Kentucky Derby Pedigree Corner: Master Fencer, Spinoff, Gray Magician, Country House

by | 04.29.2019 | 8:00am
Does Spinoff have what it takes to upset the Belmont Stakes?

Each day of Kentucky Derby week, I'll take a look at the pedigrees of four Kentucky Derby contenders and how those pedigrees might factor into their ability to succeed at a mile and a quarter. We'll work our way up the leaderboard, starting with the lowest point-earners currently in the Derby field and the Japanese qualifier, with any late additions being added as they're announced.

Master Fencer
Just A Way x Sexy Zamurai, by Deputy Minister

Like many successful runners in Japan, Master Fencer's ties to the legendary Sunday Silence are prominent. A Hall of Famer and dual classic winner in the U.S. and foundation of the Japanese stallion market, Sunday Silence is this colt's paternal grandsire through sire Heart's Cry.

Just A Way, by Heart's Cry earned Longines World's Best Racehorse honors in 2014, on the strength of a campaign that included wins in the G1 Yasuda Kinen at about a mile, and the G1 Dubai Duty Free and G2 Nakayama Kinen at about a mile and an eighth, all on turf. He stretched out to two miles to take the G1 Tenno Sho.

Heart's Cry was a turf specialist during his own racing career, including a 2,400-meter (about 1 ½-miles) score in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic in the U.A.E. His resume in his home country is highlighted by the G1 Arima Kinen at 2,500 meters (over 1 ½ miles). Followers of North American racing will be most familiar with runners by Heart's Cry through Yoshida, the dual-surface star who took the G1 Old Forester Turf Classic Stakes on the grass and the G1 Woodward Stakes on the main track, both at a mile and an eighth.

Master Fencer is out of the Deputy Minister mare Sexy Zamurai, who raced exclusively in Japan. She broke her maiden going 1,000 meters (about five meters) and later scoring at 1,500 meters (about 7 1/2 furlongs), both on the dirt.

Sexy Zamurai's runners include Top Divo, by King Kamehameha, who is a three-time stakes winner in Japan at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on the dirt. Epoch, by Vermilion, has won dirt stakes races from 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) to 1,700 furlongs (about 1 1/16 miles). Next Step, by Empire Maker, has won twice at 1,400 meters.

Hard Spun x Zaftig, by Gone West
Hard Spun finished second in his own Kentucky Derby try in 2007, but he proved himself to be a versatile runner, taking the G1 King's Bishop Stakes at seven furlongs and the G2 Lane's End Stakes and Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes at a mile and an eighth. He also finished second in the Breeders' Cup Classic at a mile and a quarter.

His own foals post an average winning distance of 7.59 furlongs, meaning the average distance of every race won by the sons and daughters of Hard Spun is slightly higher than 7 ½ furlongs, which is slightly above average for a Kentucky Derby sire. His most notable runner on the classic stage is Wicked Strong, who won the G1 Wood Memorial Stakes at a mile and an eighth en route to finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Zaftig, by Gone West, was a high-level one-turn runner, taking the one-mile G1 Acorn Stakes and the seven-furlong G3 Nassau County Stakes, both at Belmont Park. She also finished third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at seven furlongs.

Spinoff, a multiple G2-placed runner, is easily the most successful runner out of Zaftig, followed by the Tapit colt Rugbyman, who is stakes-placed at a mile and a sixteenth.

Gray Magician
Graydar x Burg Berg, by Johannesburg

Graydar was a late starter, not starting his racing career until April of his 3-year-old season, but he proved his two-turn mettle with wins in the G1 Donn Handicap and G2 New Orleans Handicap at a mile and an eighth, and the G2 Kelso Handicap at a mile.

While Graydar did his best work going a mile or longer, his offspring have made their names doing the opposite, with his average progeny winning distance of 6.69 furlongs typically being on the lower end for a Derby sire. However, his most notable runner to date, Lombo, proved the exception, winning the G3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth. That's a promising omen for Gray Magician, who is Lombo's full brother.

Earlier this year, Gray Attempt won the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park at a mile.

Burg Berg brings a similar distance profile to Graydar but on the turf. The Johannesburg mare is a stakes winner at a mile, and she stretched out as far as a mile and a sixteenth to earn black type. In addition to Lombo and Gray Magician, she is the dam of Backlash, by Street Sense, who won an Oaklawn maiden claimer going six furlongs.

Country House
Lookin at Lucky x Quake Lake, by War Chant

Lookin at Lucky headed into the 2010 Kentucky Derby week as the defending champion 2-year-old male and one of the favorites for the main event, but he was thwarted by a brutal inside post draw. He rebounded to win the Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles, the G1 Haskell Invitational Stakes at a mile and an eighth, and the G2 Indiana Derby at a mile and a sixteenth to lock down champion 3-year-old male honors.

The stallion's profile rose in a big way last year with the rise of Accelerate, who became a titan of the handicap division and champion older male on a campaign highlighted by a score in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Lookin at Lucky's average progeny distance is 7.45 furlongs, which is slightly above average for a Derby sire.

His most notable Derby starter is Lookin at Lee, who closed alertly to finish second in the 2017 renewal, then run fourth in the Preakness.

Quake Lake, by War Chant, was a two-time winner over the synthetic Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs, breaking her maiden at 6 ½ furlongs and winning an allowance at six furlongs. Second dam Shooting Party is G1-placed at a mile and an eighth on the turf.

Country House is a half-brother to Mitchell Road, by English Channel, who is a stakes winner on the turf at a mile and a sixteenth. Mr. Brix, by Flatter, is a main-track stakes winner at seven furlongs.

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