A proven affinity for the dirt track at Churchill Downs is a positive for any horse taking aim at the Kentucky Derby (G1), and by claiming victory in the $300,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) on November 30 at Churchill Downs, it’s clear Silver Prospector has the horse-for-the-course angle covered.
Now racing fans and handicappers are left to debate the merits of Silver Prospector’s pedigree. While at first glance one might assume it’s slanted toward turf more than dirt, dig a little deeper and there’s every reason to believe Silver Prospector can be a major player on the first Saturday in May.
Stamina certainly won’t be an issue for Silver Prospector. His sire, Declaration of War, had the speed to win the one-mile Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot and the stamina to grind out victory in the 1 5/16-mile Juddmonte International (G1) at York. Although primarily a turf horse, Declaration of War was also 3-for-3 on synthetic tracks and further demonstrated his versatility by finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on dirt, beaten only a neck for victory.
Similarly, the dam side of Silver Prospector’s pedigree is filled with stamina influences. His dam, Tap Softly, was twice stakes-placed running 1 1/16 miles on dirt, hardly a surprise since she’s a daughter of acclaimed stallion Tapit. Winner of the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial (G1), Tapit has sired an abundance of long-winded dirt runners, including 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Tonalist, Creator, and Tapwrit.
Tap Softly’s previous foals include Air Attack and Silent Decree, stakes-experienced geldings who have won running a mile or farther on dirt. This has typical of runners produced by daughters of Tapit, with the most notable including the classic-placed Jim Dandy (G2) winner Tenfold, Golden Rod (G2) winner Finite, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Anneau d’Or.
Some will still question whether a turf horse like Declaration of War can sire a Kentucky Derby winner, and this is a valid concern. Declaration of War and his accomplished siblings Vertiformer and War Correspondent all did their best running on turf, and the majority of Declaration of War’s top foals so far have scored their signature victories running long on grass, including Melbourne Cup (G1) winner Vow and Declare, Victoria Derby (G1) winner Warning, French classic winner Olmeda, and North American graded stakes winners Decorated Invader and Peace Achieved.
On the other hand, Declaration of War’s own pedigree contains a few dirt influences. Sire War Front was a dirt sprinter has sired all types at stud, including Preakness (G1) winner War of Will and Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Omaha Beach. War Front’s dam, Tempo West, was also a capable dirt runner, scoring all three of her career victories on the main track.
Furthermore, when bred to Tapit mares, Declaration of War has proven capable of siring decent dirt horses. In addition to Silver Prospector, runners bred on this cross include Dieu du Vin (who joined the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail with a victory in the Cattleya Sho in Japan) and Shadilee (a debut winner on dirt at Saratoga).
Regardless of how you choose to interpret Silver Prospector’s pedigree, one fact is indisputable: He’s already shown an affinity for the main track at Churchill Downs, which will make him dangerous if he returns to Louisville’s legendary oval next spring.