Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Forbidden Kingdom

March 8th, 2022

Speed is the name of the game for Forbidden Kingdom, who joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a tour-de-force victory in the San Felipe S. (G2) at Santa Anita.

Forbidden Kingdom is a pure pacesetter who has shown the ability to stretch his blinding speed over 1 1/16 miles. But can his frontrunning style translate to success over 1 1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby (G1)?

That’s an interesting question. Certainly the top half of Forbidden King’s pedigree holds potential for handling classic distances. His sire is none other than American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown who descends from a sire line absolutely stacked with classic-winning and classic-siring stallions. American Pharoah’s sire line includes 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, 2003 Belmont S. (G1) winner Empire Maker, and 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled.

American Pharoah himself has yet to sire a classic winner, but his progeny win at the lofty average distance of 7.7 furlongs, and all of his top-level winners to date have scored their signature victories running one mile or farther.

(Interestingly, American Pharoah’s progeny have enjoyed roughly equal success on dirt and turf, with dirt stars like Grade 1 Beholder Mile winner As Time Goes By appearing alongside grass runners such as Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive.)

Forbidden Kingdom Pedigree

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Empire Maker, 2000
Pioneerof the Nile, 2006
Star of Goshen, 1994
American Pharoah, 2012
Yankee Gentleman, 1999
Littleprincessemma, 2006
Exclusive Rosette, 1993
Forbidden Kingdom, 2019
Carson City, 1987
Five Star Day, 1996
Reggie V, 1990
Just Louise, 2008
Mt. Livermore, 1981
Kings Lynn, 1994
Til Forbid, 1988

The stout genetics in the top half of Forbidden Kingdom’s pedigree will hopefully balance the speedier genetics coming from his female family. Forbidden Kingdom’s dam is Just Louise, an early-maturing sprinter who won the Debutante S. (G3) as a juvenile. Just Louise, in turn, is a daughter of Five Star Day, a Grade 1-place sprinter whose three graded triumphs came dashing six furlongs.

Five Star Day has tended to reproduce himself at stud, siring sprinters (like Grade 2 Commonwealth S. winner Eternal Star) more than routers. His progeny win at an average distance of 6.2 furlongs, indicating Five Star Day is more reliable as a source of speed than stamina.

Clearly, some of this speed has passed on to Forbidden Kingdom, who has twice shown the ability to run a sub-:44 half-mile. But the stamina of American Pharoah has thus far carried Forbidden Kingdom over longer trips, suggesting Forbidden Kingdom can’t be dismissed as a threat to win the Kentucky Derby in gate-to-wire fashion.