Stamina is a question mark for every Kentucky Derby contender, because until we actually see them stretch out over 1 1/4 miles, there’s no sure way to predict which horses will handle the Derby’s testing distance.
But pedigrees can provide clues to which horses will thrive handling a route of ground, and from this perspective, Nadal looks like a prime candidate to relish classic distances this spring.
Indeed, Nadal demonstrated remarkable stamina to survive a pace duel in the $1 million Rebel (G2) on Mar. 14 at Oaklawn Park, leading all the way to win in gallant fashion. It’s not a stretch to think Nadal has inherited his tenacity and stoutness from sire Blame, who famously stemmed off the late charge of fan favorite Zenyatta to win the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.
A six-time graded stakes winner, Blame loved Churchill Downs and thrived racing two turns on dirt, which propelled him to champion older male honors at the 2010 Eclipse Awards. As a stallion he’s sired major winners across virtually all distances and surfaces, with arguably the best being Senga, who beat future champion Sistercharlie in the 1 5/16-mile Prix de Diane (G1) on grass in France.
Indeed, a fair number of Blame’s best foals have enjoyed success on turf, though his major winners on dirt include runaway 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita (G1) winner Fault and gritty Remsen (G2) winner Shotski, with the latter being another prominent player on the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.
Nadal figures to receive additional stamina courtesy of his female family. While his dam, Ascending Angel, was a 0-for-12 maiden, she did place three times running a mile or farther on turf. This isn’t surprising since Ascending Angel is a daughter of Pulpit out of the Pleasant Colony mare Solar Colony, which makes Ascending Angel a half-sister to Reform Act (winner of the 1 1/2-mile Give Thanks S. on grass in Ireland) and Soul Search (twice Grade 1-placed running long on dirt and synthetic in the U.S.)
Pulpit was a classy racehorse, most notably winning the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass (G2), and at stud he produced an abundance of high-class winners running a mile or farther. Ice Box, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby (G1) and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, ranks among the best. But Pulpit is also the sire of Wood Memorial (G1) winner Tapit, whose long-winded foals include 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Tonalist, Creator, and Tapwrit.
In short, with the stout breeding of Blame and Pulpit in his corner, there’s no reason to think Nadal won’t thrive running 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May.