Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Cyberknife

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 3rd, 2022

Although Cyberknife showed promise at age two, the chestnut colt has improved by leaps and bounds as a three-year-old. Never was this more apparent than in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1), in which Cyberknife drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths and qualify for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Cyberknife’s improvement as a sophomore isn’t surprising from a pedigree perspective. Sprinting as a juvenile was unlikely to be his forte; his bloodlines are instead geared toward late maturity and success running long.

Consider Cyberknife’s sire, Gun Runner. It’s easy to think of Gun Runner as a sire of early-maturing types since his first juveniles burned up racetracks across the country last year, with champion Echo Zulu, Grade 1 winner Gunite, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Pappacap achieving high levels of success.

Gun Runner himself was a debut-winning juvenile, but he saved his best efforts for later. He showed significant improvement at age three, when he finished third in the Kentucky Derby, but peaked as an older horse when rattling off five straight Grade 1 wins and earning 2017 Horse of the Year honors. It remains to be seen whether Gun Runner’s progeny will follow suit, by Cyberknife certainly appears to be progressing along these lines.

Similar tendencies can be seen in Cyberknife’s dam, Awesome Flower. She failed to win as a juvenile and competed in claiming and allowance races until midway through her four-year-old season. Thereafter, she improved sufficiently to win six stakes and place three times at the graded stakes level, including when third in the Chilukki S. (G2) at Churchill Downs.

All of Awesome Flower’s stakes wins came running one mile or farther, a trait she shares with her own sire, Flower Alley. A veteran of the 2005 Kentucky Derby, Flower Alley won four graded stakes over distances from one mile to 1 1/4 miles, including the Travers S. (G1). He failed to win as a juvenile, but definitely made up for lost time at ages two and three, even capping off his sophomore season with a gallant runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Late maturity and stamina have been common traits among Flower Alley’s progeny, with 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness S. (G1) winner I’ll Have Another the best of a group that includes 1 1/2-mile Canadian International (G1) winner Bullards Alley and 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) hero Lukes Alley. Actually, a fair number of Flower Alley’s descendants have enjoyed success on grass, with his daughters producing Japan’s three-time Group 1-winning turf star Lucky Lilac plus 2021 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) runner-up Smooth Like Strait.

Taking all of these pedigree aspects together, it seems safe to conclude Cyberknife is still a work in progress with lots of upside for improvement. The Arkansas Derby might be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his potential accomplishments.

The only question is whether Cyberknife is coming to hand in time to vie for victory in the Kentucky Derby. The Derby arguably came too soon for Gun Runner and Flower Alley, and it’s possible Cyberknife will follow their examples and reach his true peak sometime after the first Saturday in May.