With most horses, even those bred to thrive on turf, you can dig into their pedigrees and convince yourself they have enough dirt breeding to contend for victory in a race like the Kentucky Derby.
But some bloodlines simply aren’t suited to dirt racing, no matter how you analyze the situation. And while Crossfirehurricane joined the European Road to the Kentucky Derby with a gutsy victory in the Patton S. at Dundalk, his lineage suggests tackling dirt at Churchill Downs would be a tough task.
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Crossfirehurricane hails from a classy family, but his breeding is geared strongly toward turf racing. His sire, Kitten’s Joy, was North America’s champion grass male of 2004, and the progeny of Kitten’s Joy have almost exclusively excelled on turf. Champions Hawkbill, Roaring Lion, and Big Blue Kitten, plus Breeders’ Cup winners Stephanie’s Kitten, Oscar Performance, and Bobby’s Kitten, were all Grade/Group 1 turf winners over distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles.
In contrast, descendants of Kitten’s Joy and dirt racing are like oil and water—they don’t mix. While Kitten’s Joy has sired dozens of graded stakes winners, only two have scored their signature wins on dirt, namely 1 1/8-mile Fayette (G2) winner Pick of the Litter and 1 1/8-mile Fred W. Hooper (G3) winner Csaba. Furthermore, Kitten’s Joy’s four Kentucky Derby starters to date—Charming Kitten, Derby Kitten, Dean’s Kitten, and Oscar Nominated—finished 9th, 13th, 14th, and 17th, respectively.
The bottom half of Crossfirehurricane’s pedigree is also slanted toward turf. Dam Louvakhova, a daughter of Maria’s Mon, placed five times on grass and synthetic courses and is a half-sister to Louvain, winner of the Miesque (G3) on turf and the dam of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and French classic winner Flotilla.
At least Maria’s Mon has been known to pass on some dirt proficiency, siring Kentucky Derby winners Monarchos and Super Saver. But as a broodmare sire, Maria’s Mon is better known as a turf influence, with his daughters producing French classic winner Almanzor and the three-time Group 1-winning juvenile Air Force Blue, among others.
On the bright side, there’s no reason to doubt Crossfirehurricane’s ability to negotiate classic distances. Kitten’s Joy and Maria’s Mon are both sources of stamina, so the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby should be well within Crossfirehurricane’s range.
But unless Crossfirehurricane is poised to completely defy the surface proclivities indicated by his pedigree, he seems more likely to succeed in European classics than in the Run for the Roses.