Pedigree profile: Corniche

October 5th, 2021

After Corniche's gate-to-wire victories in the American Pharoah S. (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), it seems safe to say two of the speediest horses of the early 2010s have combined to produce one of the speediest probable 1 1/4 distance talents of the early 2020s.

Corniche’s elite pedigree is one reason why he sold for $1.5 million as a two-year-old in training. Any racing fan who followed the sport in 2010 is bound to remember Corniche’s sire (Quality Road) and dam (Wasted Tears), as both were formidable frontrunners at the graded stakes level.

Speed was a serious weapon for Quality Road, a four-time Grade 1 winner, whose signature victories included a gate-to-wire score in the Metropolitan H. (G1) and a pace-tracking, 12 3/4-length demolition of the Donn H. (G1). Best known as a miler who could carry his speed over nine furlongs, Quality Road was also a brilliant sprinter. He won Saratoga’s 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam S. (G2) in the track-record time of 1:13.74.

Wasted Tears wasn’t quite as accomplished as Quality Road, but the speedy mare won six Grade 2 and Grade 3 prizes, from one mile to 1 1/8 miles on turf. Four of her graded wins came consecutively in 2010, the same year she placed in the Matriarch S. (G1).

So what does all this mean for Corniche’s long-term potential? There are a couple takeaways. Corniche is bred to handle one mile or farther, as he demonstrated quite clearly in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But he also has the pedigree to handle multiple racing surfaces.

Aside from the obvious factors in play here — Quality Road was a dirt horse, and Wasted Tears excelled on turf — there is Quality Road’s stud record to consider. If it seems as though his progeny can perform under any circumstances, that’s because they can.

Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Abel Tasman and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) heroine Caledonia Road were champions running long on dirt. City of Light and Bellafina were Grade 1-winning sprinters who also took top-level prizes at one mile or farther. Spring Quality won the Manhattan S. (G1) at 1 1/4 miles on turf, Hootenanny claimed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), and Frank Conversation and Princess La Quinta scored Grade 3 wins on synthetic.

You get the picture.

Some of Quality Road’s genetic versatility may be inherited from his sire, Elusive Quality. A talented sprinter and miler, successful on both dirt and turf, Elusive Quality has sired Grade 1 winners on dirt, turf, and synthetic, including Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Raven’s Pass and Kentucky Derby/Preakness S. (G1) victor Smarty Jones.

The family of Wasted Tears also contributes some multi-surface adaptability to Corniche’s pedigree. Her best foal prior to Corniche was the filly Coffee Crush, who placed against stakes company on turf. But Wasted Tears’ dam, Wishes and Roses, foaled the stakes-winning dirt routers Wishingitwas and Almost Certain, so there is more than just grass in Wasted Tears’ family.

With all of these components together, there’s no reason to think Corniche won’t appreciate the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby. But if he falters on the first Saturday in May, at least he’ll have options to switch surfaces down the road. Note that trainers suspended by Churchill Downs are ineligible for points towards the Kentucky Derby.