Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: T O Password

April 1st, 2024

A hard-fought head triumph in the Fukuryu S. at Nakayama Racecourse in Japan thrust T O Password into the picture as a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender.

Held over 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on dirt, the Fukuryu served as the final stop on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby. T O Password’s narrow triumph brought his career record to 2-for-2, so if he prevails in the Run for the Roses he’ll become the first Derby winner since Leonatus in 1883 to prevail off such a light racing record.

T O Password’s relative lack of experience is a question mark, but at least he has a solid Kentucky Derby pedigree in his corner. Even though much of the best racing in Japan takes place on turf, T O Password has already shown an affinity for dirt, and there’s no reason to think the Derby’s 1 1/4-mile distance will be an obstacle.

T O Password has doubtlessly inherited dirt prowess from his sire, Copano Rickey, a two-time winner of the February (G1) racing 1,600 meters (about one mile) in Japan. Across 33 starts on dirt, Copano Rickey recorded 16 victories. In addition to his triumphs in the February on the Japan Racing Association (JRA) circuit, Copano Rickey won nine local Group 1 races on Japan’s National Association of Racing (NAR) circuit.

Copano Rickey was versatile from a distance standpoint; while his signature victories came racing 1,600 meters, a quartet of his local Group 1 wins came over 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles). His leading progeny to date have followed that example, winning over a wide variety of distances while doing their best work on dirt.

All this dirt success isn’t surprising given that Copano Rickey is a son of Gold Allure out of Copano Nikiti. Gold Allure has sired top-tier JRA Group 1 dirt racers like Espoir City and Gold Dream and is a son of 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner Sunday Silence, while Copano Nikiti is a daughter of 1995 Preakness victor Timber Country.

The bottom half of T O Password’s pedigree contains dirt influences as well, though they’re outnumbered by grass form. His dam is T O Rachel, a speedy filly who twice won sprinting 1,400 meters (about seven furlongs) on dirt, in addition to breaking her maiden over 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) on turf. She, in turn, is a daughter of King Kamehameha out of Nike Favor.

King Kamehameha was an elite grass racer in Japan, counting the Tokyo Yushun (G1, Japanese Derby) and NHK Mile Cup (G1) among his seven wins from eight starts. A Group 1 winner over distances from 1,600 meters to 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), King Kamehameha has sired plenty of quality grass winners at stud, though dirt winners have popped up too. Earlier this year, King Kamehameha’s son Peptide Nile posted an upset victory against Group 1 competition in the February.

As for Nike Favor, she won three times sprinting 1,200 meters on dirt and turf. Many of her foals have done their best work on turf (including the multiple winners Knight Bannerete and Argente) but Nike Trick joined T O Rachel as a dirt winner, and it’s worth noting Nike Favor’s sire—Favorite Trick—was voted 1997 U.S. Horse of the Year after compiling an 8-for-8 season highlighted by wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Hopeful (G1) on dirt. Favorite Trick was also capable on turf, winning the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup Mile (G2) the following year.

When you combine all these pedigree elements together—the classic dirt influences of Copano Rickey with the versatile, but somewhat speedier and more turf-oriented genetics of T O Rachel—we can only conclude T O Password has the right blend of speed, stamina, and dirt ability to shine on the first Saturday in May.