Only four 2yo Grade 1 winners have also won Derby since BC

11 thoughts on “Only four 2yo Grade 1 winners have also won Derby since BC”

  1. Spot on, Sid. It takes a different type of horse to win early and short — the kind that often sells for the biggest prices at 2-year-olds in training sales — than it does to win at a mile and a quarter on the first Saturday in May. Excellent point made that in the 1970s and early 1980s, when breeders were still thinking of the classic distances their horses would need to get at 3, 4 and 5, the G1-winning juveniles were more successful both at 2 and in the Derby because they were racing “like” horses at 2.

    I believe this analysis goes hand in hand with an observation I made some time ago about the sires of recent Derby winners. I forget what year I did the quick research and the span of years considered, but of the previous 15 winners of the Derby at that time, seven wire sired by stallions standing for $35,000 or more at time of conception, and eight were sired by horses who stood for just $25,000 (maybe it was even $15,000) or less.

    This suggested to me that what was commercial in a pedigree was NOT conducive to getting the Derby distance. I’m convinced it’s one big reason we’ve never had a Kentucky Derby winner from the Storm Cat line. (Storm BIRD, yes, as Summer Squall sired Charismatic. But not one stemming from Storm Bird’s son, Storm Cat.) … It COULD happen, probably WILL happen eventually, maybe even this year. But that line — especially the closer you get to Storm Cat himself — is typically precocious and fast, qualities that don’t particularly translate to winning the Run for the Roses, even if the horse has shown some ability to get a bit of distance. (And one of Storm Cat’s sons who I thought was most likely to give him a Derby-winning grandson, Bluegrass Cat — a 9-furlong juvenile winner in the Remsen — has already been banished from Kentucky to New York.)

    On the other hand, look at some of the Derby’s winners and their sires just since 2000: Animal Kingdom (by turf champ Leroidesanimaux, $25K fee when conceived); Mine That Bird (by Belmont-winner Birdstone, $7,500 I believe at conception); Big Brown (Boundary, $10,000); Giacomo (Holy Bull, $15,000); War Emblem (Our Emblem, $10,000); and Monarchos (Maria’s Mon, then $7,500 I believe, later sired a second Derby winner, Super Saver, for a much higher fee). … Go back another decade (where my recollection of stud fees is much more sketchy) and you have winners including Real Quiet (Quiet American), Silver Charm (Silver Buck), Go For Gin (Cormorant), Sea Hero (Polish Navy) and Lil E Tee (At the Threshold … At the Threshold?).

    It’s increasingly clear that what sells dear in February through May of a 2-year-old year might get you to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in good shape (and thus a 2-year-old championship, and these days probably a good syndication price at stud), but could be of dubious value in May of age 3 and beyond.

  2. Surely two other factors in the dichotomy that Sid is analyzing are the rise of the supertrainer with 200 to 500 horses and the blanket use of medications, both pharmaceuticals and neutriceuticals.

    Wayne Lukas and his successive emulators have found the most consistent way to be on the classic trail: start with 100 good prospects. Their training program is simple: get the owners to buy the big, powerful prospects, train them to win by the fall of their juvenile year, push them to raise their game in the spring at 3, and those that survive will take you to Louisville, Baltimore, and NYC.

    It is a program that is so simple and such a perfect industrial model. It wrecks hundreds of horses every year, but it’s the only way to make so many horses into classic hopes.

    Trainers using this model of preparing the classic horse (and there are damned few who don’t these days) have to find ways to keep the horses training hard, growing and maintaining their weight over a lengthy period of time, and racing comfortably.

    Old-fashioned notions of how to train a classic horse, such as time off, slow development, and pacing the schedule to the horse, have no place in the industrial model. They have to have results now to keep the owners thrilled and buying the next season’s crop of classic prospects.

    As a result, these trainers must use every tool the vet or horse nutritionist can provide to make the animal grow, add weight (then muscle), and keep going forward. The results are very big and heavy supermilers, because that is what Sid is describing in his discussion above.

    Notably, some of the horses who won at 2 and climbed higher at 3, such as Real Quiet and Sea Hero, were phenotypically NOT pure milers and differed rather noticeably in body type and constitution from most other stock that fit the modern classic style.


    1. Wow, Frank said a mouthful.

      Really good comment Frank. I believe it’s a reason why we have not seen a Triple Crown winner in so long. So few can handle the chamber and survive through June.

      I constantly look back at Curlin. Brought along by a smaller outfit, clearly had some issues early in his career to start late. Then he sails through the TC, runs Beyer tops in the JCGC and BC Classic at the end of his 3YO year. He goes to Dubai and wins two. Finally at the tail end of his 3YO year soreness or what have you catch up and he starts slowing down.

      I know my limitations and defer to you guys on breeding, but I thought Frank’s point was really solid. It’s a different world out there now. “Put them through the ringer and see who survives” is not conducive to long lasting classic racehorses (imo)


    2. Some great analysis, Frank. There’s no doubt at all that the type has changed, for an entire spectrum of reasons. But I don’t know how hard these animals are being pushed and trained, given how few actual races they seem to have anymore prior to the triple crown grind. What do you think?

  3. So then what would happen if someone took classic European stock and brought these horses over to the states at two. Could these horses- assuming they love the dirt as much as the turf- be triple crown champions?

    1. The trouble would indeed be whether they liked the turf. That was my one doubt about Animal Kingdom. He’s by a turf champion (Leroidesanimaux) out of a German-bred mare of mostly European lineage, bred to run all day. … Once he won the Derby on the dirt, I thought he really might run the table. But it wasn’t to be.

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