Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: First Mission

April 19th, 2023

The Road to the Kentucky Derby wrapped up with the 1 1/16-mile Lexington (G3) at Keeneland, in which First Mission battled up the inside to score a tenacious victory.

First Mission’s rail-skimming run brought back memories of his sire, Street Sense. A powerful inside rally carried the son of Street Cry to victory in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), cementing his status as champion two-year-old male. The following year, Street Sense again rallied up the rail to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) over a terrific field including future two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

Street Sense has since compiled an accomplished stud career. His best runner has been McKinzie, winner of the Whitney (G1), Pennsylvania Derby (G1), Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), and Malibu (G1) over distances from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles.

McKinzie’s distance preferences illustrate a larger tendency among the progeny of Street Sense. Some, like Clark (G1) winner Maxfield, Ogden Phipps (G1) and Beldame (G1) winner Wedding Toast, Las Virgenes (G1) heroine Callback, and Starlet (G1) winner Street Fancy, have been best running short routes.

Others, like Acorn (G1), Test (G1), and Spinaway (G1) winner Sweet Reason, Golden Rose (G1) and Randwick Guineas (G1) winner Hallowed Crown, Myer Classic (G1) winner Politeness, Carter H. (G1) hero Speaker’s Corner, Coolmore Classic (G1) winner Dixie Blossoms, and Humana Distaff (G1) winner Aubby K, have been best as sprinters and milers.

But for all the top-level winners Street Sense has sired, classic contenders—and horses who thrive over classic distances—have been hard to come by. McKinzie finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) over 1 1/4 miles, and Sense of Occasion won the Doomben Cup (G1) over 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) on turf in Australia, but those have been exceptions rather than the norm. This is reflected in the fact Street Sense’s progeny win at an average distance of 7.3 furlongs, a respectable number no doubt, but lower than the 7.6 ratings belonging to acclaimed U.S. classics sires like Curlin and Tapit.

So does this mean First Mission is destined to shine racing 1 1/8 miles or less, and struggle over classic distances? Not necessarily. His dam is Elude, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, and this opens the door for success over longer trips.

After all, Elude scored her lone victory in a one-mile maiden special weight over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, demonstrating some stamina in the process. That isn’t surprising since Medaglia d’Oro is a clear-cut source of stamina. Over the course of 17 starts he banked more than $5.7 million in earnings, and his exploits racing 1 1/4 miles or farther included a victory in the Travers (G1) plus runner-up efforts in the Belmont (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1), Pacific Classic (G1), and two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Medaglia d’Oro has excelled at stud. One of his early stars was 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, a filly who conquered males in the Preakness (G1), Haskell (G1), and Woodward (G1). Since then, Medaglia d’Oro has sired Hong Kong sensation Golden Sixty, Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Talismanic, two-time champion filly Songbird, Alabama (G1) and Beldame (G1) winner Elate, Rodeo Drive (G1) and Gamely (G1) winner Marketing Mix, Belmont Oaks (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner New Money Honey, and Pacific Classic (G1) winner Higher Power.

That’s just a sampling of Medaglia d’Oro’s top-level winners, but every horse mentioned has won at the Grade 1 or Group 1 level racing 1 3/16 miles or farther. It’s no wonder why Medaglia d’Oro’s progeny have compiled an average winning distance of 7.7 furlongs.

Medaglia d’Oro is also developing a promising reputation as a broodmare sire. His daughters have foaled Olympiad, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic; Santin, winner of the Arlington Million (G1) and Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) racing 1 1/8 miles, Alegron, victorious in the 2,000-meter Kingston Town (G3) over soft ground in Australia; and 1 1/4-mile American Oaks (G1) winner Competitionofideas.

In short, the stamina of Medaglia d’Oro figures to balance the miler speed evident among the progeny of Street Sense, giving First Mission a chance to handle classic distances.

But there’s another takeaway from First Mission’s pedigree. You may have noticed both Street Sense and Medaglia d’Oro have sired many top-level winners on turf. Throw in the fact Elude won on turf, and First Mission actually has a lot of grass potential in his bloodlines. If his current dirt campaign fizzles (though there’s no reason to think it will at the moment), First Mission could always try a surface switch and possibly unlock even greater potential on grass.