Green and unpredictable he may be, but Independence Hall has impressed handicappers with his runaway victories in the Nashua (G3) and Jerome S. at Aqueduct. The son of Constitution has vaulted impressively on to the Kentucky Derby trail, utilizing a blend of tactical speed and finishing power to dominate his opponents even while breaking slowly and weaving around in response to the whip.
Independence Hall’s brilliance raises a tricky question for handicappers: Does he have the stamina to handle the testing 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby?
His pedigree gives off mixed signals, partly because we don’t have all the data needed to formulate a thorough opinion. Sire Constitution was a capable two-turn runner, winning the Florida Derby (G1) and Donn H. (G1) going 1 1/8 miles, and he’s off to a hot start at stud with Champagne S. (G1) winner Tiz the Law and Breeders’ Futurity (G1) runner-up Gouverneur Morris among his best foals.
But Constitution’s first foals were born in 2017, so they haven’t yet had an opportunity to tackle classic distances as 3-year-olds and older horses. They might have no issue stretching out; Constitution himself is a stoutly-bred son of Tapit, sire of three 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) winners, and Constitution figures to pass on stamina to his foals. But until we see the results on track, Constitution will remain an unknown commodity as a sire of classic horses.
The bottom half of Independence Hall’s pedigree is also unclear as far as stamina goes. His dam, Kalahari Cat, won two allowance races going a mile on grass and has proven productive as a broodmare. Her son Black Onyx, sired by the stoutly-bred Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up Rock Hard Ten, won the 1 1/8-mile Spiral Stakes (G3) over the synthetic Polytrack at Turfway Park.
But keep in mind, Kalahari Cat is a daughter of Cape Town. While Cape Town was a classy runner around two turns (he won the 1998 Florida Derby), at stud he tended to produce miler types who topped out at 1 1/8 miles.
According to data from Brisnet, the average winning distance of Cape Town’s foals is just 6.6 furlongs. Some were successful running longer; Bird Town won the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks (G1), Capeside Lady won the 1 1/16-mile Molly Pitcher Handicap (G2), Southern Africa claimed the 1 1/16-mile Lone Star Derby (G3), Susan’s Angel prevailed in the 1 1/16-mile Turfway Breeders’ Cup S. (G3), and Cape Hope secured the 1 1/8-mile Herecomesthebride S. (G3). But Cape Town never sired a major North American winner over classic distances.
Cape Town has developed a similar profile as a broodmare sire. In addition to Black Onyx, his daughters have produced 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Pants On Fire and 1 1/16-mile Alysheba Stakes (G2) winner Bird Song. But even these runners struggled when tackling longer distances; Pants On Fire finished ninth in the 2011 Kentucky Derby while Bird Song weakened in his two attempts over 1 1/8 miles
In short, Independence Hall has the pedigree of a classy miler, potentially with the stamina to win over 1 1/8 miles against good company. But if he’s going to handle 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May, we’ll have to hope Constitution has emulated Tapit in passing on a high dose of classic stamina.