Looking for an edge in the 2024 Kentucky Derby

In-depth research of the last 22 Derby winners show 82% share the same traits.

Everyone looks for an edge in handicapping. Some examine speed figures and graphs. Others look at trainer and jockey stats for specific races and situations. Then there’s trip handicapping and, of course, pedigree.

How a horse performs on the track can correlate to breeding. Everyone expects big things from the youngster by a top stallion out of a stakes-winning or producing mare.

So, using tools used in breeding can sometimes transfer to handicapping.

G.W. Trompf, a Professor in the History of Ideas at the University of Sydney, Australia, observed that most Western concepts of historic recurrence imply that “the past teaches lessons for… future action” (that) “the same… sorts of events which have happened before… will recur…”

This is true of Kentucky Derby winners. Most have commonalities that take them all the way to Churchill Down’s winner’s circle.

The Common Link is Pedigree

Until recently, pedigree enthusiasts reviewed only the first few generations for speed and stamina because diving deeper into the pedigree by studying deep linebreeding for key ancestors required hours of research. 

Federico Tesio, the legendary Italian whose influences on Thoroughbred breeding are still felt today, used deep inbreeding (duplication within four generations) and linebreeding (duplications between the fifth and ninth generations) patterns to intensify the positive characteristics of dominant ancestors. And he did it all by hand. His studies resulted in undefeated champions such as Nearco, Ribot, Donatello, and Cavaliere D’Arpino. All of them had accumulations of linebreeding to key ancestors from 12 to 24 instances.

That was then. Now, thanks to the AI-driven Pedigrees 360, it’s easy to identify the attributes and critical breeding clusters that create champions.

Curious to see if Kentucky Derby winners had breeding traits in common, I reviewed the pedigree attributes of the last 22 Derby heroes. Actually, the last 20, plus two that crossed the finish line first but were disqualified.

Surprising traits of the last 22 Derby winners

I discovered some surprising characteristics.

Here’s some background info about the Linebreeding Cluster Theory used in the study.

Using Tesio’s methods, Pedigree 360 identified 48 clusters, eight were significant in identifying champions and slow horses.

The clusters were put into a color-coded chart and assigned values. Red is slow/very slow, yellow average/competitive, and green exceptional. The values are Very Slow, Slow, Competitive, Champion & Reine DeCourse, and Tesio.

You can learn more about the linebreeding theory here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSsqkb7dcWM

Deep Linebreeding Patterns Shared by the Last 22 Kentucky Derby Winners


In-depth research of the last 22 Kentucky Derby winners yielded startling commonalities. 82% shared the same traits.

14 winners had between 1 to 3 clusters in the topmost area. American Pharoah had 4.

12 had a cluster profile in the top left S1 quadrant.


Four Derby winners were anomalies.

Medina Spirit had the best profile, the only one with green values. However, he had 4 slow/very slow traits.

The other colts, Always Dreaming, Maximum Security, and Rich Strike had either yellow or red values.

So, how did this information work for last year’s Kentucky Derby field?

Eight colts had green clusters at the top of the chart.

Six, including Mage and third-place finisher Angel of Empire, had a cluster at the top of the S1 quadrant.

Of course, this isn’t a foolproof method, and there are many variables to consider when picking a Kentucky Derby winner. All of that can go out the window when the horses we choose have bad trips, and a longshot has an excellent one.

However, Tesio and the legends of his era were onto something when their breeding theories were proven successful on the track. Perhaps we can use some of their knowledge to do the same.

This year’s Kentucky Derby Guide includes Cluster Profiles for each contender. See who fits the winning profile!

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