Previewing the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby, run annually on the first Saturday in May, is steeped in tradition. The race itself was first run in 1875, and since then has produced many stellar horses. The race was first run at a distance of 1 ½ miles, but in 1896 changed to 1 ¼ miles, its current distance. For the colts entering the race, it marks their first time running at that distance and serves as a major testing ground, to see which have the stamina to run at the ‘classic’ distances.

Before contemplating three more of the contenders hoping to run in this year’s Run for the Roses, here are a few interesting facts about the Kentucky Derby:

  • The 1882 winner, Apollo, was the last horse to have won the race without racing at least once as a two-year-old.
  • The record for the race was set by Secretariat in 1973; his time was 1:59.40. The only other horse to run the race in under two minutes was Monarchos in 2001, with a time of 1.59.97.
  • Three fillies have won the Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colours in 1988.
  • Jockey Calvin Borel won the race three times in four years, with Street Sense in 2007, Mine That Bird in 2009, and Super Saver in 2010.

Mo Town

Mo Town is a horse to watch during the Kentucky Derby.

Owned by the Baby Blues syndicate of Danny Lee and Michael Tabor and trained by Anthony Dutrow, Mo Town looks to become the first winner of the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes to also win the Kentucky Derby since Thunder Gulch in 1994.

Mo Town is by the young stallion Uncle Mo, who last year claimed the accomplishment of siring a Kentucky Derby winner in his very first crop of three-year-olds. Nyquist last year became only the second horse to win both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby, putting his young sire directly in the spotlight. Two other sons of Uncle Mo started in the 2016 Kentucky Derby alongside their victorious half-brother, a superb accomplishment for a sire. It should be noted, though, that after his Kentucky Derby win Nyquist never won another race and was retired to stud. With Mo Town’s dam, Grazie Mille, being a daughter of Bernardini, who himself is a son of the influential sire A.P. Indy, Mo Town may prove himself a force to be reckoned with.

Mo Town’s next race is expected to be the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on February 25th.

Ann Arbor Eddie

Nine geldings have won the Kentucky Derby since the inaugural running, and this year Ann Arbor Eddie seeks to add his name to the list. Seven of those winners came prior to 1930, with the last being Clyde Van Dusen in 1929, and in 2003 Funny Cide ended that drought with his win. Six years later, Mine That Bird became number nine.

The owner-trainer-jockey team of J. Paul Reddam, Doug O’Neill, and Martin Gutierrez teams up once again with Ann Arbor Eddie. The same team has already had two Derby winners, I’ll Have Another in 2012 and last year’s winner Nyquist. Can they do it again? Ann Arbor Eddie is by Square Eddie and out of Repo, both owned by Reddam. During his racing career, Square Eddie was a Grade 1 winner with his victory in the Breeders’ Futurity as a two-year-old. After a second-place finish in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he was considered a strong contender for the 2009 Kentucky Derby but was plagued by injuries and did not make it to the starting gate. Square Eddie’s sire, Smart Strike, has already produced a superb sire in Curlin.

Ann Arbor Eddie won his last start on December 18th, the King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos Racecourse, a race previously won by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome. His next start should be the El Camino Real Derby on February 18th at Golden Gate Fields.

Irish War Cry

After his victory in the Grade 2 Holy Bull over Classic Empire, this colt is gaining in popularity. Owned by Isabelle de Tomaso and trained by Graham Motion, Irish War Cry is one to keep an eye on.

Irish War Cry’s sire, Curlin, is a half-brother to Square Eddie, sire of the aforementioned Ann Arbor Eddie. As a sire, Curlin is much better known than his half-brother, due in part to his own accomplishments on the racetrack. The morning-line favorite for the 2007 Kentucky Derby, Curlin finished third behind winner Street Sense and runner-up Hard Spun before going on to capture victory in the Preakness Stakes. In the Belmont Stakes, Curlin dueled down the stretch with Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches. In a classic ‘battle of the sexes’ matchup, Curlin tried hard but ultimately lost by a head to the filly, giving her the honor of being the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in over a century. In November of that year, Curlin won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic over older horses, earning him the first of his two Horse of the Year Eclipse Awards, a rare achievement.

As a sire, Curlin has yet to see a Kentucky Derby winner, but he has sired horses who have done well in the Triple Crown races. His son Exaggerator was second in last year’s Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness Stakes, Ride On Curlin was second in the Preakness in 2014, and Palace Malace won the 2013 Belmont Stakes. Perhaps a Kentucky Derby winner is right around the corner for him. Irish War Cry’s dam, Irish Sovereign, has had three other winning foals, though Irish War Cry is the first of them to win a stakes race. The others have won races at the allowance levels, and Irish Strait recently placed third in a Grade 3 stakes race. Irish War Cry is already the best performer of her foals; will he be the next Kentucky Derby winner?

Irish War Cry is a possibility to run in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 4th at Gulfstream Park.

More contender profiles are still to come. Stay tuned.


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Katrina Landon has been an avid fan of horse racing since a young age and has enjoyed following the careers of many favorite horses and their offspring. She owns a part-Thoroughbred mare with whom she competes in local competitions when time permits.


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