Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Mr. Big News

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 1st, 2020

Ask a large handful of handicappers to review the pedigree of Kentucky Derby contender Mr. Big News, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone doubting the bay colt’s ability to negotiate 1 1/4 miles.

Mr. Big News Pedigree
Storm Cat
Giant's Causeway
Mariah's Storm
Mr. Big News
Angelic Song

But here’s the biggest question—is Mr. Big News cut out to be a dirt horse? Granted, he handled dirt just fine while winning Oaklawn Park’s 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn S. during the spring. But even a quick glance at Mr. Big News’ pedigree suggests turf racing might be his true forte.

Mr. Big News is a son of the late, great Giant’s Causeway, whose versatility knew few boundaries. His racing prowess was impressive; he finished first or second in all 13 of his starts, winning half a dozen Group 1 races over distances ranging from 7 furlongs to 1 5/16 miles. Based in Europe, Giant’s Causeway spent the majority of his career racing on turf, but switched to dirt for the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs and ran a huge race to finish second by a neck.

Giant’s Causeway was equally successful at stud, leading the North American sire rankings in 2009, 2010, and 2012. His progeny have thrived over multiple surfaces, with a seemingly equal number competing successfully on dirt and turf. Eight of his sons have competed in the Kentucky Derby, including Creative Cause, who took third-place honors in 2012. Yet Giant’s Causeway is also the sire of Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Bricks and Mortar, a pure grass horse who nabbed five Grade 1 wins on his way to 2019 Horse of the Year honors.

If there’s one tendency uniting the progeny of Giant’s Causeway, it’s their affinity for running extended distances. The average winning distance of Giant’s Causeway’s foals is a lofty 8.1 furlongs, making clear how much stamina they typically inherit from their long-winded sire. While Giant’s Causeway has never sired an American classic winner, son Destin did finish second by a nose in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1).

The bottom half of Mr. Big News’ pedigree doubles down on stamina and turf influences. Dam Unappeased was an unremarkable competitor, failing to win a single race, but she’s always had the pedigree to be a top-class broodmare. Produced by the unraced Halo mare Angelic Song, previously the dam of 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup (G1) winner Sligo Bay, Unappeased is a daughter of superstar stallion Galileo, who has sired more Group 1 winners than any other stallion in history.

Victorious in the historic Epsom Derby (G1) racing 1 1/2 miles on grass, Galileo tends to pass on stamina at stud, with his progeny winning at an average distance of 11.2 furlongs according to Racing Post statistics. That’s not to say he’s incapable of siring speedier types (the undefeated miler Frankel is living proof of the brilliance Galileo can bestow on his progeny), but multitudes of Galileo’s foals have thrived running 1 1/4 miles or farther, including half a dozen Epsom Derby winners.

However, dirt racing and Galileo’s bloodlines are like oil and water—they just don’t seem to mix. Galileo himself failed to fire in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic, trudging home seventh in the only poor effort of his career. His classy miler sons Churchill and Gleneagles likewise struggled in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while Galileo’s three starters on dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2) all finished off the board.

To date, not many horses have been bred on the Giant’s Causeway/Galileo cross, but the mixing seems destined to primarily produce long-winded turf horses. Certainly Mr. Big News’ full brother, Lalibela, showed an affinity for grass when rallying to victory in a 1 1/8-mile turf maiden race at Gulfstream Park.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s fair to say Mr. Big News has outrun his pedigree by displaying stakes-winning talent on dirt. But switching to grass might unlock even greater potential from this capable colt.