It’s no secret that most Thoroughbred racehorses get their incredible racing capabilities from just a few handful of ancestors, making this year’s contenders to the Kentucky Derby distant (or not so distant) cousins.
We traced the Thoroughbred family lineages to 5 baller racehorses that have sired the sires of the sires (and so on) of our future Derby champions.
Raise A Native (1961-1988)
Tinder has nothing on this mega stud.
An undefeated Thoroughbred racehorse that won the Great American Stakes and Belmont Juvenile in 1963, Raise A Native’s bright chances never had a chance at the Triple Crown due to a bowed tendon. Instead, he was retired to a breeding farm proceeded to live the life of the ultimate playboy.
Proof that Raise A Native was the ultimate champion producer: In 1978, Raise A Native’s offspring Alydar, dueled his grand offspring Affirmed (sired by Exclusive Native) in all three legs of the Triple Crown, finishing a close second to Affirmed in all three races by a combined total of less than two lengths. Talk about keeping things in the family!
As of 2014, a whooping 21 Kentucky Derby winners have had Raise a Native on their sire or broodsire line, including Smarty Jones, Funny Cide, Warm Emblem, Fusaichi Pegasus, Affirmed and Majestic Prince.
Northern Dancer (1961- 1990)
This Canadian stud has been called “one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history” by The National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
A nine time major champion winner, Northern Dancer was one win shy of the Triple Crown in in 1964, missing the Belmont Stakes title by just sixth lengths.
Northern Dancer sired 147 stakes Winners, producing multiple champions in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Notable offspring include Ninjinsky, winner of England’s Triple Crown, The Minstrel, Secreto and Northernette.
Nasrullah (1940 – 1959)
This fast runner was bred in Ireland and trained in the United Kingdom before becoming a champion sire in both Europe and North America.
As a two-year-old, he won the Coventry Stakes and finished second in the Middle Park Stakes, ending the year as the top-rated colt of his generation. In the following season, he became increasingly difficult to manage, and his temperament compromised his racing career.
Fortunately he had better luck with his siring career, becoming one the most important North American sires of the 20th century, leading the sire list five times.
Amongst his American progeny were Jaipur, winner of the Belmont Stakes, Bold Ruler (who himself became a champion sire), and Nashua, winner of the 1955 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Bold Ruler (1954 – 1971)
Bold Ruler was the one to watch as a Triple Crown threat in 1957. He went off as the heavy 6:5 favorite in the Kentucky Derby but faded down the homestretch after fighting jockey Eddie Arcaro’s restraint. In the Preakness Stakes, Bold Ruler bounced back to win but was unable to secure the Belmont Stakes title.
He is the sire of Hall of Famer Secretariat, the Triple Crown winner of 1973- the first in 25 years. He is also the grand sire of Seattle Slew, the Triple Crown winner of 1977.
Nearctic (1954 – 1973)
Another Canadian Hall of Famer, this nine time major stakes winner sired the one and only Northern Dancer, and appears four generations back on both sides (dam and sire) of champion race horse Big Brown.