Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Litigate

February 13th, 2023

When Litigate rallied to a determined victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, it was confirmation the bay colt has been waiting for a chance to shine running long.

The Sam F. Davis took place over 1 1/16 miles and marked Litigate’s first start in a two-turn race. The configuration proved suitable and garnered Litigate 20 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, hardly a surprising outcome since his pedigree is geared unmistakably toward success over classic distances.

Litigate is a son of the late-maturing Blame, voted champion older male of 2010 after rattling off victories in the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster H. (G1), 1 1/8-mile Whitney H. (G1), and 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). His foals have generally followed suit as accomplished route racers, with Prix de Diane (G1) winner Senga, Arkansas Derby (G1) hero Nadal, Santa Margarita (G1) heroine Fault, and Natalma (G1) winner Abscond all achieving their signature victories racing one mile or farther. All told, Blame’s progeny win at a respectable average distance of 7.3 furlongs.

Meanwhile, Litigate is the first winning foal produced by Salsa Diavola, a daughter of Mineshaft out of the Unbridled mare Miss Salsa. Salsa Diavola failed to crack the trifecta in two starts, but her pedigree is packed with class. Mineshaft earned 2003 Horse of the Year honors after winning four Grade 1 races from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles, Unbridled won the 1990 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Miss Salsa has previously foaled the multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Pacific Ocean.

Mineshaft has proven to be a respectable source of stamina at stud, siring long-winded graded stakes winners like Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) runner-up Effinex, Belmont (G1) runner-up Fly Down, and Florida Derby (G1) winner Dialed In. Mineshaft’s progeny win at an average distance of 7.1 furlongs, and his daughters have foaled such accomplished route racers as Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Cathryn Sophia, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner and champion two-year-old filly Vequist, and Santa Anita H. (G1) winner Express Train.

We also have to highlight the stellar stud record of Unbridled. To do so in detail would require a book, but suffice to say Unbridled is the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, Preakness hero Red Bullet, and Belmont winner Empire Maker. Grindstone is the sire of Belmont winner Birdstone, in turn the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont winner Summer Bird, while Empire Maker’s male-line descendants include Triple Crown winner American Pharoah plus Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.

Arguably the only concern with Litigate’s pedigree is its lack of miler speed, which is so often a key component for success in the Kentucky Derby. But some of Blame’s runners have shown more speed than their sire, such as Ballerina (G1) winner Marley’s Freedom, Woody Stephens (G2) hero March, and Hopeful (G1) runner-up Mucho, so that’s an encouraging sign.

Even if the Kentucky Derby proves too sharp for Litigate, his future looks bright. Both Blame and Mineshaft peaked at age four, so there’s a good chance we haven’t seen Litigate’s best yet.