Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Risk Taking

February 7th, 2021

It’s easy to understand why Risk Taking has shown such a clear affinity for route racing. Winner of the 1 1/8-mile Withers S. (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Risk Taking is bred from top to bottom to excel over classic distances.

Risk Taking’s sire, Medaglia d’Oro, needs no introduction. A stoutly bred son of El Prado, Medaglia d’Oro earned $5,754,720 during a career highlighted by victories in the Travers (G1) and Whitney (G1) plus runner-up efforts in the Belmont Stakes (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1), Pacific Classic (G1), and multiple editions of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). From 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/2 miles, Medaglia d’Oro was a formidable force to reckon with.

But there’s another important takeaway to consider. Medalgia d’Oro wasn’t just a long-winded route runner; he also matured early enough to win the San Felipe (G2) during the winter of his three-year-old season and compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

This distinction is significant because Medaglia d’Oro tends to pass similar traits on to his progeny. His best runners have almost exclusively excelled running a mile or farther, yet many have come to hand early enough to win major races as juveniles and/or excel in the spring classics. Horse of the Year and Preakness (G1) winner Rachel Alexandra, two-time champion filly Songbird, Queen’s Plate S. winner Wonder Gadot, and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Plum Pretty are just a few of the many high-profile examples.

All told, Medaglia d’Oro’s progeny win at a solid average distance of 7.7 furlongs, suggesting Risk Taking won’t be troubled while stretching out over 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May. And while Medaglia d’Oro represents just 50% of Risk Taking’s pedigree, the other 50% is equally geared toward Triple Crown success.

Risk Taking was produced by the multiple stakes-placed turf miler Run a Risk, a daughter of 2011 leading sire Distorted Humor. As a racehorse, Distorted Humor showed more speed than stamina, nabbing a quartet of graded stakes wins between seven furlongs and one mile.

But at stud, Distorted Humor has proven to be a reliable source of speed and stamina alike. His first crop of foals produced Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, while subsequent years have yielded Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Drosselmeyer, Travers (G1) winner Flower Alley, and two-time Whitney (G1) winner Commentator. Flower Alley, by the way, is the sire of Kentucky Derby/Preakness hero I’ll Have Another.

Distorted Humor has also enjoyed resounding success as a broodmare sire. His daughters have produced a long list of Grade 1 winners led by four-time Grade 1 winner Arrogate, the richest racehorse in North American history after rattling off victories in the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Dubai World Cup racing 1 1/4 miles.

The cross of Medaglia d’Oro over Distorted Humor mares has been particularly effective. A few high-profile representatives including Hong Kong Triple Crown winner Golden Sixty, Alabama (G1) winner Elate, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) New Money Honey, all three of them major winners over 1 1/4 miles.

The takeaway from all this is simple. From a pedigree perspective, you won’t be taking any risk by betting Risk Taking in the Kentucky Derby. Handicappers can debate all day whether Risk Taking is fast enough to win the Derby, but if he falters on the first Saturday in May, it will be hard to blame his pedigree.