Blind Optimism

I recently purchased a half share in a one eyed, two year old (who should make a nice three year old), for a four figure sum 🙂

Unsurprisingly, this expenditure got me curious about horses with partial blindness. There is no central data point to uncover listings of horses with this affliction, but I was able to compile the following listing of partially blind horses who had an impact on racing or breeding:

1. Dante (1942 Nearco ex Rosy Legend by Dark Legend).

Dante was the first Northern trained Derby winner since Pretender in 1869. He started suffering a decline in vision before the 2000 Guineas in which he was a narrow loser and was probably blind in his left eye at the time of that race. He was an unbeaten two year old, successful in the Coventry and Middle Park and the Guineas was his only defeat in 9 starts. He was being prepared for the St Leger but never ran again after the Derby.Dante enjoyed a good stud career (despite a relatively early death) with the likes of 2000 Guineas winner Darius and the Oaks winner Carozza to his credit.

2. Arctic Tern (1973 Seabird ex Bubbling Beauty by Hasty Road).
Arctic Tern came from the last crop of Sea Bird but came from a quality female line having Almahmoud as his grandam, a position she also occupied in the pedigrees of Northern Dancer and Halo. He was blind in his right eye but this did not impact on his racing career which saw him consistently competitive at the highest level. His 22 race career over three seasons saw him amass 4 victories with the highlight being a Group 1 victory to his credit in the 1977 Prix Ganay. He was also placed in that year’s Eclipse Stakes behind Artaius.
He did even better at stud, siring consecutive French Oaks winners in his first two crops (Harbour and Escaline), a Derby runner-up in Glacial Storm and best of all the outstanding Bering who would have been an undisputed champion most years but had the misfortune to be a contemporary of Dancing Brave.

3. Pollard’s Vision (2001 Carson City ex Etats Unis by Dixieland Band)
Pollard’s Vision was named after Ron Pollard best known these days as Seabiscuit’s one eyed jockey. A decent career saw him win the Grade II Illinois Derby and later finish runner up in the Pimlico Special. He made a big start to his stud career with the outstanding filly (and wonderfully named) Blind Luck (Pollard’s Vision ex Lucky One by Best of Luck) , being a member of his first crop. However, to date he has failed to sire anything comparable to Blind Luck.

4. Among the vision impaired fillies, The Dancer (1977  Green Dancer ex Khazaeen by Charlottesville ) won the May Hill Stakes and finished third to Bireme in the 1980 Oaks. At stud she produced a high class performer in Mack the Knife (by Kris) who finished runner up in the Racing Post Trophy.

5. Mention of Kris leads us neatly to Moon Cactus (1987 Kris ex Lady Moon by Mill Reef ) who came even closer to classic success having finished runner up in the French Oaks to Rafha (also by Kris and even more famous as the dam of Invincible Spirit and Kodiac). Moon Cactus did achieve stakes success in the Prestige Stakes and Sweet Solera Stakes .She proved a top class broodmare producing the 1995 Oaks winner Moonshell (by Sadler’s Wells) and her full brother the impressive 2004 King George winner Doyen. She had restricted vision in her left eye.

6. Among National Hunt horses Winning Fair (1955 by Fun Fair ex Winning Hazard by Atout Maitre) was only partially sighted but it didn’t prevent him from winning the 1963 Champion Hurdle. As a gelding Winning Fair obviously had no breeding legacy but his trainer was George Spencer who is the father of top jockey Jamie Spencer. Many punters have also questioned Jamie’s eyesight over the years :)….

7. Among current runners, the Aidan O’Brien trained Eye of the Storm (2010 Galileo ex Mohican Princess by Shirley Heights) won last year’s Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes.

Infirmities of old age often mean horses lose their sight but they can continue to have breeding success.  The outstanding stallion Monsun (Konigsstuhl ex Mosella by Surumu) was blind in the latter stages of his career as were a number of prominent broodmares. Among the celebrated broodmares who went blind in later life (which typically meant their foals wore a bell so that they knew of their presence) were Floripedes, the dam of Montjeu and Park Express the dam of New Approach. Lord Derby’s, Samanda who was blinded as foal became grandam of Ouija Board and Teleprompter.
Conclusion:

It’s easy to imagine that horses might have difficulties with tight right or left handed tracks depending on which eye was lost. Similarly, they might be at a disadvantage if challenged on their blindside. However each case is different and it is difficult to evaluate just how much of a handicap sight loss is to a horse. All we can say is that the above examples prove it is not an insurmountable obstacle. I suspect my horse is far more likely to fail from lack of speed than lack of sight in one eye, but I titled this piece blind optimism and I can only hope that I might soon be adding his name to the above list of notables.

 

 

Mawatheeq-far from the Height of Fashion

It’s probably a sign of old age, but I’m finding it harder to distinguish between many of the less famous Arabic named horses. Mawatheeq was one such horse (incidentally the name means treaty or treaties), however an impressive series of results for his progeny in recent weeks, had me revisiting the record books.  I suspect that given time, Mawatheeq will rise to a more prominent position in the stallion world from his current lowly position.

Recent Results

The table below show the last six runners by Mawatheeq all of whom finished first or second. It’s a brave or foolish person who ascribes too much significance to such a sequence in early season maiden races but it does offer hope of a profitable season. In particular Mulkeyya’s debut run at the Curragh was most promising. This 25 runner maiden was won by the 106 rated The Warrior, and Mulkeyya’s performance gave hope of black type before season’s end.

List of Mawatheeq’s Recent Runners in UK and Ireland

The performance of the three year old runners is in contrast to his first two year old runners in 2014, which consisted of only 2 winners (one in Italy and one in Hungary) for the season. In Britain there were no winners from 13 runners. However, bearing in mind his own race career and that his first book consisted of only 42 mares, that lack of success is less surprising.

Mawatheeq’s Race Record

The bare facts of Mawatheeq’s career are underwhelming,showing a solitary stakes win from a 9 race career. Trained by Marcus Tregonig, he was unraced at two (reportedly due to injury), won two of his four starts at three (a maiden and a handicap), before blossoming in the Autumn of his four year old career. After a disappointing four year old reappearance in April, he won a Doncaster handicap in September before making a big leap forward with an impressive victory in the 12 furlong Group 3 Cumberland Stakes. The upward trend continued when on his seasonal bow he finished runner up in the Champion Stakes to Twice Over. It wasn’t the strongest ever field for a Champion Stakes but he still had the likes of classic winners Sariska and Fame and Glory behind him. With such an improving profile, his five year old career promised much, but proved anti-climatic consisting of a solitary run, when well beaten in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes Stakes at Royal Ascot. A recurrence of his two year old injury, saw the end of his track career and he was retired to Shadwell Stud.

Stud Career and Sales

Mawatheeq’s initial stud fee was a modest £5000 which dropped to £4000 and is now listed as private (but not in the Galileo sense of the word- more the too embarrassed to disclose sense) so we know that the mares he was covering were a modest bunch. This lack of quality is reflected in a yearling average that was just over 6000 guineas for his first two crops. He has struggled for patronage possibly due to a bias against staying sons of Danzig,as conventional wisdom would have us believe that Danzig’s really good sire sons were sprinter/milers (eg Green Desert,Danehill, War Front). In the case of Mawatheeq there was no need for Shadwell to trumpet their restricted books as you can take it they didn’t need to turn away hordes of disappointed mare owners :). Incidentally the aforementioned Mulkeyya (ex Rifqah) might be one of the best bred mares that he covered being a descendant of Allegretta.

Pedigree

Mawatheeq’s pedigree is a match for any stallion’s. He is from the last crop of the great sire and sire of sires Danzig and his female line is dripping in black type.  His dam Sarayir (by Mr Prospector) was an unbeaten stakes winning two year old, rated highly enough to make her three year old reappearance in the 1000 Guineas. That she failed to add to her reputation at three hardly detracted from her paddock valley as she was a daughter of the Queen’s Height of Fashion. Height of Fashion was top rated British Two year old filly of 1981 with victories in the Fillies Mile, and May Hill Stakes to her credit and she added a Princess of Wales’s Stakes to her record at three (in which race she broke the track record held by her half brother Milford). She was sold for an undisclosed amount (but estimated at the time to be between 1.4 and 1.8 million) after the Princess of Wales’s Stakes to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, in whose colours she ran poorly in both the King George and Yorkshire Oaks. Ultimately though, she proved to be a real bargain for the Sheikh as she became the dam of dual classic winner Nashwan Gr1x4 (by Blushing Groom), Nayef G1X4(by Gulch), Unfuwain G2 (by Northern Dancer), Alwasmi G3 (by Northern Dancer) and Mukddaam L (by Danzig) all of whom had stud careers with varying degrees of success. This success was hardly surprising as Height of Fashion’s dam Highclere was herself a winner of a 1000 Guineas and French Oaks and Highclere’s grandam Hypercium also won the 1000 Guineas. Other branches of the family have provided the likes of Japanese superstar Deep Impact (a great grandson of Highclere).

Mawatheeq’s dam Sarayir did her bit for the family tradition by producing Ghanaati (by Giant’s Causeway) who also won the 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes. In addition she is the dam of Rumoush (by Rahy) who was a listed winner and a good third to Snow Fairy in the 2010 Oaks. This is undoubtedly one of the best family’s in the stud book.

Conclusion

As one of the last sons of Danzig from a stellar family, one might have thought that Mawatheeq would live up to his grandams name as the Height of Fashion. However his initial book of only 42 mares, despite a modest fee of £5000, tells you all about the market prejudice against late maturing types. In addition he didn’t correspond to the market expectation of a good Danzig sire being best at middle distances and standing 16 1 ½ . His solitary stakes success at no more than Group 3 level also counted against him. His results to date are still very modest with no stakes performers but the early results for his three year olds are relatively promising and it will be interesting to see if his offspring continue to improve with age. On pedigree he has everything you would like to see in a stallion and at such a lowly fee he might just prove a bargain for any patient breeders, not too concerned about the yearling market.

Mawatheeq’s Page

mawatheeq's pedigree

See below for a promotional video of Mawatheeq by Shadwell

 

 

Attack on the clones

There was some coverage in the Irish media last week of the cloning of former top showjumper Cruising http://www.irishexaminer.com/sport/other-sports/mary-mccann-confirms-she-has-two-cruising-clones-312555.html .

The owners are not acting outside the rules of the sport made by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) or of the Irish sports horse stud book but I don’t think either of those bodies can fully know the impact that cloning will have on that sport. When it comes to horse racing we will hopefully never allow cloning or it will utterly destroy the sport.

What’s wrong with cloning?

1. Cloning is not about looking to breed an improved racehorse, it is about recreating an existing top class horse. It is about sameness and predictability and the elimination of risk. It is about replacing the old maxim of ‘breeding the best to the best and hope for the best’ with a new maxim of ‘clone the best’. However it is the uncertainty of breeding that underpins the industry, if cloning was to become commonplace it would kill the industry it seeks to improve. Why get involved in the genetic lottery of current breeding? Who would use current stallions, the best of whom struggle to get 10% stakes winners when you can produce a horse guaranteed to be of similar genetic ability to a past champion? With uncertainty there also exists hope and it is  this hope that totally underpins the entire breeding industry and ensures that most foals will eventually find a buyer. Who would gamble on a modestly bred foal when they could buy a clone of Frankel? The breeding industry as we know it would collapse.

2. Horse racing is dependent on gambling for its survival. We don’t know the relative merits of horses until they are tried against each other under different conditions. With clones much of that uncertainty is removed as we already have a much better idea of horses maximum abilities, optimum trips and going preferences. There would initially be great interest in running a decade of cloned Derby winners against each other but ultimately we would have a much less diverse sport with the same clones running against each other after the question of the ultimate horse has been decided and the clones of same being the only logical choice for breeders. Once horse racing becomes too predictable its attractiveness to the public will fade.

Scientific breakthroughs are chipping away at the fundamentals of the sport. Genetic testing such as those offered by equinome.com are still in their infancy but in time will certainly improve to a predictive accuracy that outstrips any of us self-appointed pedigree or bloodstock ‘experts’. I am certain that artificial insemination (AI) will be allowed for thoroughbreds within the next two decades given its advantages in disease control. By itself AI is not a threat to the fundamentals of the sport once some measures such as the destruction of straws within an agreed period following the death of the stallion are implemented. Cloning is a completely different prospect and to my mind it was a mistake to allow it in showjumping and it would be a catastrophe for horse racing.

 

 

2014 End of Season Awards- ‘The Victors’

Now that the European season is almost over, it’s time to hand out my end of year awards (The Victors)

1. Stallion of the year: Galileo who else? It’s easy to take for granted his year on year domination, but it really is extraordinary. This year so far he has sired another Derby winner in Australia, classic winner Marvellous, Group 1 winners Tapestry and Adelaide. Amongst his older horses Noble Mission has earned the right to stop being referred to as simply Frankel’s brother. More significantly the pipeline looks incredibly strong with Group 1 winning two year olds in Gleaneagles, Together Forever and Found and an even more exciting prospect in John F Kennedy. He does have all the advantages of the best mares and large books but he keeps producing the goods in a way few stallions in history could match.

2. Flop of the Year: Fastnet Rock. Just to show that Coolmore don’t always get it right. Sensational in Australia, Coolmore reverse shuttled him and patronised him with some of their elite mares. He had a slow start with his European two year olds in 2013 but we waited and waited for them to burst onto the scene in 2014 but it never really happened. The Coolmore boys recognised the game was up and sold a job lot of 9 of his yearlings to the Australian OTI syndicate. He has fallen far short of expectations (I would have expected at least 2 Gr 1 winners from that book of mares) and no tears will be shed if he doesn’t return to Ireland.

3. Breakthrough sire of the year: Kodiac. When he retired to stud in 2007 Kodiac had a modest race record with no Stakes wins to his name and his best run being a fourth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. However he had plenty to recommend him on pedigree being a son of Danehill out of a classic winner in Rafha who was the dam of rising stallion Invincible Spirit. His initial fee was €5000 and that dropped in year 3 and year 4 to €4000. Plenty of winners started to follow and after a proliferation of two year old winners in 2013 his fee reached €10000 in 2014. This year, since the beginning of the season he has been an unstoppable force with his two year olds and more importantly some have demonstrated considerable quality notably. The highlight for Kodiac was the speed machine that is Tiggy Wiggy and for good measure Kodi Bear stepped up on his previous runs to come second in the Dewhurst. In addition the 3 year old Coulsty won a group 3 as did the 6 year old Jamesie. His recent sales results include a large number of six figure sales and he is set for a very significant and justified fee hike in 2015.

4. Second Crop Sire of the Year: Le Havre. Hard to call this award as it could have gone to Sea the Stars, Mastercraftsman or Le Harve. Sea the Stars had a huge amount to live up to being one of the outstanding horses of the era, being a half brother to Galileo and having covered an outstanding book of mares. He has not disappointed having sired a superstar filly in Taghrooda, and a scintillating winner of the German derby in Sea the Moon as part of a very impressive haul of 10 stakes winners. Mastercraftsman had a lesser book of mares than Sea the Stars ((althought not a bad book of mares given his initial fee was €20000) but surpassed expectations by delivering two classic winners in Kingston Hill and the Grey Gatsby. However my selection is Le Havre who despite having won a Prix du Jockey Club was retired at a fee of just €5000. He has repaid his supporters in spades with a dual classic winner in Avenir Certain, a Group 2 winner in Auvray and the high class Le Hoguette amongst 6 stakes winners. He has earned the right to much bigger and better books in 2015.

5. First season sire of the year: Lope de Vega. For most of the season I had the name Starspangledbanner pencilled in for this award. He looked like he had the makings of a fine stallion getting a pair of impressive Royal Ascot winners in The Wow Signal and Alexander Anthem from a depleted first crop (due to fertility issues). However although The Wow Signal added a Group 1, the lustre has slightly faded from this pair and no other stakes winners have emerged. In contrast the offspring of Lope De Vega have really come good as the season progressed and he can already boast of four Group winners headed by recent Dewhurst winner Belardo, backed up by Italian Group 2 winner Here Look and a pair of Group 3 winners in Burnt Sugar and Royal Razalma. In addition Endless Drama put up a most impressive performance when winning today at Naas as he towered over his rivals in every sense. Given that Lope de Vega was better at three when he emulated his own sire Shamardal by winning the French Guineas and Derby Ballylinch Stud must be hopeful that his momentum will continue. Lope de Vega retired at a fee of €15000 and stood for €12500 for the past two years but a big hike is to be expected.

6. Performance of the Year: Sole Power in the Nunthorpe Stakes. Sole Power is a standing dish in the top sprints and won the Nunthorpe back in 2010 (at which time I wrote about his pedigree (http://www.montjeu.com/archives/295). His winning performance in this year’s edition really had to be seen to be believed as he showed remarkable acceleration against high class sprinters.  Enjoy it for yourself here

 

Madame Chiang-special, special, special!

The Musidora Stakes was won today by Madame Chiang, who is now unbeaten in her two runs. It was a great result for Lanwades who stand her sire Archipenko and bred her dam Robe Chinoise and granddam Kiliniski.
Madame Chiang probably goes to Epsom with a similar chance to Kiliniski who finished 4th in the vintage 1985 renewal. I wrote about the fillies in the 1985 Oaks and their subsequent achievements in this article http://www.montjeu.com/archives/547 . However it now seems I was far too hasty in dismissing Kiliniski with the one liner “In fourth was Kiliniski (Niniski-Kilavea by Hawaii) but she made no impact as a broodmare” 🙂 Homer nods.
Kiliniski should have made more of an impact as her granddam is none other than the breed shaper Special who acts as dam of Nureyev and grand-dam of Sadler’s Wells.
It is easy to imagine the fun Kirsten Rausing had in planning the breeding of Madame Chiang. Archipenko (Kingmambo ex Bound by Nijinsky) has Special as her granddam and her name appears again via Nureyev the dam of Miesque. For good measure Nijinsky appears twice as broodmare sire of Bound and as the sire of Lanwades foundation sire Niniski.
With an unbeaten Group 3 winning classic filly as the outcome she can rightly feel very pleased with herself.

 

MADAME CHIANG (GB) 2011 f b

Archipenko
(USA) 2004
Kingmambo
(USA) 1990
Mr
Prospector (USA) 1970
Raise
A Native (USA) 1961
Gold
Digger (USA) 1962
Miesque
(USA) 1984
Nureyev
(USA) 1977
Pasadoble
(USA) 1979
Bound
(USA) 1984
Nijinsky
(CAN) 1967
Northern
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Flaming
Page (USA) 1959
Special
(USA) 1969
Forli
(ARG) 1963
Thong
(USA) 1964
Robe
Chinoise (GB) 1999
Robellino
(USA) 1978
Roberto
(USA) 1969
Hail
To Reason (USA) 1958
Bramalea
(USA) 1959
Isobelline
(USA) 1971
Pronto
(ARG) 1958
Isobella
(USA) 1963
Kiliniski
(IRE) 1982
Niniski
(USA) 1976
Nijinsky
(CAN) 1967
Virginia
Hills (USA) 1971
Kilavea
(USA) 1974
Hawaii
(SAF) 1964
Special
(USA) 1969