Shout It Out- we need Sunday Silence…

The two richest turf races on Dubai World Cup night were won by Just A Way (Heart’s Cry ex Sibyl by Wild Again) and Gentildonna (Deep Impact ex Donna Blini by Bertolini). Both Heart’s Cry and Deep Impact are sons of Sunday Silence whose dominance in Japan matched Sadler’s Wells in Europe and their sons Deep Impact and Galileo are now equally pre-eminent.

European breeding is urgently in need of some new options and it lacks even the limited diversity available in the US. Crossing and recrossing Sadler’s Well and Danehill surely can’t go on forever.
We have quickly seen the decline of sire lines such as Sharpen Up, Ahonoora, Busted and Blushing Groom. Nijinsky as an atypical Northern Dancer was to be welcomed but is almost gone. The bright spot that was the total outcross Monsun is perhaps likely to end up as a National Hunt influence as his sons are pushed into that space. Mill Reef’s influence is on the wane and the Roberto line is barely hanging on.
It would be nice to see some new options emerge and to me the failure of any major European stud to go all out for a top representative of the Sunday Silence line is surprising. Vita Rosa spent had a year at Lanwades without much support or success but Divine Light was a lesser son of Sunday Silence who still sired a classic winner in Natagora and Hat Trick sired Dabirisim before being moved to Kentucky. The Wildenstein’s sent their mare Bastet to be bred to Deep Impact and were rewarded with Beauty Parlour who won a French Guineas. Overall that is a good strike rate for the Sunday Silence line in Europe and it is not difficult to see a well credentialed sire backed by a major European stud making a major impact (a deep impact even ūüôā ) on the European scene.
Coolmore have done deals in Japan in the past (even Danehill spent a year there in 1996) and maybe they would consider swapping a top son of Galileo (how many do they need?) for a high class representative of the Sunday Silence line. Just a thought….

Arc day 2011- A new French fashion?

The French have a reputation for being fashionable. Sunday was Prix de l’Arc day- Europe’s finest single days racing with seven Group 1 races. The results were a breath of fresh air and a delight to those people who love to see diversity amongst the stallion ranks. We have come to expect top class European racing to be dominated by the Danzig and Sadler’s Wells branches of the Northern Dancer line. On Sunday, these lines were eclipsed by a less fashionable branch of the Northern Dancer line and even more pleasingly, five of the other winners were not from the Northern Dancer line.

Nijinsky- a better Arc day than in 1970

The Nijinsky sireline had a big day on Sunday. Nijinsky famously lost his unbeaten record in the 1970 Arc to Sassafras. He subsequently sired one winner of the race in Lammtarra and two of his sons Green Dancer (sire of Suave Dancer) and Caerleon (sire of Marienbard) sired winners of Europe’s premier all-aged race.¬† The impressive victory of Danedream (f. by Lomitas ex Danedrop by Danehill) saw another victory for his sireline as Lomitas is a son of Nijinsky’s Irish and French St Leger winning son Niniski.¬† Alas Lomitas died last year so he will not benefit from this victory.

Another grandson of Nijinsky sired a big winner when Kasbah Bliss (g. by Kahyasi ex Marital Bliss by Double Bed) won the marathon Prix du Cadran . In addition Nijinksy’s son Royal Academy is the broodmare sire of Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Dabirsim (c by Hat Trick ex Rumoured by Royal Academy). The cap off the day, Nijinsky’s grandson Generous was broodmare sire of Prix de L’Opera winner Nahrain (. by Selkirk eg Bahr by Generous). All in all it was a welcome reminder of the positive influence of the last triple crown winner.

Super Sunday Silence

Dabirsim’s win in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere was another reminder of the possibilities of the Sunday Silence line. It is mystifying to me that the major European studs have not acted to secure a truly top class son of Japan’s greatest ever sire to make available an alternative sireline.¬† The possibilities were already shown by Divine Light who sired Natagora winner of the Cheveley Park and 1000 Guineas.¬† Lanwades (in the UK)¬† stand Vita Rosa and Darley France stand Layman, but neither could be considered amongst the best of the Sunday Silence’s as racehorses.

Dream Ahead

Dream Ahead (c. by Diktat ex Land of Dreams by Cadeaux Genereux) won his fifth Group 1 when edging out Goldikova in the Prix de la Foret. It was subsequently announced that he will be retiring to Ballylinch Stud in County Kilkenny Ireland at the end of the season.¬† His sire Diktat is now in Spain but if properly priced Dream Ahead should prove popular. For people who care about these things it is significant that if you go back 22 generations you will find that Dream Ahead’s sire line traces to the Godolphin Arabian, so he represents a good chance to continue that line in Europe.

Tangerine Trees

Tangerine Trees (g. by Mind Games ex Easy to Imagine by Cozzene) was a somewhat fortuitous winner of the Prix de l’Abbaye as the fast finishing Sole Power looked to be the best horse on the day. Tangerine Trees represents another sireline that has fallen out of fashion namely the Forli line which was once so popular down around Ballydoyle. However the reason why Mind Games is unfashionable is that he was a truly dreadful stallion with terrible percentages.¬† Thankfully he is now retired from active service.

Elusive Kate- Can’t escape Mr P.

Elusive Kate (f. by Elusive Quality ex Gout de Terroir by Lemon Drop Kid), could hardly be considered unfashionable being a daughter of Elusive Quality who stands at 50,000 USD and who is a stallion who is popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Elusive Kate has Mr Prospector on both sides of the pedigree as Elusive Quality traces to Mr Pr via Gone West and Lemon Drop Kid is a son Kingmambo by Mr P.  The prominence of Mr Prospector is not nearly as pronounced in Europe as it is in the States.

Nahrain for Varian

Nahrain (f. by Selkirk ex Bahr by Generous) just defeated her half sister Announce (f. by Selkirk ex Hachita by Gone West) in the Prix de L’Opera. In winning she gave her trainer Roger Varian the first of what are likely to be many Group 1 wins. The veteran Selkirk is from the Sharpen Up line and has now sired 14 Group 1 winners, 10 of which are fillies and again although he could never be called unfashionable he perhaps never got the credit he deserved.

Conclusions

Sunday’s results do not mark the end of the domination of Europe by the Sadler’s Wells and Danzig lines.¬† However it is a useful reminder to European breeders and buyers that there are a lot more ways of breeding a top class racehorse than through the ultra fashionable sire lines. As the French might say vive la difference!

Farewell M.V.O’Brien

Vincent O’Brien was my hero.¬† In the post war decades, he showed that Irish people didn’t have to emigrate to succeed on the world stage. In an Ireland that seemed to¬†lack ambition,¬†Vincent always strived for perfection- and usually attained it. He was more than just an incredible trainer he was the ultimate pedigree analyst. It is said that as a toddler he used to sit on his father’s knee and recite the names¬†and pedigrees of all the horses in his fathers yard.¬† He probably still knew those pedigrees on the day he died.¬† With respect to the likes of Aidan O’Brien or Michael Stoute or Henry Cecil who are all great trainers¬†of racehorses¬†-they¬†are just trainers.¬†¬†For much of his career Vincent was¬†overseeing a¬†process that selected yearlings, trained them as well as they could be trained and then stood them or sold them on. In business jargon it was a vertically integrated production line and Vincent had to deal with all this additional responsibility. As the list below shows he made some great stallions.

A reminder of a dozen great stallions he trained (in order)

1. Sadler’s Wells (1981 Norther Dancer-Fairy Bridge by Bold Reason). The greatest European stallion of the past century. 73 Group one winners to date,14 times champion sire and his legacy now secure with his sons Montjeu and Galileo. In South Africa Fort Wood was champion sire and in the US El Prado and now his grandson Medaglio D’oro¬†ensure his legacy throughout the globe.¬†During Sadler’s Wells racing career¬†in the early eighties many well bred horses were being wrapped in cotton wool, lest they lose some value. Not so Sadler’s Wells who was campaigned extensively at three and maintained his form throughout at distances from a mile to a mile and a half. He retired as winner of an Irish 2000 Guineas, Eclipse¬†Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes. He was second in¬†a memorable edition of the¬†French Derby in which¬†he separated Darshaan and Rainbow Quest. For all his talent he was overshadowed in Ballydoyle by¬†his paternal half¬†brother El Gran Senor.¬† Nobody overshadowed him at stud.¬† Vincent also trained his dam Fairy Bridge and almost all her offspring. Such knowledge of families developed over a lifetime was invaluable.

2. Nijinsky (1967 Northern Dancer-Flaming Page by Bull Page). The last triple crown winner and unbeaten in his first 11 starts.¬† A superb sire with three Derby winners (Golden Fleece, Sharastani and Lammtarra) along with a Kentucky Derby winner in Ferdinand to his credit. ¬†He sired 155 stakes winners from 862 foals (18%). Vincent trained many of his best offspring including King’s Lake, Caerleon, Golden Fleece and Royal Academy. He also famously paid 13.1 million for Seattle Dancer, who although he could never realistically justify that price did win the Derrinstown and Gallinule Stakes.¬†Nijinsky was reasonably¬†successful as a sire of sires with Caerleon being his best sire son, followed by Royal Academy and Green Dancer.¬†

3. Storm Bird (1978 Norther Dancer-South Ocean by New Providence). A champion two year old who defeated To-Agori Mou in the Dewhurst. He  owes his elevated place on the list to the stud exploits of Storm Cat. Storm Bird sired many better racehorses than Storm Cat including Summer Squall and the fillies Balanchine and Indian Skimmer. His place in pedigrees is secure through Storm Cat and his sons. He also was an important broodmare sire counting Thunder Gulch and current hot sire Birdstone amongst the offspring of his daughters.

4. Caerleon (1980 Nijinsky-Forseer by Buckpasser).¬† An exceptionally good looking colt Vincent reportedly regarded him as a perfect physical specimen. He wasn’t a bad racehorse either becoming Vincent’s only winner of the French Derby and winning a Benson and Hedges Gold Cup as well. He was twice champion sire and sired the outstanding dual derby winner Generous, Arc winner Marienbard, Oaks winner Lady Carla, 1000 Guineas winner Cape Verdi, St Leger winner Moonax¬†amongst 128 (13%)¬†stakes winners. His sons have been mostly unsuccessful to date as sires but he is doing well as a broodmare sire with the likes of Mutafaweq, Patavellian,Dimitrova and Avonbridge.

¬†5. Roberto (1969 Hail to Reason-Bramalea by Nashua). It has taken breeders a long time to appreciate the worth of Roberto in a pedigree.¬† As a racehorse he is often overlooked and often credited as merely the horse who produced a freak performance to defeat Brigadier Gerard. He was also a gutsy Derby winner and narrowly defeated in the 2000 Guineas. At four he won a Coronation Cup impressively¬†and Michael Kauntze (who was assistant to Vincent O’Brien at the time), thought he had as much talent as Nijinsky,¬†but just didn’t always display¬†it. As a sire he got many decent performers including Sookera, Slightly Dangerous, Silver Hawk and Lear Fan but he is much more important as a sire of sires and as a broodmare sire. His best stallion sons include Kris S, Dynamformer, Red Ransom and the Japanese based Brian’s time who all sired horses better than themselves. As a broodmare sire he is responsible for Slightly Dangerous multitude of talented offspring (Warning, Commander in Chief,Deploy, Dushyantor) and Sookera has become ancestress of the Hasili tribe. There can be a nasty streak running through his offspring.

¬†6. Alleged (1974- Hoist the Flag-Princess Pout by Prince John). A dual winner of the Prix de l’Arc his record would have been better had he been at stud in Europe. He sired a pair of Irish Derby winners in Sir Harry Lewis and Law Society, a dual classic winner in Midway Lady,¬†a St Leger winner in Shantou, an Irish Leger winner in Leading Counsel and a Breeders Cup turf winner in Miss Alleged. He was also a top broodmare sire with classic winners Dr Devious, Dream Well, Go and Go, Sulamani, Suave Dancer, Brian Boru, Eswarah amongst a host of top flight winners. His legacy¬†is also strong¬†in National Hunt breeding where he has leading sire Fleminsfirth, following on from Montelimar and others. Like Roberto¬† many of his offspring are known for their less than pleasant temperaments.

7. Sir Ivor (1965 Sir Gaylord-Attica by Mr.Trouble). A brilliant winner of a top class Guineas, he followed up by displaying an electrifying turn of foot in the Derby. He was campaigned relentlessly turning out 13 times over two seasons and like others he maintained his form throughout. However it was testament to Vincent’s skill that he maintained his form throughout. In Sir Ivor’s case he managed to follow on a second place behind Vaguely Noble in the Arc with wins in the Champion Stakes and Arc. He became primarily renowned as a sire of fillies leaving the likes of Arc winner Ivanjica,Lady Capulet (who Vincent trained to win a classic on her debut and is dam of El Prado) and Godetia and Cloonlara (both trained by VIncent). Of his colts the best was Bates Motel. He makes the list by virtue of the moderate runner Sir Tristram who has had a huge influence on Australian/New Zealand breeding and his daughters who have given us such stallions as El Prado, Green Desert, Alzao, and Bluebird.

8. Fairy King (1982 Norther Dancer-Fairy Bridge by Bold Reason).¬† Sadler’s Wells brother was injured on his only run and gained a place at stud by virtue of his pedigree.¬† He became a rags to riches success story and died aged 17 when he was starting to enjoy the best of patronage.¬†In his time he manged to sire a Derby winner in Oath, classic winners in Turtle Island and Victory Note along with two exceptional horses in Helissio and Falbrav. His European runners have disappointed as sires of sires but in Australia he has left behind champion sire Encasto de Lago.

9. El Gran Senor (1981 Norther Dancer-Sex Appeal by Buckpasser. Probably the greatest miler that Vincent ever trained. He won the Guineas in devastating fashion. He was a full brother to Try My Best who similarly had been a champion two year old winning the Dewhurst. Try My Best was allegedly¬† nobbled¬† prior to finishing last in the Guineas.¬† The 1984 Derby was meant to be a coronation and in the bloodstock bubble of the time he was being valued at upto $60 million dollars, or someone estimated it to be 12 times his weight in gold.¬†¬†In a race laced with ironies he was beaten by his paternal half brother Secreto trained by Vincents son David, after looking all over the winner for Pat Eddery.¬† Lester Piggott allegedly whispered in Vincent’s ear after the race “do you miss me” and many criticised Eddery for his ride.¬†El Gran senors¬†value slumped to $40 million. You couldn’t make it up. He ran once more in the Irish Derby before being retired to stand alongside his sire at E.P Taylors stud in Maryland.¬†Nobody mentioned his parrot mouth.¬†He was a top class sire and could have been a great sire but for fertility problems. His first crop included Racing Post trophy winner Al Hareb and Saratogan who was a close third in the Dewhurst for Vincent.¬†El Gran Senor’s¬†best offspring included 5 time Group 1 winner Rodrigo de Triano, King George winner Belmez and Breeders Cup sprint winner Lit de Justice. He is also sire of Toussaud who apart from being a Grade 1 winner is the dam of 4 Grade 1 winners including Chester House and Empire Maker. His stud record showed a highly respectable 55 stakes winners (14%).

¬†10.Be My Guest (1974 Northern Dancer-What A Treat by Tudor Minstrel). In 1977 Vincent had an embarrassment of three year old riches at his disposal with The Minstrel, Alleged, Artaius, Godswalk, Lady Capulet and others. Be My Guest was well behind the Minstrel in the Derby but won the Desmond Stakes and the Waterford Crystal mile. His pedigree was sufficient to ensure him a place at newly formed Coolmore. It was said that so ‘no mare could pass by Coolmore without being offered a deal to Be My Guest’ but it certainly paid off. In his first crop he sired Assert who won the Irish and French Derby’s for David O’Brien and On the House who won the 1000 Guineas. He ended up Champion sire in 1982 and predictably his fee soared. He never quite followed through on that initial promise although he was always capable of siring a top horse such as King George winner Pentire, Derby runner up Most¬†Welcome¬†and Dermot Weld’s Belmont winner Go and Go. However he has not produced a major sire son¬†and his legacy might¬†be as a broodmare sire as he is broodmare sire of Rock of Gibraltar and Manduro amongst others.

11. Woodman (1982 Mr Prospector- Playmate by Buckpasser). Vincent trained a few sons of Mr Prospector but he never seemed totally committed to that stallion. That said he paid $3 million for Woodman who was ranked champion Irish two year old in 1984 but who but who was affected by the virus that troubled the stable in 1985.  He was retired to Ashford where he became one of those stallions that seemed to either sire superstars or duds with little in-between. He had an incredible first crop of 45 foals that included three champions in Mujtahid, Hector Protector and Hansel. He never consistently hit those heights afterwards but sired outstanding performers in Bosra Sham (a brother to Hector), Timber Country and Hawk Wing. His sons have been disappointing at stud but he is now compiling a very respectable record as a broodmare sire.

12. El Prado (1989 Sadler’s Wells-Lady Capulet by Sir Ivor). When he retired to stud if anyone had told me that El Prado would become champion sire in the US, I would have laughed at the idea. He was a Group 1 winner of the National Stakes but it was a very weak renewal of the race and he was subsequently well beaten in a sales race. He also won the Beresford stakes but failed to train on and was well beaten in his three runs at three. It must have been a pleasure for Vincent to train him as he knew the family so well, having trained his sire, his dam and his damsire to win classics¬†and his half brother Entitled to be placed in two classics¬†. He was retired to stud in the US and as we now know Sadler’s Wells couldn’t sire a claiming winner on dirt which makes El Prado’s success all the more surprising. And there has been plenty of success headed by Medaglia D’Oro, backed up by the likes of Borrego, Kitten’s Joy and Artie Schiller. The future of the line is also looking promising with many of his better sons at an early stage in their careers and Medaglia D’oro sire of Rachel Alexandra. He may have been an unlikely success but such surprises keep the world of breeding from getting too predictable.

Gems of wisdom in relation to breeding from Vincent.

1. Vincent once said in an interview that you can’t train a horse to stay. You can teach them to settle but pedigree dictates whether they stay or not.

2. Ignore the experts. There was a bias against chestnuts, a bias against having four white socks and a bias against small horses. Vincent still paid $200,000 for The Minstrel and ended up with a champion worth $9 million.

¬†What did he ever get wrong? Very little but he did let Nureyev slip through his hands at the sales.¬†There was also a time when Ballydoyle was host to a lot¬†of Forli’s and although they enjoyed success on the track (especially with Thatch) no significant stallion emerged. Vincent also¬† was very partial to the first crop of Golden Fleece, but like then stable jockey Cash Asmussen, they proved disappointing. However such things are mere trifles. Vincent O’Brien has utterly changed the history of the thoroughbred. His legacy is the Irish bloodstock industry and the thousands of jobs which it supports. Ar dheis D√© go raibh a anam d√≠lis

Hernando-time for another look

It was a big weekend for Hernando.¬†Firstly he sired Last Look who powered home in the Oaks at 33-1 and 24 hours later Casual Conquest ran a fine race to finish third¬†in the Derby.¬†¬†It enhances his status¬†as a reliable source of quality staminain a pedigree. He has now sired 2 French Derby winners(when it was a 12 furlong derby)¬†in Sulamani and Holding Court and he has sired an Epsom derby¬†3rd (Casual Conquest) and 4th (Mr Combustible).¬† Since the death of Caerleon, and¬†Royal Acadamy’s return to the States,¬†he is now one of the very few credible representatives of the Nijinksy line still standing in Europe (the others are Lomitas and potentially¬†Hernando’s son Sulamani).

The aforementioned Sulamani can take most of the credit for the upsurge in Hernando’s fortunes. He won 6 Group ones over 3 seasons including 4 in 2003.¬† His successes led to larger books in 2003 and 2004 and Last Look and Casual Conquest are among the outcomes. No doubt next year will see an increase in quality and quantity for Hernando and I wouldnt be surprised if in 2013 I am again writing about what was to many a surprising upsurge in his fortunes. He is in danger of becoming a yo-yo sire whose success comes in 5 year cycles.¬† He was reduced to crops in the 40’s of mostly owners breeders. The commercial breeders have never warmed to Hernando, mostly because of the stamina ‘issue’ but perhaps partly because of the reputation that Lanwades home of Hernando¬†are less willing to make a deal than the likes of Coolmore and Darley. Alas the commercial breeders¬†failed to realise that Hernando is and was the real deal and at 10k was amongst the best value stallions in Britain. His stats back this up and from 532 foals of racing age he has had 247 winners (47%) and 32 stakes winners (6%).

Last Look the dam of Look Here was unraced but is by Rainbow Quest who was already the broodmare sire of 2 Derby Winners in North Light and Kris Kin.  On pedigree and in hindsight her chance at Epsom was obvious. Those looking for quality in the family will find it under the third dam Dance Quest who is the dam of Pursuit of Love (by another Blushing Groom horse in Groom Dancer. Pursuit of Love finished 3rd in a Guineas and 2nd in a July Cup and had a reasonable stud career until his recent death.

Ralph Beckett has said that he might avoid the Irish Oaks to give Look Here more time to recover from¬†her exertions as she is not a robust filly who needs time between her races. The obvious next target then becomes the St Leger. Her pedigree gives plenty of comfort on that score. Hernando’s was never tried over further than 12 furlongs but his sire Niniski won 2 St Legers (an Irish and French) and Nijinsky as the last triple crown winner, won the Doncaster original. For good measure Look Here’s¬†third dam, Dance Quest is by Green Dancer another son of Nijinsky.¬†¬†Roll on Doncaster…¬†

LOOK HERE (GB) 2005 f b

Hernando
(FR) 1990
Niniski
(USA) 1976
Nijinsky
(CAN) 1967
Northern
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Flaming
Page (USA) 1959
Virginia
Hills (USA) 1971
Tom
Rolfe (USA) 1962
Ridin’
Easy (USA) 1967
Whakilyric
(USA) 1984
Miswaki
(USA) 1978
Mr
Prospector (USA) 1970
Hopespringseternal
(USA) 1971
Lyrism
(USA) 1979
Lyphard
(USA) 1969
Pass
A Glance (USA) 1971
Last
Look (GB) 1995
Rainbow
Quest (USA) 1981
Blushing
Groom (FR) 1974
Red
God (USA) 1954
Runaway
Bride (GB) 1962
I
Will Follow (USA) 1975
Herbager
(FR) 1956
Where
You Lead (USA) 1970
Derniere
Danse (GB) 1987
Gay
Mecene (USA) 1975
Vaguely
Noble (GB) 1965
Gay
Missile (USA) 1967
Dance
Quest (FR) 1981
Green
Dancer (USA) 1972
Polyponder
(USA) 1974