March and has 60 Derby points. Nyquist's filly Turnerloose likewise has 60 points for the Oaks. Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Turnerloose won the GII Rachel Alexandra S. in February and most recently was fourth in the Fair Grounds Oaks behind Echo Zulu and Hidden Connection. The Thrashes purchased Turnerloose for $50,000 at Keeneland September.

Claiborne's resurgent Runhappy (Super Saver) is the sire of Smile Happy, with 70 points. A $185,000 purchase from the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase, Smile Happy races in the colors of Lucky Seven Stable and was a Grade II winner last year. In two starts this season, Smile Happy was second in both the Blue Grass and the GII Risen Star S.

Hit It a Bomb (War Front), who stands at Spendthrift, is the sire of Magdalena Racing's Tiz the Bomb, winner of the GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks S. He sold for $330,000 at the same Fasig-Tipton select sale as Smile Happy and Cyberknife and has 110 points.

The late Laoban (Uncle Mo), who started his stud career at Sequel in New York and was later transferred to WinStar in Kentucky, is the sire of Cypress Creek Equine's and Whispering Oaks Farm's Un Ojo, winner of the GII Rebel S. Un Ojo, a one-eyed gelding, was most recently off the board in the Arkansas Derby but has 54 points for the Derby.

Among the filles, Crestwood's Firing Line (Line of David) is represented by Venti Valentine, owned by NY Final Furlong Racing and Parkland Thoroughbreds. Bred by NY Final Furlong and Maspeth Stable, the homebred won the GII Demoiselle S. last year and was second Saturday in the GIII Gazelle S. Venti Valentine has 94 points for the Oaks.

The 11 colts by these sires are Taiba, Cyberknife, Early Voting, Morello, Epicenter, Simplification, Smile Happy, Slow Down Andy, Zandon, Tiz the Bomb, and Un Ojo. If you subtract the Japanese entrant–Crown Pride–that's 11 of 19, and if you add in four third-crop 3-year-olds with points in the top 20, then 15 of 19, or an astonishing 79% of the top domestic points earners for the Kentucky Derby this year, were conceived by stallions which had no runners at the time of conception.

Who are the sires of the third-crop 3-year-olds? Exported former Spendthrift stallion Race Day (Tapit) is the sire of White Abarrio, winner of the Florida Derby with 112 points, and Barber Road, second in the Arkansas Derby, with 58 points. Coolmore America's Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) is represented by Forbidden Kingdom, who, until a last-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, was one of the leading hopes in California with 50 points. And Airdrie's Summer Front (War Front) is the sire of Summer Is Tomorrow, the second-place finisher in the G2 UAE Derby, with 40 points.

That's quite an endorsement for those that patronize or buy weanlings, yearlings, or 2-year-olds by unproven horses. And this isn't necessarily a fluke, either. A year ago, I wrote this piece, “First-Crop Success in Classics,” that examined the sires of U.S. Classic winners from 2001 to 2020 and noted that close to 50% of them were from either the first or second crops of their respective sires.
The four North American-breds by proven sires with Derby points are Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo), with 112; Classic Causeway (Giant's Causeway), with 66; Messier (Empire Maker), with 40; and Zozos (Munnings), with 40.

Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.

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