Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Helium

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 8th, 2021

Dirt or synthetic, it doesn’t matter to the lightly raced Helium, who handles both surfaces just fine. A romping winner of the Display S. on Tapeta last fall, Helium qualified to the Kentucky Derby with a gutsy victory in the Tamp Bay Derby (G2) on dirt.

Helium’s affinity for synthetic and dirt is surprising when you consider how his immediate pedigree is slanted toward success on turf. Sire Ironicus, for example, was a tried-and-true turf miler who scored three graded wins on the lawn, in addition to multiple runner-up efforts against Grade 1 company. Dam Thundering Emilia was likewise a stakes-winning turf router whose previous foals include the Grade 3-placed grass filly Mighty Scarlett.

But dig a little deeper, and the nuances of Helium’s breeding become more apparent. Ironicus is a son of leading sire Distorted Humor, whose most notable runners include 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Funny Cide and 2010 Belmont (G1) winner Drosselmeyer. Furthermore, Ironicus’ dam—Meghan’s Joy—is a daughter of A.P. Indy, the long-winded Belmont winner known as a strong influence for stamina on dirt.

Meghan’s Joy has been a sensation as a broodmare, producing half a dozen stakes winners. Four of them did their best work on turf, but the remaining two—Brooklyn (G2) winner Norumbega and Stuyvesant H. (G3) winner Hunting—were accomplished two-turn dirt stars.

There’s also more to Thundering Emilia than first meets the eye. Her sire, Thunder Gulch, was voted champion three-year-old male of 1995 after rattling off victories in the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Travers (G1), and Florida Derby (G1). As a broodmare sire, his descendants have enjoyed plenty of success on dirt, with his daughters foaling Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Bayern and Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Lovely Maria.

Thundering Emilia has already contributed two graded stakes winners to Thunder Gulch’s tally as a broodmare sire. In addition to Helium, Thundering Emilia is the dam of Emilia’s Moon, who won the Clasico Polla de Potrancas (G1) racing one mile on dirt.

Taking all of these factors together, it’s easy to understand why Helium has developed into a multi-surface threat. And while Ironicus was a miler, the remainder of Helium’s pedigree is packed with two-turn stamina, suggesting classic distances will be well within reach. Don’t let first glances fool you—from a pedigree perspective, racing 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May shouldn’t be any issue for Helium.