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Kentucky Derby Spotlight: Taiba

Kentucky Derby contender Taiba winning the Santa Anita Derby, sired by Gun Runner.
Taiba winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Photo courtesy of Ernie Belmonte.

Kentucky Derby Spotlight: Taiba

Kentucky Derby contender Taiba may be the most inexperienced horse in the race, but he certainly is not lacking in talent.

Taiba is by Gun Runner, a sensational 6x Grade 1 winner that earned more than $15 million. Gun Runner was 3rd in the 2016 Ky Derby. Taiba is out of Need More Flattery, a multiple stakes-winning daughter of Flatter. This regally bred colt was a $140k yearling and resold for a whopping $1.7 million as a two-year-old.

Taiba has only raced two times, but he is coming into the Kentucky Derby undefeated. He broke his maiden by 8 lengths in March for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Zedan Racing before running down fellow Ky Derby contender Messier in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) for trainer Tim Yakteen.

[Video: Watch Taiba break his maiden]

This is a special horse for breeder Bruce Ryan. Ryan has been breeding and raising horses for more than 30 years and Taiba is his first Grade 1 winner. According to Ryan, Taiba really resembles his dam NeedMore Flattery.

“He does everything his mother did. She would not turn on the afterburners until the last sixteenth, and he did that comfortably and easy,” he said in an interview with BloodHorse.

“The way he drops his head when he’s running is the way NeedMore Flattery ran, she dropped her head and runs with the same style,” Three Chimneys’ director of stallion nominations Tom Hamm further described. “What is interesting is Gun Runner ran the same way. I guess he got a double dose of that style.”

Taiba has some interesting Derby connections. Last year, Taiba’s owners Zedan Racing and his former trainer Bob Baffert were taken to the winner’s circle by Medina Spirit, but were later disqualified for a drug violation. Baffert is currently serving a 90-day suspension and is barred from all three Triple Crown races this year. Taiba is among a slew of former Baffert horses that were recently transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen.

Taiba has the benefit of being piloted by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Smith rode Giacomo to Derby glory in 2005 and soared to Triple Crown-winning fame with Justify in 2018. Taiba and Justify share other similarities besides their jockey — neither horse raced as a two-year-old but got into the Kentucky Derby after winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Justify was just the 2nd horse to win the Ky Derby without racing at 2, breaking the infamous “Apollo’s Curse” named after the horse that won the Derby in 1882 without racing at two, and who until Justify came along was the only horse to do so.

Taiba has drawn post #12 in the Kentucky Derby and has morning line odds of 12-1. Will you be rooting for him on Saturday?

[Video: Watch Taiba beat fellow Kentucky Derby contenders Messier and Happy Jack in the Santa Anita Derby]


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