Bloodlines Presented By No-No Cribbing Collar: Hit Show's Little-Known Kentucky Derby Connection - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Bloodlines Presented By No-No Cribbing Collar: Hit Show’s Little-Known Kentucky Derby Connection

Candy Ride colt Hit Show, ridden by Manny Franco, captures the Withers

Among the 20 colts entered for the 2023 Kentucky Derby on May 6, there is one who is unique among his peers for a tie to a Kentucky Derby winner of decades past. Hit Show has this special heritage and was bred in Kentucky by Gary and Mary West Stables Inc. and races for the Wests, like many other of their homebreds.

Hit Show's dam, also bred by the Wests, is the Tapit mare Actress, who won her maiden in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico in 2017. And the dam of Actress is Canadian champion Milwaukee Appeal (Milwaukee Brew), winner of the Woodbine Oaks and second in both the G1 Alabama and Spinster during her championship season.

After these two high-class racers, the family thins out for a couple of generations until we come to Hit Show's fifth dam, the stakes winner Here's Inez (Venetian Court). She is the connection to one of the least-known Kentucky Derby winners, at least in pedigrees.

That horse is the 1960 Derby winner Venetian Way.

Bred in Kentucky by John W. Greathouse, whose family still owns and operates Glencrest Farm near Midway, Ky., Venetian Way came from the first crop of the Eight Thirty stallion Royal Coinage, who won the 1954 Saratoga Special and Sapling and finished third behind divisional champion Nashua (Nasrullah) in the Futurity Stakes.

Injured in the Futurity and subsequently sent to stud at the Stallion Station outside Lexington, Royal Coinage sired some good-looking foals, but Venetian Way was a star among them from the first. Brought to the 1958 Keeneland summer yearling sale by his breeder, the striking chestnut colt with a blaze down his face sold for $10,500 to Isaac Blumberg's Sunny Blue Farm.

The following year, Venetian Way proved both precocious and talented. Among other races, he won the Washington Park Futurity, one of the richest events for juveniles at the time, and continued to progress into his second season of racing.

However, while unquestionably talented and ranked second behind only divisional champion Warfare (Determine) on the Experimental Free Handicap ratings of juveniles for their 3-year-old season, Venetian Way had more than his share of challenges. He was reported to have bucked shins multiple times, to have sore stifles, and eventually was found to have a splint which made him unwilling even to leave his stall.

These nagging physical woes kept Venetian Way from prospering in accord to his natural ability. He would race well, then poorly. Owner Blumberg and trainer Vic Sovinski persevered, however, and in the spring of 1960, Venetian Way ran a superb race to finish a nose second to Bally Ache (Ballydam) in the Florida Derby. That effort mattered enough that, although Venetian Way did not win a Derby prep, he still started a well-regarded third choice among 13 runners at Churchill Downs.

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In the 1960 Kentucky Derby itself, the race second-choice Bally Ache led the way until Venetian Way rallied past him in the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths. E.P. Taylor's Victoria Park (Chop Chop) was 7 ½ lengths farther back in third, and favorite Tompion (Tom Fool) was fourth.

Venetian Way was then unplaced behind front-running Bally Ache in the Preakness before returning to finish second in the Belmont Stakes behind Celtic Ash (Sicambre). The flashy chestnut Venetian Way did not win another top race, subsequently was injured in the Arlington Classic when third, and was retired to stud.

As a sire, however, Venetian Way was woefully infertile and sired only 31 foals, then fractured a hind leg and was euthanized in 1964 at age seven. None of the stallion's foals won a stakes, but one of them, a colt by the name of Venetian Court, is the hero of his sire's star-crossed stallion career.

Racing from age two through seven, Venetian Court won only two of 17 starts, earning $5,283. That doesn't seem like a racing record to build a story on, nor a record likely to earn the horse a spot at stud. Somehow, it did.

Sent to stud in Ohio, Venetian Court sired only about half as many foals as Venetian Way, but one of those was a stakes winner. That was Here's Inez, and she is the fifth dam of Hit Show.

From the data I can summon, the family of Here's Inez is the only connection between contemporary graded stakes winners and the 1960 Kentucky Derby winner Venetian Way, a handsome colt of great talent and a powerful mix of good and ill fortune.

The romance of finding a nearly forgotten former hero of the Kentucky classic among the ancestors of a current classic entrant is an entertaining story, but the keys to the talent and potential of Hit Show lie in Candy Ride, his outstanding sire, and Actress, his graded stakes-winning dam, and her sire, Tapit, a source of classic ability without question in contemporary racing.

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