With the final entries taken and post positions drawn for the 143rd Kentucky Derby, five contenders for the May 6 Churchill Downs classic have ties to Gainesway stallions.
Already the sire of two Belmont Stakes (G1) winners in Tonalist and Creator, three-time leading sire Tapit has Tapwrit carrying his banner in the May 6 classic. Bred in Kentucky by My Meadowview, Tapwrit was a $1.2 million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling and won this year’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert LaPenta own the gray colt who is out of the Grade 1-winning Successful Appeal mare Appealing Zophie. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit will break from post 16, the same gate American Pharoah used to launch his Triple Crown quest.
Tapit’s grandson Fast and Accurate, by champion 2-year-old male Hansen, will find a starting position from gate 3. Racing for Dr. Kendall Hansen, SkyChai Racing, Sand Dollar Stable, and Bode Miller, the winner of the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes is trained by Mike Maker and will be ridden by Channing Hill. An $85,000 Ocala Breeders’ Sales 2-year-old purchase, Fast and Accurate was bred in Pennsylvania by John Penn.
State of Honor, a 17-hand son from the first crop of To Honor and Serve, will make his bid to be the first Canadian-bred to win the Derby since Sunny’s Halo in 1983 from gate 6. A homebred for Manfred and Penny Conrad’s Conrad Farms, the imposing bay son of the Elusive Quality mare State Cup has yet to win a stakes but has been knocking on the door with seconds in the Tampa Bay Derby and Grade 1 Florida Derby. Mark Casse trains State of Honor and Jose Lezcano will be the pilot. Twenty years ago Silver Charm took off from post 6 to land in Churchill winner’s circle as did California Chrome in 2014.
Gainesway’s repatriated Empire Maker has a pair of grandsons seeking Derby glory. Always Dreaming, the impressive Florida Derby winner, was a $350,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase and races for a partnership comprising MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz Racing, Teresa Viola Stables, St. Elias Stables, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds. Santa Rosa Partners bred the half-brother to Grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick in Kentucky. The dark bay is by Derby runner-up Bodemeister out of the Grade 3-winning In Excess mare Above Perfection. Jockey John Velazquez will send the Pletcher-trained colt from gate 5.
Classic Empire, the morning-line Derby favorite, is Empire Maker’s other grandson. By Pioneerof the Nile, also a Derby runner-up, he is trained by Casse and owned by John Oxley who shelled out $475,000 for him at the Keeneland September sale. Steven and Brandi Nicholson’s Silver Fern Farm bred the half-brother to two other stakes winners from their Cat Thief mare Sambuca Classica. Julien Leparoux will send Classic Empire from gate 14.