Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Amante Bianco

March 20th, 2024

When Amante Bianco rallied to victory in the Cattleya S. at Tokyo Racecourse, the flashy white colt picked up 10 qualification points on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby and emerged as a possible contender for the 2024 Kentucky Derby (G1).

The question is, does Amante Bianco have the pedigree to handle the Derby’s testing 1 1/4-mile distance? The Cattleya took place over 1,600 meters (about one mile), and a brief glance at Amante Bianco’s immediate lineage—he’s a son of Henny Hughes—might suggest shorter trips are preferable. But dig a little deeper, and stamina becomes more apparent.

As a racehorse, Henny Hughes was best as a sprinter, counting the six-furlong Vosburgh (G1) and the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1) as his signature victories. But he also stretched his speed to finish second in the one-mile Champagne (G1) and 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

The stamina reserves of Henny Hughes may have been a bit limited, but he’s regularly passed on every ounce to his progeny. By far his most successful runner is Beholder, a three-time Breeders’ Cup winner and four-time champion who won Grade 1 races at ages two, three, four, five, and six. Distances from one mile to 1 1/4 miles were Beholder’s strong suit; in fact, she beat males by 8 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1), stopping the clock in a blazing 1:59.77.

Other capable route racers sired by Henny Hughes include February (G1) winner Moanin, Asahi Hai Futurity (G1) victor Asia Express, New Zealand Trophy (G2) hero Wide Pharaoh, Elm (G3) winners Sekifu and Full Depth Leader, Sunland Derby (G3) winner and Kentucky Derby starter Chitu, Unicorn (G3) winner Perriere, and March (G3) victor Rapier Wit. All have achieved their signature victories racing 1,600 meters or farther.

Having established Henny Hughes as a stouter sire than first meets the eye, we can turn our attention to Amante Bianco’s dam, Yukichan. She’s a daughter of Kurofune, a versatile campaigner who won the NHK Mile Cup (G1) racing 1,600 meters on turf and the Champions Cup (G1) racing 2,100 meters (about 1 5/16 miles) on dirt. His many accomplished runners include the white mare Sodashi, a three-time Group 1 winner racing 1,600 meters on turf, but also third in the February (G1) traveling the same distance on dirt.

Yukichan’s dam is Shirayukihime, a daughter of Kentucky Derby, Preakness (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Sunday Silence. Sunday Silence was a dirt sensation, but at stud in Japan he became a legendary sire of turf horses, with spectacular Japan Triple Crown winner Deep Impact ranking as his most famous runner.

Like her sire and grand sire, Yukichan was a versatile racehorse. She broke her maiden sprinting 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) on dirt, but later won racing 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) on turf and 2,100 meters on dirt. The latter triumph came in a local Group 2 on Japan’s National Association of Racing (NAR) circuit.

Yukichan’s versatility is also showing up among her foals. Amante Bianco’s dirt prowess has been emulated by his half-siblings Poliahu, Maillot Blanc, and Hyams Beach, maiden and allowance winners over distances from 1,200 meters to 1,700 meters (about 1 1/16 miles) on dirt. But Hyams Beach broke his maiden traveling 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) on grass, and Yukichan is also the dam of Hau Nani, a two-time winner sprinting on turf.

Taking all of these facts together, it’s difficult to peg Amante Bianco as a sprinter/miler just because he’s a son of Henny Hughes. A deeper analysis of Amante Bianco’s pedigree suggests there’s plenty of stamina to back up the comparatively few speed influences, giving him every chance to shine racing 1 1/4 miles.