How Are The Kentucky Derby Horses Related? Horse Racing Has Some Common Lineages

On Saturday, 20 of the most athletic horses in racing competed in the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby. The annual event has become an American tradition and a popular social outing for celebrities, politicians, and the like. Meanwhile, it has also become somewhat of a family reunion for the horses that run it, as many of the Kentucky Derby racehorses are related.

Nyquist, a three-year-old thoroughbred, took home the coveted garland of roses, winning the Derby ahead of rivals Exaggerator and Gun Runner. Nyquist is owned by J. Paul Reddam, a Canadian businessman who previously won the Derby in 2012 with I'll Have Another. Nyquist and I'll Have Another also had the same trainer and jockey, Doug O'Neill and Mario Gutierrez, respectively. Exaggerator, who came in second, is trained and jockeyed by a pair of brothers, Keith and Kent Desormeaux. But it's not just the human participants that were familiar and related.

When Nyquist ran in Saturday's Derby, he competed against two of his half-brothers. The Derby winner, Mo Tom, and Outwork were all sired by Uncle Mo, a thoroughbred who withdrew from the Derby in 2011. That's not all: Another retired thoroughbred, Tapit, also had three sons in Saturday's Derby, including Mohaymen and Creator. There was also a nephew-uncle pair: According to records from Blood-Horse, Destin was sired by Giant's Causeway, while Mor Spirit was sired by Giant's Causeway's son, Eskendereya. The deeper you go into each horse's lineage, the more connections you find.

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If you're thinking that the winding family tree is a funny coincidence, think again. As it turns out, people in the horse racing sport pay a pretty penny to have horses bred from certain lineages, and the owners of retired racehorses earn quite the haul. Uncle Mo, for instance, brings in $75,000 for each mare he mates with — and he's typically mating with three different mares per day, according to a report from CBS. Remember, Uncle Mo, while successful, does not have a Kentucky Derby title to his name. That would drive the price of mating even higher.

Take American Pharoah, for example. American Pharoah won the coveted — and rare — Triple Crown title last year, after he won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Now retired from racing, American Pharoah has started to mate. He reportedly earns a whopping $200,000 for each healthy foal. By the time he was just halfway through his first breeding season, American Pharoah had brought in more than twice as much money as he had ever won racing.

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In other words, it's probably OK if Nyquist doesn't snag that Triple Crown title later this year. He could still have a bright future elsewhere in the horse racing industry. Either way, his next race — at the Preakness in Baltimore — will probably be just as much a family affair as Saturday's Kentucky Derby.