LOOKING FOR A PREAKNESS PRICE PLAY? TRY GUNNEVERA’S PEDIGREE ON FOR SIZE

Going into Saturday’s 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes, most racing fans – and bettors – seem to be totally focused on the top two candidates: Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire.

And, that stands to reason. Why not?

Always Dreaming, the impressive winner of the Florida Derby came back to stamp himself a legitimate Triple Crown threat with a never-in-doubt win in the 143rd Kentucky Derby just two weeks ago.

As written on these pages since the Derby, Always Dreaming has every right to be the prohibitive favorite going into the second leg of the Triple Crown. Both from a racing and pedigree perspective. He was born to be a champion, and it appears that he may be well on his way to becoming one.

Classic Empire, a quirky sort who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, came back to reassert himself as a strong contender for the Triple Crown races with a ferocious closing victory in the Arkansas Derby. While he wasn’t able to muster the same closing kick in the mud at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, he was compromised by a rugged start that knocked him sideways and silly.

Would it have mattered if Classic Empire had a clean trip in the Derby? Nobody will ever know, but that is why we argue in horse racing with our dollars and many will debate that issue with a win bet in the Preakness on Saturday.

Still, after those two, is there any other horse in this field of 10 that has a Junebugs chance of upsetting in the Black-Eyed Susan and beating those top early money runners?

Well, glad you asked. There just may be a horse with the racing bloodlines to make an impact in the Preakness.

And, that is Gunnevera, who gets the professional hand of racing’s newest Hall of Fame rider, Mike Smith, for this year’s Preakness.

Let’s do a quick snapshot of Gunnevera’s family tree and see what sticks out in our minds, and what could change yours:

Gunnevera was sired by Dialed In (Mineshaft-Miss Doolittle, by Storm Cat). Dialed In, a son of Mineshaft and grandson of A.P. Indy, was the Leading Freshman Sire in 2016. And, one of the main reasons was his 2-year-old son, at the time, Gunnevera – who ended the 2016 campaign with an impressive victory in the Delta Downs Jackpot – coming from off the pace.

Yet, Dialed In had every reason to become a highly successful sire. In addition to a stellar racing record, in which he won three times with one second in seven lifetime starts and had career earnings of over $900,000.

Mineshaft, out of the Mr. Prospector mare Prospectors Delite, is the only Horse of the Year ever sired by the great A.P. Indy. Now that, my friends, should grab your attention. He won over $2.2 million, including the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. In addition to Dialed In, Mineshaft has sired the likes of Discreetly Mine (who just so happens to be the sire of Senior Investment), Cool Coal Man, Casino Drive and the grand race mare, It’s Tricky.

But what makes this pedigree even more enticing is that Mineshaft has done really well when crossed with mares out of the Northern Dancer line. Dialed In is out of Storm Cat mare, Miss Doolittle (who was Graded Stakes placed). Storm Cat is by Storm Bird. Storm Bird is by Northern Dancer.

Digging deeper, we find that It’s Tricky – winner of the G1 TVG Coaching Club of America Stakes and over $1.6 million — is out of a Tale of the Cat mare. Note the comparison. Tale of the Cat is by Storm Cat. Storm Cat is by Storm Bird. Storm Bird is by Northern Dancer.

You feelin’ me now?

So, here we are with Dialed In – who stands at the historic and famed Darby Dan Farm on the outskirts of Lextown. Dialed In won his first race starts of his career – including the G3 Holy Bull in just his second start. In that race, Dialed In easily defeated Mucho Macho Man, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in life.

Dialed In captured the G1 Florida Derby defeating G1 winner Shackleford, G1 winner To Honor and Serve, G1 winner Stay Thirsty, and G2 winner Soldat.

But what makes Gunnevera’s pedigree even more interesting and historic for those of us that like such things – including Darby Dan – is this juicy tidbit. Gunnevera’s dam is Unbridled Rage. Unbridled Rage’s mom is Suite. Suite is by the great, famed, historic Darby Dan stallion Graustark.

Graustark (by Ribot – Flower Bowl, by Alibhai) was bred by Darby Dan and legendary owners the Galbraith Family. Graustark was a brilliant racehorse. He won seven of eight starts, and his only loss came in the Blue Grass Stakes by a whisker. It was later discovered that he had sustained a broken coffin bone in that race, which ended his career before the Triple Crown could ever begin.

So, we come full circle. Mineshaft does great when bred to Storm Cat mares, tracing back to Northern Dancer. Thus, we get Dialed In, a great racehorse who entered the Kentucky Derby as a favorite.

Dialed In, in his first crop of mares, is crossed through the female family of dam Unbridled Rage to both Graustark and Northern Dancer.

Topping it off, Unbridled Rage is by Unbridled – one of only 12 stallions to win the Derby and sire a Derby winner – Grindstone.

In short, Gunnevera has the pedigree to get the distance. And, he has the blood to get the win.

But does he have the leg speed? And, the answer to that question will be apparent at 6:25PM tomorrow. We think he does.

He ran big, stayed behind the speed. He ran really, really well.”

Santo Sanjur, Jockey of MATROOH (third)
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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