2017 Kentucky Derby Analysis: Doug O’Neill earned another trip to the Derby with IRAP, but does he have a realistic chance to win?

This the second horse in my series analyzing every horse that has earned enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby. Today, we discuss one of the more improbable and unlikely candidates, IRAP. A maiden going into the Blue Grass Stakes, IRAP had two things going for him: a serious lack of pace in the race, and a front-running pace bias that became very evident as the day wore on at Keeneland.

Even with all the positives helping him, IRAP really had little chance on paper to come into that race against what many handicappers thought was the strongest Derby-prep to date. He ended up pressing the pace just to the outside of WILD SHOT who loves to be on the front end. WILD SHOT’S lack of class showed as weakened nearing the quarter pole and IRAP took over into the lane. Oddly enough, IRAP refused to switch leads while in the stretch. He continued to run on the same lead through the entire race all the way to the wire. Obviously, it didn’t matter as the only rival with a chance to close on him was PRACTICAL JOKE , and he looked to be a major threat, and realistically, should have gone right by IRAP, but he didn’t, he flattened out, looked out of shape, and finished second.

IRAP won the race, fair and square. That’s a fact and we have to handicap his chances of winning the Kentucky Derby. Let’s look at an analysis of his pedigree, running style, and physical condition.


Sire: Tiznow

Tiznow ran as we moved into the 21st century and horse racing began to change forever with the development of the internet. The stacks and stacks of Daily Racing Form’s old-timers used to have aging in the corner of their den are no longer. I like to think Tiznow was the last of a generation.

Oddly, Tiznow had four white socks and a white tornado blaze. Very unique and usually not attributed to a successful race horse. It’s like finding a four-leaf clover. Owners’ and Breeders’, Cecilia Straub-Rubens and Michael Cooper definitely struck gold with this bay colt. He was sired by CEE’S TIZZY and out of the CEE’S SONG. His grandsire was the great RELAUNCH.

Many people my age don’t remember that Tiznow fractured his leg and missed his entire 2-year-old season. It took three starts to win at the MSW-level and he followed that up with a victory in the Grade 1 – Affirmed Handicap beating the great horse and sire, DIXIE UNION by a short neck. His next couple starts were unsuccessful, but according to jockey Chris McCarron, he learned a lot from those races.

Tiznow then shipped down to Bossier City, Louisiana for the Grade 1 – Super Derby and conquered in wire to wire fashion. It was extremely impressive, winning by six lengths, and being hand ridden the entire way around the track. This was the race that started Tiznow’s journey towards greatness.

That year, he entered the Breeders’ Cup Classic and because he was not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup as a foal, his ownership had to pay $360,000 for entry into the race. And, it wasn’t like it was a guaranteed victory. He faced the following horses: FUSIACHI PEGASUS, LEMON DROP KID, ALBERT THE GREAT, and GIANT’S CAUSEWAY. A phrase to describe the race, ‘Tough as it gets’. None of it mattered, Tiznow won by a neck over Giant’s Causeway.

That big win capped off an amazing year to start the 21st-century. Tiznow was all set for his 4-year-old campaign and it was amazing. He won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the  San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes (G1), and then capped it off with an exciting victory by a nose as the fourth betting choice in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to win it for the second straight year.


Probably, the most important part to this article is how Tiznow has performed as a stud. He was retired to WinStar Farm following the 2001 season. According to most, Tiznow had modest California breeding that would produce winners, but wasn’t thought to produce anything of Derby quality.

Boy, were they wrong! He led the freshmen sire list in 2005. His first crop included Eclipse Award winning filly, FOLKLORE. She won the BC Juvenile Fillies (G1).

A big positive for IRAP is that Tiznow’s progeny have proven to be most successful at distances of 8 furlongs or longer. With all three Triple Crown distances above that mark, he should do very well running at the distance if he is talented enough.


  1. Da’Tara (2008 Belmont winner)
  2. Well Armed (2009 Dubai World Cup winner)
  3. Colonel John (2008 Travers winner)
  4. Gemologist (2012 Wood Memorial winner)

His grandsire Cee’s Tizzy sired 39 stakes winners of more than $37 million. He was one of the most successful sires stabled in the state of California.

Tiznow is a half to stakes winner BUDROYALE, TIZBUD, and TIZDUBAI. He was also half to the stakes placed C’MON TIGER.


Silken Cat was a 2-year-old champion filly in Canada. She won three of four starts and earned over $100,000. She also won the Mazarine Stakes.

Irap is a half to 2004 Eclipse Award winner SPEIGHTSTOWN.

Irap gets a lot of his speed from his immediate female line which makes sense considering that Silken Cat produced the likes of Speightstown. She got a lot of her amazing pedigree from Terlingua, Crimson Saint, and others. She was well bred with crosses to Bold Ruler, Princequillo, and Nearco.

The biggest problem facing IRAP on the female side of things is distance. There isn’t much of it to boast about immediately and it will be a major problem he needs to overcome even with the benefits of Tiznow on top.



Size: He was huge headed for the auction ring and followed in the footsteps of his father. He is a very large animal. And bigger than many of his counterparts

Gait: He has nice quick reaction in his stride and it makes sense, he is a front-runner. From what I can tell personally, he doesn’t have the best leg extension up front and for that matter, the horse didn’t switch leads in the Blue Grass until he was on the turn. Not the far turn, the first turn after he already had crossed the finish line, lol. He’s obviously still learning to be a racehorse.

Overall he is a bulky speed horse. He will win some mile races and obviously he won the 9 furlong Blue Grass, but it took a big speed bias and a race with zero pace.

I don’t think that is exactly what you want to hear about a Derby horse.





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