For better or worse, the postponement of the Kentucky Derby (G1) from May 2 to Sept. 5 has affected the chances of many horses. You can definitely count Major Fed among the runners benefiting from the Derby’s delayed date.

Major Fed would have been on the outside looking in for qualifying purposes had the Derby been held as originally scheduled, but a runner-up effort in the July 8 Indiana Derby (G3) changed the equation, giving Major Fed enough qualification points to secure a slot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. And since Major Fed’s pedigree is geared strongly toward late maturity, there’s a chance he’ll be ready to run his best race yet on the first Saturday in September.

Major Fed Pedigree
Awesome Again
Ghostzapper
Baby Zip
Major Fed
Smart Strike
Bobby’s Babe
Sabeline (IRE)

Major Fed is a son of the brilliant Ghostzapper, a Grade 1-winning sophomore sprinter who elevated his game to a different level as a 4-year-old. As the culmination of an undefeated Horse of the Year campaign, Ghostzapper stretched his speed to win the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in the still-standing stakes-record time of 1:59.02.

Ghostzapper wasn’t an immediate success at stud, but he has since developed into one of North America’s leading sires, in part because his progeny improve with age and compete successfully over multiple seasons. Versatility has been their other common trait, with Ghostzapper siring a multitude of Grade 1-winning sprinters, routers, dirt horses, grass stars, and synthetic specialists.

Among Ghostzapper’s best runners has been Shaman Ghost, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate as a 3-year-old and later victorious in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita H. (G1) and 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn H. (G2). Shaman Ghost’s progression is typical for the progeny of Ghostzapper—they frequently show promise during their sophomore seasons before hitting their best stride as older runners. Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner Judy the Beauty and Whitney (G1) winner Moreno are among the others to follow this profile.

Additional versatile and late-maturing bloodlines can be found in the bottom half of Major Fed’s pedigree. His dam, Bobby’s Babe, scored her lone victory sprinting on Polytrack at Turfway Park, but as a broodmare she’s produced all types:

  • Little Norwegian (by Pure Prize) was a three-time winner sprinting on dirt and turf.
  • Clairenation (by Bernstein) won five turf sprints.
  • Attorney Tim (by Sky Mesa) scored his lone victory running 1 1/16 miles on grass.
  • May Lily won the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Sprint S. dashing 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.
  • Zapperini stretched his stamina sufficiently to finish second in the 1 1/2-mile John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) on turf.

Bobby’s Babe, in turn, is a daughter of Smart Strike, winner of the Philip H. Iselin H. (G1) traveling 1 1/16 miles on dirt. At stud he was a phenomenal success, and while some of his best runners matured soon enough to enjoy significant success as juveniles—champion 2-year-olds Lookin At Lucky and My Miss Aurelia come to mind—it was more common for Smart Strike’s progeny to show early potential before improving as older runners.

Two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner English Channel certainly followed this profile, and ironically so did Lookin At Lucky and My Miss Aurelia. Despite their championship juvenile form, both ran their best races as 3-year-olds, with Lookin At Lucky winning the Preakness (G1) and My Miss Aurelia claiming the Cotillion (G1) before finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1).

As a broodmare sire, Smart Strike has already exerted an influence on the classics. His daughters have foaled Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, Preakness runner-up First Dude, and Derby third-place finisher Dullahan, as well as Queen’s Plate winner Eye of the Leopard. In addition, Shared Account reiterated the versatile and late-maturing nature of the family by upsetting the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) as a 4-year-old.

Taking all the elements of Major Fed’s pedigree as a whole, it seems safe to conclude 1 1/4 miles is well within the distance capabilities of this improving youngster. And the postponement of the Kentucky Derby should only enhance Major Fed’s chances of success at Churchill Downs, giving him more time to blossom the way his pedigree suggests is inevitable.