Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Epic Ride

April 24th, 2024

Epic Ride has shown versatility on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, finishing second in the John Battaglia Memorial on Tapeta and third in the Blue Grass (G1) on dirt.

The question is, which surface is best for Epic Ride? And can he handle the testing 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby (G1)? His pedigree hints at the answers to both questions.

Epic Ride is a son of Blame, voted champion older male of 2010 after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Whitney H. (G1), and Stephen Foster H. (G1). He’s done well at stud, siring half a dozen U.S. Grade 1 winners and a bevy of other graded winners.

Blame’s best runners are more or less equally split between dirt horses and turf horses, so he’s proven versatile as a sire. On dirt, he’s best known for siring 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) winner Wet Paint, 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby (G1) hero Nadal, seven-furlong Ballerina (G1) winner Marley’s Freedom, and 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita (G1) winner Fault, who is also a graded winner on turf.

On grass, Blame has sired Senga, winner of the Prix de Diane (G1) racing 2,100 meters (about 1 5/16 miles); Abscond, triumphant in the one-mile Natalma (G1); and March, runner-up in the 1 1/8-mile Hollywood Derby (G1) and winner of the Woody Stephens (G2) and Bay Shore (G3) sprinting on dirt.

But Blame has yet to sire a horse who factored in the Triple Crown races. Nadal could have been a contender, but an injury led to his retirement before the classics. Shotski won the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2), Far From Over nabbed the 1 1/16-mile Withers (G3), and Litigate took the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but none of them started in the Derby itself.

Overall, the progeny of Blame have done their best work running shorter than classic distances. Distances up to 1 1/8 miles are consistently within their wheelhouse, and a few (like Senga) have done well running even longer on grass, but Blame’s first 10 crops of foals suggest he isn’t necessarily a source of Triple Crown types.

The bottom side of Epic Ride’s pedigree trends in similar directions. He’s the first winning foal produced by Pick a Time, who finished last in her lone start. She’s a daughter of Gio Ponti, a three-time Eclipse Award winner who thrived on turf, winning seven Grade 1 races over distances from one mile to 1 3/8 miles. He also showed talent on synthetic, finishing second to the legendary mare Zenyatta in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In complete defiance of his own racing record, Gio Ponti’s best runner at stud has proven to be the dirt sprinter Drefong, voted champion male sprinter of 2016 after winning the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1). Another accomplished son, Sir Dudley Digges, followed more in Gio Ponti’s footsteps by winning the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate on synthetic and the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup on turf.

After analyzing the pedigree of Epic Ride, we have to draw two conclusions. One, he’s bred to handle any surface—dirt, turf, synthetic, you name it. Two, the stamina in his pedigree is most likely to show up on turf or synthetic, so racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt in the Kentucky Derby might be a furlong farther than ideal for Epic Ride.