Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Bourbonic

April 5th, 2021

When Bourbonic produced a rally from out of the clouds to upset Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial (G2) and qualify for the Kentucky Derby (G1), racing fans were shocked. The unheralded Calumet Farm homebred was the longest shot on the board at 72-1, and few expected him to steal the show.

But perhaps Bourbonic’s last-to-first surge shouldn’t have been so surprising. After all, Bourbonic’s pedigree has always indicated he would improve with maturity and thrive running 1 1/8 miles or farther. Perhaps the slow, tiring track at Aqueduct played to Bourbonic’s strengths, allowing his stamina-infused bloodlines and improving profile to win the day.

Bourbonic’s sire, Bernardini, needs no introduction. The stoutly bred son of Belmont (G1) winner A.P. Indy was voted champion three-year-old male of 2006 after rattling off victories in the Preakness (G1), Travers (G1), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), plus a runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Bernardini was a late-maturing colt who relished classic distances, and while his foals have proven more versatile—with many excelling as juveniles and sprinters—the best have achieved their signature victories running 1 1/8 miles or farther. Travers winners Stay Thirsty and Alpha are two prime examples, along with Woodward (G1) winner To Honor and Serve.

The bottom half of Bourbonic’s pedigree is similarly stout. His dam, Dancing Afleet, won the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks (G3) and previously foaled the multiple graded stakes-placed miler Avant Garde, who recently placed third in the Godolphin Mile (G2).

Dancing Afleet, in turn, is a daughter of 2005 champion three-year-old male Afleet Alex, best known for his heroic victory in the Preakness. Despite clipping heels badly at the top of the stretch, Afleet Alex re-rallied to dominate by 4 3/4 lengths, after which he crushed the Belmont in a seven-length romp.

Afleet Alex could run all day, and so can his foals. Five of Afleet Alex’s six Grade 1 winners have achieved their signature victories racing 1 1/16 miles or farther, led by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red and Travers hero Afleet Express. Another runner of note, Afleet Again, reiterated the long-winded nature of Afleet Alex’s bloodlines when prevailing in the 1 3/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2).

While Afleet Alex hasn’t set the world on fire as a broodmare sire, there can be no denying he’s passing on stamina through his daughters. Indeed, Afleet Alex is the damsire of Belmont winner Sir Winston and Starlet (G1) winner Dream Tree, plus Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up and Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher Suddenbreakingnews,

Returning to Bourbonic, the only knock on his pedigree is the possibility it contains too much stamina. A dose of miler speed is usually advantageous for colts with Kentucky Derby aspirations, so Bourbonic—a pure late runner without any tactical speed—might find it difficult to excel on the first Saturday in May, even if the 1 1/4-mile distance itself isn’t an obstacle.

But if Bourbonic’s triumph in the Wood Memorial is any indication, he’s progressing in the right direction and knows how to pick up the pieces when his rivals are struggling. If a pace meltdown unfolds at Churchill Downs, we know Bourbonic has the stamina to take advantage in a big way.