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Home » Derby Culture » Siring a Kentucky Derby Champion, Not So Easy

Siring a Kentucky Derby Champion, Not So Easy

Siring a Kentucky Derby Champion, Not So Easy: The Kentucky Derby is a once in a lifetime chance for the twenty horses that are lucky enough to make the field. However, there have been moments where the winner of the Kentucky Derby has experienced Kentucky Derby glory more than once! How is this possible? Well, unless the winner of the prestigious race is a gelding, the winning colt is eventually going to be retired to the breeding shed with hopes of becoming the next great stallion. When this happens, history is made yet again. Here are some of the rare moments when Kentucky Derby winners have passed down their Derby-winning talent.

Kentucky Derby Sires

In 1928, Reigh Count won the Kentucky Derby for owner Fannie Hertz. Reigh Count would go on to sire 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet, who also raced for Fannie Hertz.
Photo: Reigh Count being groomed at a stable in Chicago, Illinois.

The Triple – There have only been two occasions of what would be called the “Derby Triple.” In 1928, Reigh Count won the Kentucky Derby for owner Fannie Hertz. Reigh Count would go on to sire 1943 Triple Crown winner Count Fleet, who also raced for Fannie Hertz. When Count Fleet retired, he sired the 1951 Kentucky Derby winner, Count Turf. The other “Derby Triple” arose when Pensive won the 1944 Kentucky Derby for Calumet Farm. Pensive retired to eventually produce Ponder, the 1949 Kentucky Derby winner, also owned and raced for Calumet Farm. Ponder went on to sire 1956 Kentucky Derby winner Needles.

Three Winners – Most stallions never get a shot at being a Kentucky Derby winner, let alone a sire of one. However, there have been a few who have sired three winners of the prestigious race. Bull Lea was the last to do so with his sons Iron Liege, Hill Gail, and Citation (1948 Triple Crown winner). Before Bull Lea, there were only three others to do so. Sir Gallahad sired Hoop Jr., Gallahadion, and Gallant Fox (1930 Triple Crown winner). Virgil sired Vagrant (1876), Hindoo (1881), and Ben Ali (1886). Lastly, Falsetto sired Chant (1894), His Eminence (1901), and Sir Huon (1906).

Two Winners – There have been multiple stallions who have sired two winners of the Run for the Roses, but here are some of the most recent. The last to sire two winners of the race was Alydar, ironically enough. Alydar sired Alysheba (1987) and Strike the Gold (1991). Alydar was unable to get past Affirmed in their races, but he was the more successful stallion of the two. Halo, notorious for his violent nature, sired Sunny’s Halo (1983) and Sunday Silence (1989). Before these two came Exclusive Native, the sire of Affirmed (1978 Triple Crown winner) and Genuine Risk (1980, 2nd filly to win the Derby). The list also includes the stallions Bold Bidder, Bold Venture (sired by St. Germans), Blenheim II, Man o’ War, St. Germans, Black Toney, The Finn, McGee, Broomstick, Longfellow, and King Alfonso.

One Winner – A total of twelve Kentucky Derby champions have gone on to sire a Kentucky Derby winner. The last champion to sire a champion was Unbridled (1990) who sired Grindstone, the winner of the Derby in 1996. Before Unbridled, there was Swale in 1984, who was sired by 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. In 1963, Chateaugay won the Kentucky Derby, just like his sire, Swaps (1955 Derby winner). The 1954 winner Determine sired the 1962 winner Decidedly, the last California-bred to win the race before California Chrome did so in 2014.

Winning the Kentucky Derby is hard enough, but siring one, two, or three winners of that very race is a difficult feat in its own right. What is even more difficult is pulling off the “Derby Triple,” like Reign Count/Count Fleet/Count Turf and Pensive/Ponder/Needles did.

This year, Kentucky Derby champions are the sires of three of the top 20 contenders on the points leaderboard: Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense), Dortmund (Big Brown), and International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus). The likely Derby favorite, American Pharoah, is sired by 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile. The last stallion to finish second in the Kentucky Derby and then sire a winner of the Kentucky Derby was Alydar with Strike the Gold in 1991.

In 2015, if a Kentucky Derby champion can become a Kentucky Derby-winning sire, there is only a three in twenty chance if each of the first twenty horses on the leaderboard go to post.

The Kentucky Derby is the ultimate goal for these three-year-olds, and winning would be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for the owners and even some of the trainers! Look at pedigrees when analyzing your Derby pick; it could really help you eliminate certain horses!

The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby is set to take place at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Gates open early at 8:00 am ET with post time for the first race at 10:30 am ET. Post time for the Kentucky Oaks is approximately 5:45 pm ET on Friday May 1, 2015. Post time for the Kentucky Derby is approximately 6:24 pm ET. Visit for official information.


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