Four horses hope to break grandfather's jinx at Derby
Four 3-year-olds will try to snap a puzzling drought Saturday at the 137th Kentucky Derby.
A.P. Indy, one of the most prolific sires in recent North American history, has never produced a Kentucky Derby winner among his legion of male-line descendents.
Counting his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, the Hall of Fame stallion is 0 for 25 in the Run for the Roses.
"It's a racing oddity," said Lauren Stitch, a noted pedigree analyst and executive columnist for GradeOneRacing.com . "It's just an amazing thing."
A.P. Indy, sire of more than 140 stakes winners, has a good chance to snap his inexplicable Derby funk this week. He is the paternal grandfather for one-fifth of the 20-horse field, including two of the favorites, Florida Derby winner Dialed In and Arkansas Derby runner-up Nehro.
His other Derby-bound grandsons are Gotham Stakes winner Stay Thirsty and Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire.
The superstar stallion's chances of producing a Derby winner are numbered. A.P. Indy, who stood at Lane's End Farm in Lexington, Ky., was pensioned from stud in April at age 22 after failing to impregnate any of the 25 mares he covered last breeding season.
So why has the Derby eluded the stakes-producing machine who once commanded a $300,000 stud fee?
"It has nothing to do with quality," New England-based bloodstock agent Barry Roos said. "A.P. Indy is one of the best studs of the last generation."
But that hasn't shown on the first Saturday in May. Only three of his offspring have managed to hit the board in the Derby — Aptitude was second, 1 1⁄2 lengths behind Fusaichi Pegasus, in 2000; Steppenwolfer was third in 2006; and Ice Box was second in 2010.
That's hardly the expected return on investment from a sire whose kids have earned $113 million — and counting.
Last year marked the first time that a horse with any A.P. Indy bloodlines captured the Derby, when Super Saver, out of A.P. Indy's daughter, Supercharger, took the first leg of the Triple Crown.
"It doesn't diminish him one iota," Stitch said. "His legacy is a great legacy."
This year the A.P. Indy lineage is represented by a talented quartet:
Dialed In looks to become trainer Nick Zito's third Derby winner, while Steve Asmussen-trained Nehro will be a "wise-guy pick" after his fast-closing finishes in the Arkansas and Louisiana derbies. Both were sired by Mineshaft, the 2003 horse of the year.
Stay Thirsty, trained by five-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, was sired by 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini; and Pants On Fire, by Jump Start, can make Rosie Napravnik the first female jockey to win the Derby.
The four A.P. Indy runners have combined to win races at six furlongs, 6 1⁄2 furlongs, one mile, 1 1⁄16 miles and 1 1⁄8 miles on seven different tracks.
They won on the dirt and in the slop. They won wire-to-wire (Stay Thirsty) and rallied from last-to-first (Dialed In).
They were expensive (Stay Thirsty cost $500,000 and Dialed In $475,000), and they were bargains (home-bred Pants On Fire cost $10,000).
And they are fighting history. A.P. Indy's most recent Derby-running sons all flopped. A.P. Warrior was 18th in 2006, Adriano 19th in '08 and Friesan Fire, the post-time favorite, 18th in '09.
"It's a bad coincidence," Stay Thirsty owner Mike Repole said.
The classic 1 1⁄4-mile Derby distance isn't a problem. The averaging winning distance (AWD) of A.P. Indy's offspring is a stamina-heavy 8.2 furlongs (eight furlongs equals one mile).
Only three runners in this year's Kentucky Derby have a sire with a higher AWD — Brilliant Speed (8.6), Master of Hounds (8.5) and Santiva (8.4).
Simply put, A.P. Indy's prodigies can run forever.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said A.P. Indy's offspring typically are late bloomers. That makes it difficult for them to reach the Derby starting gate. But A.P. Indy has sired a Preakness winner (Bernardini) and a Belmont winner (Rags to Riches).
"He is a great sire, but I think that they don't develop as early," McGaughey said. "I've had A.P. Indy's, and none of them were precocious early on."
A.P. Indy himself doesn't have good Derby memories; he was scratched the morning of the 1992 Derby with a foot bruise. But he returned to win the Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic on the way to Horse of the Year honors.
At least one of his male-line descendents has run in every Derby since his first crop of 3-year-olds, in 1997, when Pulpit finished fourth. But they have never worn a blanket of roses.
"It is," Stitch said, "a curious kind of thing."Additional Information:
Breaking the jinx
A.P. Indy, one of horse racing's greatest sires, is 0 for 25 in the Kentucky Derby with his male-line offspring. He has four grandsons in this year's field, including two of the favorites.
Dialed In (sired by Mineshaft): 4-1 odds
Nehro (Mineshaft): 8-1
Pants On Fire (Jump Start): 20-1
Stay Thirsty (Bernardini): 40-1
*According to Daily Racing Form's Mike Watchmaker