by J. Keeler Johnson

Dennis’ Moment has given the impression he could be any sort after cruising to an unchallenged victory in the $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. This much-hyped victory has moved the Dale Romans-trained juvenile to the top of the early Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 10 qualification points.

Some of the excitement surrounding Dennis’ Moment stems from his stout, classic-oriented pedigree. His sire, Tiznow, needs no introduction. A two-time winner of the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), 22-year-old Tiznow has been equally successful at stud, siring nearly 80 stakes winners and closing in on a milestone of $90 million in total progeny earnings.

Just as importantly as the bare statistics of their success, Tiznow’s runners have almost universally enjoyed their biggest triumphs while racing around two turns. Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Da’ Tara, Dubai World Cup (G1) winner Well Armed, Travers Stakes (G1) winner Colonel John are just a handful of the classy route runners Tiznow has sired, a list that also includes the Grade 1 winners Folklore, Tourist, Tizway, Morning Line, Tiz Miz Sue, Bullsbay, Tough Tiz’s Sis, and Gemologist.

The dam side of Dennis’ Moment’s pedigree also contains some noteworthy influences. His dam, Transplendid, wasn’t much as a racehorse, but her lone victory came over a mile on turf at Saratoga. She is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Time’s Mistress, who primarily raced in sprints but romped in the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee Stakes, and Most Happy Fella, who placed in a pair of minor stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

Transplendid is by the late Elusive Quality, best known as the sire of 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Smarty Jones. But he’s also sired Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass and Woodward Stakes (G1) winner Quality Road, the latter a productive young sire of versatile route runners.

Elusive Quality himself was a talented miler (winning the Poker S. [G3] in world record time) and his progeny have similarly exhibited miler speed, but the best of them have been able to carry their brilliance over classic distances. As a broodmare sire, he’s been a force to reckon with – his daughters have produced more than 100 stakes winners, though the best of them have been sprinting sorts, such as two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) winner Roy H, Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner Shamrock Rose, and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up No Nay Never.

If there’s one potential chink in Dennis’ Moment’s pedigree, it’s the fact that Tiznow has yet to sire a horse that has made any impact on the Kentucky Derby. None of his seven Derby starters have earned a piece of the purse, with a sixth-place finish from Colonel John representing their best effort.

This streak of relative disappointment might be tied to Tiznow himself. He was a late-maturing colt who missed the Triple Crown series, and many of his best foals have followed suit, peaking late in their three-year-old seasons or as older runners. In one extreme example, Tiznow’s son Mr. Hot Stuff (who finished fifteenth in the 2009 Kentucky Derby) went on to win a Grade 1 steeplechase race at the age of 11.

But since Dennis’ Moment has already demonstrated precocity, perhaps he’s inheriting some early-maturing blood from the dam side of his pedigree. In any case, classic distances shouldn’t be any issue for Dennis’ Moment—it’s just a question of whether he’ll peak on the first Saturday in May.

Dennis’ Moment wins the Iroquois Stakes (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs