Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Sierra Leone

April 1st, 2024

Racing 1 1/8 miles is no obstacle for Sierra Leone, winner of the Blue Grass (G1) and Risen Star (G2) and runner-up in the Remsen (G2) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Neither should the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby (G1) prove problematic for the beautifully bred colt.

Sierra Leone is a son of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, a tried-and-true route racer whose exploits over 1 1/4 miles included a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and a third-place finish in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. A resounding success at stud, Gun Runner has proven versatile as a stallion, siring sprinters and route racers alike. Some of the stoutest include 1 3/16-mile Preakness (G1) winner Early Voting, 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero Taiba, and 1 1/8-mile Haskell (G1) winner Cyberknife.

All told, the progeny of Gun Runner win at an average distance of 7.4 furlongs, indicating a stallion with a tendency to pass on stamina. That isn’t surprising given Gun Runner’s own pedigree; he’s a son of 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1) winner Candy Ride out of 1 1/16-mile Molly Pitcher (G2) winner Quiet Giant, in turn a daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of Quiet Dance. Giant’s Causeway is a three-time leading North American sire known as a strong stamina influence, while Quiet Dance is the dam of Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Saint Liam, 1 3/8-mile United Nations (G1) winner Funtastic, 1 1/8-mile Bay Meadows Derby (G3) winner Congressionalhonor, and one-mile and 70-yard Busanda S. winner Dance Quietly.

The dam side of Sierra Leone’s pedigree is also encouraging. He was produced by the Malibu Moon mare Heavenly Love, an early-maturing juvenile who won the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades (G1). She’s one of many Grade 1 winners sired by Malibu Moon, who is perhaps best known for his son Orb, winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Malibu Moon has sired a wide mix of sprinters, milers, and route racers, and his progeny boast an average winning distance of 7.1 furlongs—slightly speedier than Gun Runner, but still respectable. A similar tendency can be seen in Malibu Moon’s record as a broodmare sire; his daughters have foaled classy route racers like Preakness runner-up Midnight Bourbon, champion three-year-old filly Stellar Wind, Haskell hero Girvin, and Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner Locked, but also Grade 1-winning sprinter/milers like Bellafina, By the Moon, and Brightwork.

A mix of speed and stamina is typically the secret to success in the Kentucky Derby, and the pedigree of Sierra Leone is an ideal blend of both. If he falters on the first Saturday in May, his bloodlines won’t be to blame.