Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Lugan Knight

January 9th, 2023

You have to admire the tenacity Lugan Knight displayed to win the Jerome S. on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The bay colt was pressed every step of the way by heavy favorite Arctic Arrogance, but dug deep down the homestretch to prevail by a half-length.

However, the Jerome took place over one mile, a distance considerably shorter than the 1 1/4-mile trip of the Kentucky Derby (G1). And from a pedigree perspective, it’s fair to question whether Lugan Knight is bred to handle the Derby’s testing distance.

Lugan Knight is a son of Goldencents, a sprinter/miler who used his brilliant speed to win back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Goldencents also stretched out over 1 1/8 miles to win the Santa Anita Derby (G1), but faltered to finish 17th in the Kentucky Derby itself.

Goldencents is a son of four-time leading North America sire Into Mischief, who tends to pass on more speed than stamina to his progeny, even though a couple of his runners (Authentic and Mandaloun) have proven sufficiently long-winded to win the Kentucky Derby.

Goldencents is following Into Mischief’s example at stud. Goldencents is the sire of Going to Vegas, a two-time winner of the 1 1/4-mile Rodeo Drive (G1) on turf, but generally his progeny perform best over shorter trips, winning at an average distance of 6.5 furlongs.

The bottom half of Lugan Knight’s pedigree trends in a similar direction. His dam, Sly Roxy, scored her lone victory sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs. This isn’t surprising since Sly Roxy is a daughter of champion sprinter Speightstown out of Roxy Gap, who won a trio of graded stakes sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs or less.

One bright spot is the fact Speightstown has proven successful at siring major winners over classic distances; Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winners Olympiad and Haynesfield, Travers (G1) winner Golden Ticket, Belmont Derby (G1) winner Force the Pass, Hollywood Derby (G1) winner Seek Again, and American Oaks (G1) winner Competitionofideas have all scored their signature victories racing 1 1/4 miles.

Nevertheless, Speightstown’s progeny on the whole win at an average distance of just 6.6 furlongs, and his daughters are known for producing sprint/mile specialists like Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) hero Aloha West, Metropolitan H. (G1) winner Vekoma, Humana Distaff (G1) heroine Mia Mischief, and the multiple Grade 1-placed Following Sea.

Does Lugan Knight’s pedigree indicate with certainty that 1 1/4 miles is out of his reach? No, not necessarily; history is filled with examples of horses outrunning their bloodlines. But if past precedents hold true, Lugan Knight will likely prove best racing 1 1/8 miles or less.