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2016 Kentucky Derby Pedigrees: Exaggerator

By Kellie Reilly

Exaggerator thrust himself back into the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) spotlight with a resounding victory in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (G1).

As a son of Hall of Famer Curlin, he should cope with 1 1/4 miles. But after running well without winning in such major two-turn events as the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and most recently the San Felipe (G2), doubts had begun to creep in. Exaggerator’s narrow win in last November’s Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) wasn’t exactly the stuff of a rebuttal, and even trainer Keith Desormeaux was starting to wonder if a mile was his optimum.

The Santa Anita Derby told us not to worry. Although the slop certainly suited him better than the others, Exaggerator turned in a strong move – as eyecatching as it was sustained – to romp. My concerns that he was taking more after his dam, a precocious sprinter, were thereby refuted. So now I can look back at the Curlin half of the pedigree in good heart.

From the Mr. Prospector male line via leading sire Smart Strike, Curlin captured several of the most prestigious races on the calendar over a classic distance. Unraced at two, he was subjected to the “Apollo curse” when third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, but he gained revenge in the Preakness (G1) and missed by inches to champion filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont (G1). The hulking chestnut went on to reign as a two-time Horse of the Year, thanks to such major scores as the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), 2007-08 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), and 2008 Dubai World Cup (G1).

Curlin retired with a bankroll of $10,501,800, ranking him as North America’s all-time richest Thoroughbred. He held that title for seven years, until he was just supplanted by California Chrome – the winner of the Dubai World Cup March 26.

With that profile, you’d expect Curlin to develop into a classic sire, and he already has. In his very first crop came Palace Malice, the 2013 Belmont hero who achieved a rare double in the 2014 Metropolitan H. (G1). But Palace Malice was also a quick and early 2-year-old, who might have made a big impact on the 2012 juvenile scene if he hadn’t been sidelined. Curlin’s 2014 classic performer, Ride on Curlin, was a solid 2-year-old who posted his career best when second to California Chrome in the Preakness.

Curlin’s son Keen Ice is a more typical late developer. Third in the Belmont and runner-up in the Haskell Invitational (G1), he shocked Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers (G1).

While Palace Malice was arguably deserving of an Eclipse Award he didn’t get as an older male in 2014, Curlin sired his first champion in Stellar Wind. She was voted the best 3-year-old filly of 2015 on the strength of a Santa Anita Oaks (G1) win and a troubled second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Among her rivals for the honor was another daughter of Curlin, the consistent Curalina, victress of both the Acorn (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and third in the Distaff.

Curlin has more good fillies on the 2016 Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail, led by Fantasy (G3) and Honeybee (G3) heroine Terra Promessa, Off the Tracks, and Stageplay. Other daughters of Curlin have won Grade 2s on turf, including ill-fated Diversy Harbor and Moulin de Mougin.

Exaggerator is the third registered foal from Dawn Raid, whose other two offspring have won low-level sprints. Dawn Raid herself peaked at two. She won her first two career starts on Woodbine’s Polytrack, setting a 5 1/2-furlong track record of 1:03.37 in an allowance. After a third in the 2007 Fanfreluche S., however, Dawn Raid’s form tailed off.

Dawn Raid is by Vindication, an unbeaten 2-year-old champion who unfortunately suffered a career-ending injury before he could tackle the Derby trail. He was bred for classic success, being by 1977 Triple Crown legend Seattle Slew and with Australian globetrotter Strawberry Road as his broodmare sire.

Yet most of Vindication’s top performers have excelled in the sprinter or miler category – Broadway’s Alibi, the runner-up in the 2012 Kentucky Oaks; Dust and Diamonds, second in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1); Maimonides; More Happy; Wyomia; and Free Judgement, runner-up in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) in 2010.

Having left only five crops after his untimely death, Vindication won’t have as much of an opportunity to carve out a legacy. But his daughters have produced the likes of Shakin It Up, Far Right, and Flexibility (who was just ruled off the Derby trail). That tends to reinforce the idea that Vindication isn’t an overwhelming stamina source.

Dawn Raid is out of the multiple stakes-placed sprinter Embur Sunshine, a Bold Ruckus mare who never won past five furlongs. Embur Sunshine is also the dam of Canadian champion older mare Embur’s Song, whose most significant wins came at 1 1/16 miles. That two-turn capacity likely came courtesy of her sire, Unbridled’s Song. Embur Sunshine’s other progeny had distance limitations, notably Grade 3-placed stakes scorer Ten Flat and stakes-placed Embattle. (They were also by speed-oriented sires in Meadowlake and Phone Trick, respectively.)

Embur Sunshine apparently didn’t inherit the stamina of her broodmare sire, the great The Minstrel. This is also the family of three-time Sovereign Award winner Eternal Search and 2004 Queen’s Plate star Niigon.

Pedigree information courtesy of Brisnet.

Photo courtesy of Benoit.