Kentucky Derby 2014: Success of female families since 1970

Since 1970, 751 horses representing 153 different female families (145 English families, 7 American families, and 1 Colonial family) have competed in the Kentucky Derby. Of these 153 families, 66 (43%) have had members finish in the money.

The majority of the families listed above have met with little to no success in the race; however, there are a handful of families which have an incredible strike rate of starters to in the money finishes. One of these families (1-x), I have touched on in prior entries for its remarkable success in the Kentucky Derby, especially since 1989; yet there is another with an even greater success rate that may not be as readily apparent – that of Family 2-d.

THE SUCCESSFUL: Families with 50% or higher success rates in the Kentucky Derby since 1970

In eleven starters since 1970, Family 2-d has produced three winners (Cannonade, 1974; Spectacular Bid, 1979; Giacomo, 2005), two second place finishes (Stephan’s Odyssey, 1985; Proud Citizen, 2002), and one third place finish (Steppenwolfer, 2006) – an in the money rate of 55%. One starter went off as the post time favorite (Spectacular Bid, 1979). All of these races came on tracks rated fast – the one entrant competing on an off track (Awesome Act, 2010), finished nineteenth.

All in all, 2-d has had an up/down/up/down history in the Kentucky Derby. Of the eleven starters, the record has been: 1st (1974), 1st (1979), 2nd (1985), 6th (1985), 5th (1987), 7th (1993), 2nd (2002), 1st (2005), 3rd (2006), 7th (2007), 19th (2010). Based on the trend of the small sample size, 2-d may have an additional poor performance before swinging back up.

As mentioned, the success of Family 1-x has been discussed in past years (1, 2), but it would be remiss to not include them here with everyone else. 1-x is an interesting family, as they started off with a rather lackluster beginning, finishing well off the board in their first four attempts (Personality, 8th-1970; Nostalgia, 13th-1977; Splendid Spruce, 7th-1981; Proud Appeal, 18th-1981). Of these, Proud Appeal would go off as the post time favorite.

Following a 0-4 start from 1970 to 1981, Family 1-x would be absent from the next seven editions (1982-1988) of the Kentucky Derby. However, Easy Goer’s second place finish in 1989’s muddy going would represent a change in fortune for 1-x; although no one could have foreseen just how quickly the fortunes would reverse. Over the next twenty-four years (1990-2013), Family 1-x would be represented with fifteen starters in fourteen Kentucky Derbies, with four wins, three seconds, and two thirds – hitting the board 65% of the time.

Admittedly, the years of 2011/2012 were difficult times for 1-x, with entrants in both editions (Comma to the Top, Sabercat) finishing up the track. This mirrored a similar period in 1996/1997 when both Semoran and Shammy Davis also suffered the same fate. However, 1-x has shown an affinity for Derbies run on off tracks, and Revolutionary’s third place finish in 2013’s sealed sloppy conditions continues to reflect a 100% in the money rate of performance on tracks rated muddy or sloppy since 1970, with three wins (Go for Gin, 1994; Smarty Jones, 2004; Super Saver, 2010), one second (Easy Goer, 1989), and one third (Revolutionary, 2013).

In addition to including the multiple starters of Families 1-x and 2-d, the below chart also includes families with few (< 3) starters. Obviously the usual caveats apply here: the inclusion of poorly performing future starters can skew the results of currently well performing low entrant families, and today’s sure thing could be tomorrow’s auto toss. However, as of now – among families with significantly fewer starters than 1-x (20 starters) or 2-d (11 starters), Families 1-r and 1-s have a 100% historical rate of finishing in the money with their respective two starters each.

However, the above becomes mostly anecdotal for 2014 when it is taken into consideration that of all families with 50% or higher success rates, as of mid April 2014 (edited 4/12/2014) only 3-j (We Miss Artie) and 8-d (Danza) are represented with contenders on the Kentucky Derby trail.

FF Starters 1st 2nd 3rd 1-2-3 finish Best finish Most recent starter
1-r 2 1 1 0 100% 1st (Unbridled, 1990); 2nd (Cavonnier, 1996) 1996 (Cavonnier)
1-s 2 1 1 0 100% 1st (Spend a Buck, 1985); 2nd (Ice Box, 2010) 2010 (Ice Box)
4-l 1 0 1 0 100% 2nd (Bold Arrangement, 1986) 1986 (Bold Arrangement)
5-a 1 1 0 0 100% 1st (Pleasant Colony, 1981) 1981 (Pleasant Colony)
14 1 0 1 0 100% 2nd (Run Dusty Run, 1977) 1977 (Run Dusty Run)
6-d 3 1 1 0 67% 1st (Funny Cide, 2003); 2nd (Empire Maker, 2003) 2003 (Funny Cide, Empire Maker)
10-c 3 0 2 0 67% 2nd (Laser Light, 1982; Lion Heart, 2004) 2004 (Lion Heart)
2-d 11 3 2 1 55% 1st (Cannonade, 1974; Spectacular Bid, 1979; Giacomo, 2005); 2nd (Stephan’s Odyssey, 1985; Proud Citizen, 2002); 3rd (Steppenwolfer, 2006) 2010 (Awesome Act)
1-x 20 4 4 2 50% 1st (Sea Hero, 1993; Go for Gin, 1994; Smarty Jones, 2004; Super Saver, 2010);  2nd (Easy Goer, 1989; Prairie Bayou, 1993; Bluegrass Cat, 2006; Eight Belles, 2008);   3rd (Pleasant Tap, 1990; Revolutionary, 2013) 2013 (Revolutionary)
1-h 2 1 0 0 50% 1st (Animal Kingdom, 2011) 2011 (Animal Kingdom)
1-j 2 0 0 1 50% 3rd (Jacklin Klugman, 1980) 1987 (Candi’s Gold)
3-j 2 1 0 0 50% 1st  (Dust Commander, 1970) 1974 (Rube the Great)
8-d 2 0 0 1 50% 3rd (Paddy O’Prado, 2010) 2010 (Paddy O’Prado)
11-f 2 0 1 0 50% 2nd (Honest Pleasure, 1976) 1977 (For the Moment)
20-b 2 1 0 0 50% 1st (War Emblem, 2002) 2012 (Optimizer)

As this post has become a massive wall of text, will continue next post with some noted unsuccessful female families, as well as rare families, and families with few starters and room to potentially improve in the future.

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