Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: King Russell

May 2nd, 2023

King Russell required five starts to break his maiden, but wasted no time ascending the class ladder after doing so. One start after securing his initial victory, King Russell finished second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) to emerge as a contender for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1).

The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, one day after the Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Derby and the Oaks run in King Russell’s family, so it’s not surprising to see King Russell peaking in the spring of his sophomore season.

King Russell Pedigree
Giant's Causeway
Creative Cause
Dream of Summer
King Russell
Proud Citizen
Believe You Will
El Fasto

King Russell is a son of Creative Cause, a talented colt who won the Norfolk (G1), San Felipe (G2), and Best Pal (G2). Creative Cause also placed in the Preakness (G1), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and Santa Anita Derby (G1) and ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

Creative Cause was arguably best racing 1 1/16 miles, and classic distances may have stretched the limits of his stamina. That’s a little surprising, because Creative Cause had the pedigree to excel running long. He’s a son of European standout Giant’s Causeway (a definite source of stamina at stud) out of 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom H. (G1) winner Dream of Summer. That makes Creative Cause a full brother to Belmont (G1) runner-up and Marathon (G2) winner Destin, as well as 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign (G1) and 1 1/2-mile Dowager (G3) winner Vexatious.

To date, the progeny of Creative Cause have won at an average distance of 7.0 furlongs, which leans toward speed more than stamina. Many have starred in routes, with Pavel claiming the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster H. (G1) and My Boy Jack nabbing the 1 1/16-mile Southwest (G3) and Lexington (G3) prior to running fifth in the Kentucky Derby. But Creative Cause has yet to sire a standout performance over classic distances.

The bottom half of King Russell’s pedigree trends in a similar direction. His dam is Believe You Will, an unraced daughter of Proud Citizen out of the El Prado mare El Fasto. That makes Believe You Will a full sister to Kentucky Oaks and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Believe You Can, whose produce record includes Ellis Park Derby winner and Oklahoma Derby (G3) runner-up Believe in Royalty.

Believe You Can is actually the second Kentucky Oaks winner sired by Proud Citizen, whose champion daughter Proud Spell won the Kentucky Oaks and 1 1/4-mile Alabama (G1) during a decorated career. Proud Citizen didn’t technically achieve as much on track as his Oaks-winning daughters, counting the Lexington (G2) as his lone graded stakes victory, but he was good enough to place second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness during the spring of his sophomore season.

The progeny of Proud Citizen win at the same average distance (7.0 furlongs) compiled by Creative Cause, and daughters of Proud Citizen are primarily known for foaling sprinters and milers/short routers like Phoenix (G2) winner Manny Wah, Los Alamitos Derby (G2) hero Gimme Da Lute, Iowa Oaks (G3) winner Shane’s Girlfriend, Bruce D. (G1) victor Point Me By, and Bayakoa (G3) heroine Proud Emma. One long-winded exception is Master Piece, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Eddie Read (G2) and placed in a large handful of graded and group stakes racing 1 3/8 miles and 1 1/2 miles.

On the whole, King Russell has the pedigree to shine on the first Saturday in May. But given the overall stud records of Creative Cause and Proud Citizen, it’s fair to wonder if distances of one mile to 1 1/8 miles are more suitable for King Russell than the Derby’s 1 1/4-mile journey.

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