Take one glance at the pedigree of Sole Volante, and you’ll conclude—rightfully so—that’s he bred to excel on turf. But some horses defy their breeding, and with his runaway victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3) on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs, Sole Volante appears to be forging a different path than his ancestors.

Sold for just $20,000 as a 2-year-old-in-training, Sole Volante has emerged as a legitimate Kentucky Derby (G1) contender, a surprising development since there are few dirt influences in his immediate pedigree. Certainly his sire, 2014 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Karakontie, can’t be considered an obvious source of dirt proclivity. A Japanese-bred son of the Group 3-winning turf sprinter Bernstein, Karakontie was a top-class miler on grass, claiming the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas, G1) in addition to his Breeders’ Cup success.

The dam side of Sole Volante’s pedigree is similarly packed with turf influences. His dam, Light Blow, scored her lone victory running 1 7/8 miles on grass at Warwick in England. This is understandable since Light Blow is a daughter of French classic winner Kingmambo (whose progeny won at an average distance of 8.5 furlongs in North America) out of the Shirley Heights mare Lingerie.

Lingerie deserves credit as the matriarch of a highly productive family. Her foals include Shiva, winner of the 1 5/16-mile Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1); Limnos, triumphant in the 1 1/2-mile Prix Foy (G2); Hyades, runner-up in the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham Memorial (G1); Burning Sunset, dam of 1 1/4-mile Prix d’Harcourt (G2) winner Smoking Sun; and Light Shift, victorious in the 1 1/2-mile Epsom Oaks (G1) and renowned as the dam of Ulysses, winner of the Eclipse (G1) and Juddmonte International (G1). As a daughter of Kingmambo, Light Shift is a full sister to Light Blow.

Speaking of Kingmambo, he could be the source of Sole Volante’s versatility. While Kingmambo was strictly a turf miler, counting the Poule d’Essai des Poulains as his biggest triumph, his foals thrived over all distances and surfaces. In the United States, Kingmambo is arguably best known as the sire of Lemon Drop Kid, winner of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) on dirt.

Light Blow has also been known to pass on an affinity for dirt. Prior to the emergence of Sole Volante, Light Blow’s most successful foal was Explode, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Canadian Derby (G3) on dirt at Century Mile.

With miler speed in the top half of his pedigree and classic stamina in the bottom half, Sole Volante is bred to relish the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby. And while his overall pedigree is geared toward turf, the dirt influences descending through Kingmambo and Light Blow suggest Sole Volante’s triumph in the Sam F. Davis wasn’t a fluke. In short, this unheralded gelding is bred to be something special.

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