Spielberg has always been a highly regarded prospect. Conditioned by six-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, the chestnut colt sold for a lofty $1 million as a yearling, a figure surely owed in part to the fact Spielberg is bred top and bottom to excel in the spring classics.
Fortunately, Spielberg is living up to expectations. A hard-fought victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) cemented his status as an elite player on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, opening the door for a run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Spielberg wouldn’t be the first member of his immediate family to compete in the Run for the Roses. Sire Union Rags rallied to finish seventh in the 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1) after a troubled break left him farther off the pace than usual. In contrast, a perfect ground-saving trip in the Belmont Stakes (G1) five weeks later allowed Union Rags to rebound and win by a neck.
It’s easy to understand why Union Rags was successful over classic distances. His sire, Dixie Union, won the Haskell (G1) and sired a large handful of graded stakes-winning routers during his productive stud career. One of the best was Bonnie Miss (G2) winner Justwhistledixie, renowned as the dam of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner New Year’s Day, La Jolla H. (G3) winner Kingly, and Kentucky Derby starters Enforceable and Mohaymen—all graded stakes winners running a mile or farther.
It’s also worth noting Union Rags is a half-brother to Tempo West, the dam of multiple Group 1-winning router Declaration of War. The latter is off to hot start at stud and is already gaining renown as a source of stamina.
But Union Rags isn’t the only source of classic stamina in Spielberg’s pedigree—he’s also received a dose from his dam, Miss Squeal. A three-time winner over distances ranging from a mile to 1 1/8 miles, Miss Squeal is a daughter of influential stallion Smart Strike, whose best runners include two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner English Channel, and Preakness (G1) winner Lookin At Lucky—all long-winded runners passing on stamina through productive stud careers of their own.
Smart Strike died in 2015, but he continues to enjoy success as a broodmare sire. The list of high-class runners produced by daughters of Smart Strike goes on and on, with Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird topping the chart. Classic-placed Grade 1 winners Dullahan and First Dude join Canadian classic winners Inglorious, Dixie Strike, Eye of the Leopard, and Tone Broke among Smart Strike’s other notable descendants.
Miss Squeal is definitely contributing to Smart Strike’s legacy as a broodmare sire. In addition to Spielberg, Miss Squeal has foaled High Road, victorious in multiple allowance races running a mile or farther.
Can Spielberg give Baffert a record-extending seventh victory in the Kentucky Derby? It’s a lofty goal, yes. But there’s no reason to think Spielberg’s pedigree will be a stumbling block.