On his sire's side, undefeated RUNHAPPY Santa Anita Derby (USA-G1) winner Taiba has as good credentials as any horse out there, being by the red-hot young stallion Gun Runner. The 2017 American Horse of the Year, Gun Runner has sired three other Grade 1 winners thus far from his first crop, foals of 2019, including undefeated 2021 American champion 2-year-old filly Echo Zulu, now a top contender for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (USA-G1), and recent Arkansas Derby (USA-G1) winner Cyberknife, who will likely make his next start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (USA-G1). It is the dam's side that will undoubtedly have pedigree pundits scratching their heads, for in the two starts of his brief career, Taiba has shown talent far beyond anything seen in his female family in generations.
This family began its journey to the United States via Atenea II, a 1961 product of leading Uruguayan stud Haras Casupá. Acknowledged as the champion Uruguayan 3-year-old filly of her year, she was exported to Puerto Rico, where she joined the broodmare band of Potrero del Sur. There, to a mating with juvenile stakes winner Stevward (a son of 1955 American Horse of the Year and important sire Nashua), she produced Etherea.
Taking after her precocious sire, Etherea placed in three Puerto Rican stakes as a juvenile but failed to progress beyond that level. Given that she was bred to a series of stallions that had at best modest credentials. she probably did as well as could be expected. Her first five foals were bred in Puerto Rico, and the only one of the five to start or win was her first, Caterea (by the Roman horse Catullus). Catullus had been a good stakes winner as a juvenile, but Caterea defied her precocious heritage by waiting to win a stakes race until she was 4.
After this series of foals, Etherea was covered by the Raise a Native horse Grand Rights (an unraced half brother to 1974 French champion 3-year-old male Caracolero) and sent to Kentucky, where she produced Grand Glory in 1982. Like Caterea, Grand Glory waited until 4 to show her best form, winning the listed American Beauty Stakes over 5.5 furlongs at Oaklawn Park and the Fargo Stakes over 8.5 furlongs at Canterbury Downs for owner Elizabeth Alexander.
As Alexander and her husband Quentin were Ohio residents, their primary focus as breeders was on the lucrative Ohio state-bred program. Nonetheless, Grand Glory's record was good enough to gain access to a better class of stallions than her dam had visited, and the Alexanders made use of that access. Grand Glory produced seven winners from her eight foals, including 1997 Governor's Buckeye Cup Stakes winner Lived It Up (by Devil's Bag).
More importantly for the future, Grand Glory produced Phone Switch to a 1992 cover by the top sprinter and good speed sire Phone Trick. A winner of five of her 24 starts, Phone Switch was primarily a sprinter but not a very talented one. Nonetheless, she produced three foals that garnered black type in the Ohio-bred program, culminating with Sousaphone. A 2004 daughter of 1999 European champion sprinter Stravinsky, Sousaphone took after her sire in preferring the grass but stayed better than either parent, winning the 2008 Vivacious Handicap (a state-bred race) over 8.5 furlongs at River Downs and placing third at the same distance in the 2009 Endeavour Stakes (USA-G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Kiosk, Phone Switch's 2000 daughter by the winning Afleet horse Left Banker, was not as talented but nonetheless earned her oats, placing in five state-bred stakes at ages 2 through 4 before retiring to the paddocks to produce three stakes winners in the Ohio-bred program. Like her dam, she was a sprinter, but her best daughter, Needmore Flattery (by A. P. Indy's good sire son Flatter), was able to stretch her speed to intermediate distances. A multiple stakes winner at ages 2, 3, and 4 and multiple stakes-placed at 5, Needmore Flattery was also the most durable and consistent of her dam's runners, winning 17 of her 39 starts and placing in another 10. Her record earned her a chance to visit Gun Runner's court, and she made the most of it, producing Taiba as her second foal. Her first foal, the 2018 Uncle Mo colt Need More Mo, has not raced, and her last known produce is a 2020 filly by Uncle Mo who arrived after Needmore Flattery was exported to Europe in late 2019.
Taiba will buck history if he does run in and win the Kentucky Derby, which would be only his third lifetime start. It has been done before; Leonatus won the 1883 Kentucky Derby off a single start at 2 and a win in the Blue Ribbon Stakes at 3, and he went on to rack up a 10-for-10 3-year-old season that gained him acclaim as the best American 3-year-old male of his year. Leonatus faced only six rivals in the Derby, though, a far cry from the full field of 20 likely to contest this year's renewal. Taiba has never faced a field with anything like the traffic problems routinely encountered in the Derby, and how the inexperienced colt will react to being jostled about inside other horses or having dirt kicked in his face is anyone's guess. Should he succeed in capturing the roses, he will write one of the more unusual stories in Kentucky Derby history, both because of his meteoric rise to Classic success and because of a female family that will have risen to fame with equal suddenness after a long, strange journey off the beaten path.