The pedigree check
While the Kentucky Derby was the longest distance test for many of the horses coming back for the Preakness Stakes, the mile and 3/16ths at Pimlico will be the second-longest challenge they have faced up to this point.
When analyzing contenders who have little or no on-track form at longer distances to base an opinion on, examining pedigrees can go a long way in helping separate horses from the pack.
In the Kentucky Derby, Perfect Soul, the sire of Golden Soul, ranked a close second among the 18 sires whose foals were entered in the race with an average progeny winning distance of 7.48 furlongs, meaning the average distance of a race won by a Perfect Soul-sired racehorse is almost exactly between seven furlongs and a mile. Golden Soul, among the least heralded entries in the field, moved up in the stretch to finish second at odds of 34.50-to-1.
In examining the average progeny winning distances for the sires and dams of the Preakness Stakes entrants, three competitors stand out above the rest, including Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
The son of Malibu Moon is out of the winning Unbridled mare Lady Liberty, who led all Preakness broodmares with an average progeny winning distance of 9.19 furlongs — just over 1 1/8 miles — from three foals to race.
Of course, Orb himself went a long way in establishing that mark for his dam, having won a pair of races at 1 1/8 miles as well as the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. However, Lady Liberty’s other winning foal, Cause of Freedom, won at distances of 1 1/8 miles or longer in all three of his victories, which suggests that the dam instills stamina into her foals.
Orb’s sire Malibu Moon finished fifth among the eight sires with Preakness Stakes entrants with an average progeny winning distance of 7.05 furlongs.
Departing, who many consider to be the greatest threat to Orb’s Triple Crown chase in the Preakness, also fared well in regards to his parents’ average progeny winning distances. His dam, the Pulpit mare Leave, was the second-best broodmare in the category, with an average winning distance of 8.08 furlongs.
Departing actually helped bring down his dam’s average, as the gelding is the only one of Leave’s three winning foals to win a race at a distance under a mile, breaking his maiden in a six-furlong race as a 2-year-old at Fair Grounds. He made up for it by winning the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby.
War Front, Departing’s sire, ranked fourth among the Preakness stallions with an average progeny winning distance of 7.09 furlongs.
Also rating well was Oxbow, whose sire and dam’s combined rank in the field left him on the same footing as favorites Orb and Departing. The colt is by Awesome Again, who owns the field’s second-best average winning distance at 7.42 furlongs, only trailing Tiznow, sire of longshotTitletown Five, at 7.57 furlongs.
Oxbow’s dam, the Cee’s Tizzy mare Tizamazing, also has done well putting distance capability into her foals, with an average winning distance of 7.9 furlongs from three winners.
An important factor to consider when analyzing these figures is the sample size available for each sire and dam. Many of the horses represented in this year’s Preakness Stakes field are in the early stages of their breeding careers, and as a result, most of their foals have not yet matured to the handicap levels. This means their opportunities to race around two turns to date are not as plentiful as runners from veteran sires.
Naturally, there are always horses capable of outrunning their pedigrees, and Mylute has proven himself to be a prime example, just missing by a neck in the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby and finishing a respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby. The Midnight Lute colt ranked last among the Preakness contenders by average winning distance on both his sire and dam’s side, but his ability to compete at two turns has never been questioned.