Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Epicenter

April 18th, 2022

On the surface, Epicenter boasts a perfect pedigree for success in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Racing 1 1/4 miles shouldn’t be an obstacle for the Louisiana Derby (G2) winner, who is bred top and bottom for stamina.

There’s only one problem: Epicenter’s pedigree doesn’t contain a single U.S. classic winner in the first four generations. This doesn’t necessarily mean Epicenter can’t win the Kentucky Derby, but it does suggest his pedigree—while stout—isn’t tried-and-true Derby material.

Let’s start with a review of Epicenter’s sire, Not This Time. Victorious in the Iroquois S. (G3) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Not This Time was unable to target the Kentucky Derby, being retired due to injury prior to his sophomore season.

This setback extended the unfortunate classics luck of Not This Time’s illustrious sire, Giant’s Causeway. A standout European grass star known for siring champions on both dirt and turf, Giant’s Causeway was a three-time leading U.S. sire, but none of his foals found success in U.S. classics. Arguably his best candidate, 2010 Wood Memorial (G1) winner Eskendereya, was injured days before starting as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.

In contrast to Giant’s Causeway, who sired more long-winded types than speedsters, Not This Time seems to be passing on both speed and stamina. His progeny—including seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante (G1) heroine Princess Noor and 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth S. (G2) winner Simplification—have won over a wide variety of distances and surfaces while frequently maturing at an early age.

The fact Not This Time passes on more speed than his own sire isn’t surprising when you examine the bottom half of Not This Time’s pedigree. His dam, Miss Macy Sue, won the Winning Colors S. (G3) sprinting six furlongs and previously produced Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Liam’s Map.

Returning to Epicenter, his dam is Silent Candy, who placed in both the Pucker Up S. (G3) and Lady Canterbury S. running long on turf. She, in turn, is a daughter of Candy Ride, a versatile miler/router who won at the Grade/Group 1 level on dirt and turf. Candy Ride consistently passes on his versatility at stud, siring Grade 1-winning sprinters, milers, and routers on dirt, turf, and synthetic. Chief among them is 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) racing 1 1/4 miles.

The only problem with Candy Ride is the same as with Giant’s Causeway: Candy Ride has yet to sire a U.S. classic winner, despite having ample opportunities to do so. Horses like Gun Runner, Game Winner, Vekoma, Sidney’s Candy, and Rock Your World all entered the Kentucky Derby in fine form, but only Gun Runner managed to hit the board, finishing third in 2016.

Again, there’s no shortage of stamina in the pedigree of Epicenter. There’s even some speed to counterbalance the stamina, courtesy of Not This Time and Candy Ride. But U.S. classic winners are surprisingly absent, replaced instead with a bevy of turf influences suggesting Epicenter has multi-surface possibilities if his Kentucky Derby journey doesn’t pan out.

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