Pedigree fun facts for the 2018 Belmont Stakes

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June 9th, 2018

If some pedigrees are more obviously stamina-oriented than others, all of the Belmont S. (G1) contenders have ancestral connections to winners who have passed the “Test of the Champion.”

Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) star Justify hopes to sweep the Triple Crown that eluded his male-line ancestor Northern Dancer, a well-beaten third in the 1964 Belmont. But Justify does have five Belmont winners within his 5-cross pedigree – Damascus (1967), Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Triple Crown hero Seattle Slew (1977), and A.P. Indy (1992). There are even more if you go beyond five generations, e.g., Secretariat (1973) who appears twice in the sixth generation. Justify also has a close duplication of Nijinsky II, the last English Triple Crown (1970) legend. 

Hofburg boasts a terrific Belmont pedigree. For starters, he’s by Tapit, sire of three of the last four winners. And Hofburg’s inbred 3x3 to A.P. Indy, a pattern that gives him six Belmont heroes on the page, between A.P. himself, his sire Seattle Slew, and broodmare sire Secretariat. Moreover, Hofburg is out of a mare by 1997 Belmont victor Touch Gold, who famously denied Silver Charm a Triple Crown in the final strides. Hofburg is himself a half-brother to four-time Grade 1-winning millionaire Emollient from a stellar family, the female line responsible for Northern Dancer.

Tenfold and Vino Rosso are likewise by a classic sire in Curlin, the near-misser in the 2007 Belmont who sired 2013 winner Palace Malice.

Tenfold’s dam is by Tapit, and his great-granddam is champion turf mare Possibly Perfect. Five Belmont winners factor in Tenfold’s five-cross pedigree – the typical Native Dancer, Nashua, A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew but also Avatar (1975) – along with Epsom Derby victors Sir Ivor (1968) and Nijinsky II.

Vino Rosso is out of a Street Cry mare who’s a half-sister to Commissioner, just thwarted in the 2014 Belmont. Although Vino Rosso has just two Belmont winners in his first five generations (Native Dancer and Nashua), he sports three Epsom winners in Sir Ivor, Troy (1979), and Roberto (1972).

Free Drop Billy is the only entrant sired by a Belmont winner, Union Rags (2012). Secretariat factors twice in his fifth generation, and Seattle Slew appears back there too. Free Drop Billy’s five-cross pedigree also features Epsom winners Nijinsky II and Roberto. And he probably has turf in his future as a half-brother to Godolphin’s current multiple Group 1 globetrotter Hawkbill.

Bravazo is bred on the same cross as two Belmont runners-up of recent years – Paynter, who was caught late by Union Rags, and Oxbow, who was coming off a score in the 2013 Preakness. By Awesome Again, they are all out of mares by Cee’s Tizzy. The only Belmont winner in the first five generations is Seattle Slew, but as his close relatives illustrate, that’s not a fair indicator of their stamina.

Gronkowski, by Australian superstar Lonhro, descends from the male line of Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor, via his son *Sir Tristram who became a legendary sire after his export to New Zealand. His son in turn, Zabeel, was his true heir in furthering the legacy, siring the great Octagonal, sire of Lonhro. Gronkowski has Belmont-winning ancestors in the sixth generation, with Native Dancer and Nashua each appearing twice.

Blended Citizen is by Proud Citizen, who placed in the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness but was unfortunately injured when fifth in the Belmont. Blended Citizen’s half-brother, 2017 Derby runner-up Lookin at Lee, went on to finish fourth in the Preakness and a distant seventh in the Belmont. But Blended Citizen does have five Belmont winners in his five-cross pedigree, with the usual suspects Native Dancer, Nashua, and Secretariat, plus Conquistador Cielo (1982) and Damascus.

Restoring Hope, a son of recently deceased Giant's Causeway, is out of a Tapit mare. Three Belmont winners appear in five generations (Secretariat, A.P. Indy, and Seattle Slew) along with two from Epsom (Roberto and Nijinsky).

Noble Indy, by Take Charge Indy, has five Belmont winners in his five-cross pedigree. Grandsire A.P. Indy brings along Seattle Slew and Secretariat, and Secretariat appears twice more.

Photo of Justify with the Belmont grandstand as a backdrop by Jamie Newell/