Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Verifying

April 19th, 2023

There are many well-bred horses slated to start in the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1), but few—if any—can boast as blueblood a pedigree as Blue Grass (G1) runner-up Verifying.

Verifying likes to race close to the pace, a tendency he possibly inherited from his speedy sire, Justify. Five years ago, Justify stormed unbeaten through a six-start career culminating with a sweep of the 2018 Triple Crown.

Verifying Pedigree
Scat Daddy
Stage Magic
Diva Delite
Tour Hostesss

Justify was a standout talent over classic distances on dirt, but his pedigree offered potential for much more. Sire Scat Daddy won the Florida Derby (G1) and Champagne (G1) running long on dirt, and dam sire Ghostzapper was voted 2004 Horse of the Year after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). But Scat Daddy sired many top-level winners on turf (including sprinters), and Ghostzapper’s progeny have excelled over a remarkably wide variety of distances and surfaces, so in an alternate reality Justify might have been a top-notch turf sprinter.

That’s an interesting point to ponder because Justify seems to be following Scat Daddy and Ghostzapper as a versatile stallion capable of siring winners across all distances and surfaces. So far, Justify is responsible for Schuylerville (G3) winner Just Cindy, a dirt sprinter; Airlie Stud (G2) winner Statuette and Reisling (G2) winner Learning to Fly, both turf sprinters; Newtownanner Stud Irish EBF (G3) winner Aspen Grove, a turf miler; and Nashua (G3) winner Champions Dream, a sprinter/miler on dirt.

And then there’s Verifying, not yet a stakes winner, but runner-up in the Blue Grass over 1 1/8 miles and the Champagne (G1) traveling one mile. Running long on dirt is a strong suit for Verifying, and while Justify may deserve some credit for that capability, the dam side of Verifying’s pedigree is another obvious factor.

Verifying is a daughter of Diva Delite, a Florida-bred mare who showed sufficient class and stamina to win the Florida Oaks (G3) racing 1 1/16 miles on dirt. She, in turn, is a daughter of Repent, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), Louisiana Derby (G2), and Risen Star (G3) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Travers (G1).

Repent was a high-class campaigner over distances from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/4 miles, and while he failed to set the world on fire at stud, he’s nevertheless the sire of 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Discreet Lover, 1 1/16-mile Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (G2) and 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis (G2) winner Crown of Thorns, 1 1/16-mile Stage Door Betty H. (G3) winner Sweet Repent, and 1 1/8-mile Pegasus (G3) winner Atoned.

Repent’s record as a broodmare sire is slimmer, but thanks to Diva Delite, it does include two prominent names. One, of course, is Verifying. The other is Verifying’s half-sister Midnight Bisou, a daughter of Midnight Lute voted 2019 champion older dirt female at the Eclipse Awards. Over the course of four seasons, Midnight Bisou won 13 graded stakes (including five Grade 1s) and nearly $7.5 million. No fewer than 12 of her graded victories came over distances from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles.

So let’s recap: Verifying is a son of Triple Crown winner Justify out of Florida Oaks (G3) winner Diva Delite, previously the dam of champion Midnight Bisou. That’s about as classy a pedigree as you can ask for, though it’s worth acknowledging the vast majority of Verifying’s immediate relatives (Justify being the exception) achieved their signature victories racing 1 1/8 miles or less.

Justify is still early in his stud career, but considering the horses he’s sired so far, it’s fair to wonder if miles and short routes might wind up being more suitable for Verifying than the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby.