Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Morello

March 8th, 2022

The early successes of Morello may have come in sprints and short routes, including the one-mile Gotham S. (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. But this exciting Kentucky Derby (G1) contender has the pedigree to run much farther.

From top to bottom, Morello is bred to be a player in the spring classics. Remember his sire, 2016 champion two-year-old and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Classic Empire? Although Classic Empire failed to win a Triple Crown race, he was only beaten a head when second in the 2017 Preakness S. (G1), and he also ran fourth with a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby.

Classic Empire's talent came from an obvious source. He’s a son of 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, renowned as the sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Pioneerof the Nile, in turn, was sired by 2003 Belmont S. (G1) winner Empire Maker, whose son Bodemeister (the 2012 Kentucky Derby runner-up) is the sire of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.

Morello Pedigree

Empire Maker, 2000
Pioneerof the Nile, 2006
Star of Goshen, 1994
Classic Empire, 2014
Cat Thief, 1996
Sambuca Classica, 2004
In Her Glory, 1990
Morello, 2019
A.P. Indy, 1989
Congrats, 2000
Praise, 1994
Stop the Wedding, 2008
Runaway Groom, 1979
Wedding Jitters, 1991
Classy Tricks, 1983

But wait, there’s more. Empire Maker is a son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, whose male-line descendants include 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, 2004 Belmont hero Birdstone, 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and 2009 Belmont winner Summer Bird. Ultimately, the Classic Empire/Pioneerof the Nile/Empire Maker/Unbridled male line traces back to Mr. Prospector, whose male-line descendants have won 45 of the 96 American classics contested since 1990.

We could spend all day discussing those 45 classic winners, but for now we’ll turn our attention to the bottom half of Morello’s pedigree. His dam is Stop the Wedding, whose lone victory came in a seven-furlong maiden claiming sprint at Calder Race Course. Prior to Morello, her most accomplished foal was the allowance-caliber sprinter Two to One, whose three career wins came over distances from 4 1/2 furlong to 5 1/2 furlongs.

There are clearly some speed influences in Morello’s female family, but there’s stamina as well. Stop the Wedding is a daughter of Congrats, who placed in both the Santa Anita H. (G1) and Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) running 1 1/4 miles. As a sire, Congrats tends to be a greater source of miler speed than classic stamina, but his record as a broodmare sire is trending in a different direction. His daughters have foaled such talented and long-winded runners as 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate S. winner Safe Conduct and 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Shedaresthedevil.

The possibility of Congrats passing on stamina through his daughters is hardly unprecedented. Congrats himself is a son of Belmont winner A.P. Indy, a renowned stamina influence whose stellar record as a broodmare sire includes classic winners Super Saver (2010 Kentucky Derby) and Cloud Computing (2017 Preakness), as well as Kentucky Oaks winners Malathaat and Plum Pretty.

In short, Morello’s pedigree is positively stuffed with classic influences, along with a dose or two of the miler speed that has proven so critical to success in recent editions of the Kentucky Derby. If Morello is beaten on the first Saturday in May, it will be difficult to blame his breeding.