Can you have too much of a good thing?

Frankel’s first foal was born on the 11th of January.  The dam Chrysanthemum was a Group 3 winner trained by David Wachman for Coolmore connections. In truth, in terms of racing performance and pedigree Chrysanthemum was no more than a middle ranking member of Frankel’s stellar first book of mares.

However what is far more interesting is the pedigree cross it represents.  We are by now, well used to seeing variants of the  Sadler’s Wells (and sons) by Danehill cross , the cross that reached its pinnacle with Frankel himself. It has proved hugely successful with Galileo alone having sired  8 Group 1 winners out of Danehill mares. Chrysanthemum is by Danehill Dancer out of a daughter of Sadler’s Wells and it begs the question can you have too much of a good thing?

Sadler’s Wells and Danehill are the giant names of European breeding in recent decades. Coolmore achieved considerable success with the likes of Horatio Nelson (Danehill ex Imagine), Peeping Fawn (Danehill ex Maryinsky and Chevalier (Danehill ex Legend Maker) bred on this cross.  Given the number of high class broodmares they possess with both names in the pedigree it is perhaps unsurprising that they are considering doubling up what has worked in the past.

They would have been encourage by the results to date for Teofilo (Galileo ex Speirbhean by Danehill) who is similarly bred to Frankel. Teofilo has made a good start to his stud career highlighted by Group 1 success for Parish Hall  (ex Halla Siamsa by Montjeu) and Irish Derby success  with Trading Leather who is out of a Sinndar mare and thus has another cross of Danzig as does Voleuse Des Coeurs (ex Vadorga by Grand Lodge). This new foal is just gone a little further in terms of duplication.

This foal will have Sadler’s Wells 3X3, and Danehill 3X3.  In the first 6 generations Northern Dancer’s name appears 5 times and he appears once more in the 7th generation. Given that Danehill features 2 crosses of Northern Dancer’s dam Natalma, her name appears 8 times in the pedigree! If this was  a human we would be appalled, even if it was a pedigree dog we would be concerned yet when it comes to our friends the thoroughbreds we just think it’s interesting!  As regards the question, whether you can have too much of a good thing,  we will obviously just have to wait until he finishes his racecourse career to answer that one…

Frankel's first foal

6 generation pedigree

Sadler’s Wells- a tribute

It’s almost a month since Sadler’s Wells died.  He was outstanding in every respect as racehorse, as a sire, as a broodmare sire and now as a sire of sires.  A book would be required to do proper justice to his impact (and I don’t have time for that) , so I will have to restrict myself to selecting a few of his more remarkable achievements, listed in no particular order

1. That first crop of colts.

In total his first crop  was numbered in the mid fifties of which just less than half were colts.  For six of them (In the Wings (ex High Hawk by Shirley Heights) , Old Vic (ex Cockade by Derring-Do), Prince of Dance(ex Sun Princess by English Prince) , Scenic ( ex Idyllic by Foolish Pleasure) , French Glory (ex Dunette by Hard to Beat) and Braashee ex Krakow by Malinowski) to win Group 1’s is extraordinary.  Batshoof (ex Steel Habit by Habitat) was also in that crop and he won the Tattersalls Rogers Gold Cup and Prince Of Wales Stakes which were both then Group 2’s but are now elevated to Group 1 status.  Dolpour (ex Dumka by Kashmir) won the Group 3 Gordon Richard Stakes and was only beaten a head in the Champion Stakes. In addition the unraced Accordion (ex Sound of Success by Successor)  subsequently found fame as a jumps sire. It was the most sensational first crop that could be imagined.

2. His Consistency

Its not easy becoming champion sire even with the benefit of large books of quality mares.  Sadler’s Wells was champion Anglo-Irish sire on 14 occasions- an all time record.  That Highflyer’s previous record had stood since the 18th century gives a sense of that achievement.  That he sired at least one Group 1 winner in each of his first 18 crops is also truly remarkable. His numbers currently stand at 2259 foals of racing age with 293 stakes winners (13%).

3. His Irish Derby Record

Sadler’s Wells has sired the winner of every Irish and English classic. His record in the Irish Derby is however particularly impressive. Six winners (Old Vic ex Cockade by Derring-Do), Salsabil (ex Flame of Tara by Artaius), Dream Well (ex Soul Dream by Alleged),  Montjeu (ex Floripedes by Top Ville),  Galileo (ex Urban Sea by Miswaki) and High Chapparal (ex Kasora by Darshaan) only tell part of the story. The 1999 edition saw him have a 1-2-3 courtesy of Montjeu, Daliapour (ex Dalara by Doyoun) and Tchaikovsky (ex Crystal Spray by Beldale Flutter) and this was bettered in 2002 when High Chapparal was followed home by Sholokhov (ex La Meilleure by Lord Gayle), Ballingarry (ex Flamenco Wave by Desert Wine) and Nysaean (ex Irish Arms by Irish River). His sons have kept up the good work with In the Wings siring the 1995 winner Winged Love (ex J’ai deux Amores by Top Ville), Galileo siring the 2007 winner Soldier of Fortune (ex Affianced by Erin’s Isle) and the 2010 winner Cape Blanco (ex Laurel Delight by Presidium) and Montjeu has 3 winners courtesy of Hurricane Run (ex Hold On by Surumu), Frozen Fire (ex Flamingo Sea by Woodman) and Fame and Glory (ex Gryada by Shirley Heights).

4. His record as sire of sires

This was once open to question- it is not any more.  Galileo has taken over his mantle as the dominant European sire and Montjeu remains the sire most likely to sire a 12 furlong Derby winner.  Barathea and In the Wings did respectably, Fort Wood produced some outstanding individuals in South Africa,  High Chapparal has done exceptionally well in the Antipodes and most surprisingly of all was the success of El Prado in the US- surprising given the abject failure of Sadler’s Wells own offspring when tried on dirt. In addition his sons such as Old Vic, Accordion, Oscar, King’s Theatre, Dr Massini and Kayf Tara have all had a major impact on the National Hunt world.

5. His National Hunt Record

Sadler’s Wells was an outstanding jumps sire.  Istabraq (ex Betty’s Secret by Secretariat) is of course one of the immortals but he was backed up by Theatreworld(ex Chamonis by Affirmed), Pridwell (ex Glowing with Pride by Ile de Bourbon), Synchronised (ex Mayasta by Bob Back) and many others that have seen him consistently feature in the top ten jumps sires.

6. His record as broodmare sire

Six times champion broodmare sire, to date he has 235 stakes winners in that capacity -more than any other sire in the history of the pattern.  Some of the multiple Group 1 winners produced by his daughters include Workforce (King’s Best ex Soviet Moon) , Conduit(Dalakhani ex Well Ahead), Music Note (AP Indy ex Note Musicale,  Henrythenavigator (Kingmambo ex Seqoyah). Youmzain (Sinndar ex Sadima),  Peeping Fawn (Danehill ex Maryinsky),  Divine Proportions (Kingmambo ex Myth to Reality), American Post (Bering ex Wells Fargo), Whipper (Miesque’s Son ex Myth to Reality), and Musical Chimes (In Excess ex Note Musicale).

7.  Leading the European renaissance

It’s easy to forget that at the time of his retirement, Europe was not the natural home for a top class stallion prospect. His contemporaries and paternal half brothers El Gran Senor and Secreto both went to stud in the States. The lure of the dollar and the yen meant that Europe had already lost or could no longer retain the best stallion prospects.  The best mares inevitably follow the best stallions leading to a further downward spiral. The success of Sadler’s Wells and his earnings put Coolmore in a very powerful position with regard to stallion acquisition and they utilised that advantage to the maximum.  His sons have continued that legacy- it is not unreasonable to claim that he can take credit for the current powerful state of the European stallion ranks.

Hurricane Fly and Noble Prince

Leopardstown today almost witnessed a Grade 1 double for Montjeu. Hurricane Fly was impressive in the Irish Champion Hurdle and Noble Prince came within a short head of winning the Arkle chase. Noble Prince is similar to Hurricane Fly in that he was more than useful on the flat. In fact he was a Listed winner for Andre Fabre and he was a Group 2 placed.

Noble Prince comes from a very decent German family and was sold as a yearling for €90000 at Baden Baden in 2005. That proved to be a very good investment as he sold for 230,000 guineas at the April 2006 Tattersalls breeze up sales. His subsequent prowess on the flat meant that he fetched €150000 at Arqana sales on the 4th October 2008. Interestingly the 4th October (Arc day) saw him finish a disappointing last in the Prix de Cadran. This was his last run run for Fabre before joining Paul Nolan’s stable. In total he ran 13 times for Fabre (7 times at 3, 6 times at 4) winning twice over 10 furlongs and a listed race over 15 furlongs. His best run was probably when a close second to Coastal Path over 15 furlongs in October 2007. He ran well at four without winning before his final disappointing run in the Cadran.

Noble Prince was not an immediate success over hurdles and took three runs before breaking his duck at Gowran in April 2009. Since then he won twice more over hurdles but showed gradual improvement without winning including when he ran a good third in a Grade 2 hurdle at Leopardstown at the Christmas 2009 meeting. He also ran well to be fifth in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham after meeting some interference and finished last season with a fine fourth in the Grade 1 world series hurdle at Punchestown over 3 miles.

Sent Novice chasing he made an impressive reappearance at Punchestown in November, before finishing a 5 length second to Realt Dubh in a Grade 1 at the Christmas meeting.

That margin was reduced to a short head today and he should pick up a top prize sooner rather than later. He was versatile regarding ground on the flat and he has run well at up to three miles over hurdles so there are plenty of options regarding upping in him trip over fences.


Noble Pearl, the German trained dam of Noble Prince won only twice but signficantly she went to the paddocks as a Group 1 winner. The highlight of her career came on her second start in the 1998 Gran Criterium at San Siro where she caused an upset at 26-1 when she defeated Zindabad. She failed to add to her tally at three, running without success including when well beaten in the Poule D’Essai des Pouliches behind Valentine Waltz. At stud she started promisingly by producing Noble Stella (by Monsun) who was a five time winner between Italy and Canada including at Grade 3 level. She subsequently visited other lesser German sires such as Acatenango, Kornado and Sholokov without comparable success.

She is a daughter of Dashing Blade who was a dual Group 1 winner in 1989 winning the National Stakes at the Curragh and a rather substandard Dewhurst (in which Royal Academy disappointed). At three he disappointed in the Guineas, ran somewhat better in the St James Palace and then won the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam. His form was then inconsistent before finishing his career with an easy Group 1 success in the 12 furlong Gran Premio D’Italia. As a three time Group 1 winner he obviously deserved a place at stud but his pedigree was unfashionable and he was retired to Germany. At stud he has done well and is the sire of 50 Black type winners from 896 foals or a respectable 6%. His best offspring include Proudwings (ex Peraja by Kaiseradler) who won the Falmouth Stakes (Gr 2) and was a disqualified from first place in the Prix Jacques le Marois and Group 1 winners Lord of England (ex Loveria by Los Santos) and Faberger (ex Friedrichslust by Caerleon). Dashing Blade was a son of Elegant Air who won a Group 3 Horris Hill stakes at 2 and the Group 2 Tattersalls Rogers Gold Cup at 4. Elegant Air died after only 5 seasons at stud but he also sired Air de Rien who won the Group 1 Prix Saint Alary in 1990. However his overall record of 6 stakes winners from 173 foals is unremarkable.

Elegant Air is a son of Shirley Heights so Noble Prince is a representative of the famed Sadler’s Wells- Shirley Heights cross that has given us the the likes of In the Wings and Alexandrova and Montjeu has sired Fame and Glory and Montare out of Shirley Heights mares. Noble Pearl’s second dam Noble Girl was a four time winner in Germany. She was a daughter of Esclavo who was a fast German son of Northern Dancer’s first crop son Vice Regal (brother to a much better sire in Vice Regent) who was exported to France after making little impression as a sire in Canada.


Noble Prince was high class on the flat and looks top class over jumps. Montjeu is following his sire Sadler’s Wells in becoming an exceptionally useful National Hunt stallion. Noble Prince seems effective from 2-3 miles and on varying ground conditions. With his German background there are some unfamiliar pedigree elements but it is also another example of the very familiar Sadler’s Wells Shirley Heights cross.



(IRE) 1996


Wells (USA) 1981


Dancer (CAN) 1961


(USA) 1954


(USA) 1957


Bridge (USA) 1975


Reason (USA) 1968


(USA) 1969


(FR) 1985


Ville (IRE) 1976


Top (IRE) 1969


Ville (USA) 1968


Cy (FR) 1979


(FR) 1970


Toumignon (IRE) 1971


Pearl (GER) 1996


Blade (GB) 1987


Air (GB) 1981


Heights (GB) 1975


Tern (USA) 1971


Castan (GB) 1977


Up (GB) 1969


One (GB) 1961


Girl (GER) 1987


(FR) 1976


(USA) 1966


(FR) 1964


(GER) 1973


(GER) 1957


(GER) 1966

Coolmore-dominance in decline?

Back in April 2010 everything must have seemed rosy down in Tipperary. Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway ex Aldebaran Light by Seattle Slew) looked set to finally provide one of their sires with a coveted Kentucky Derby victory. In Europe, St Nicholas Abbey (Montjeu ex Leaping Water by Sure Blade) was favourite for the Guineas and Derby. Galileo, Montjeu and Danehill Dancer were established members of Europes elite and the stallion roster contained plenty of unproven but exciting young stallions.

Fast forward to November and just like the Irish economy, things are looking somewhat grim despite Galileo helping them to an incredible 21st consecutive UK & Ireland sires championship. Galileo had a stellar year with Cape Blanco, Rip Van Winkle, Sans Frontiere, Lily of the Valley and three Group 1 winning 2 year olds in Play Misty for Me, Frankel and Roderic O’ Connor. It was a season comparable with any that Sadler’s Wells enjoyed in his heyday. That however is the end of the good news. After a recent stud visit one source told me that Galileo seemed to be in poor physical shape and had lost a lot of condition. If anything was to restrict his capacity to serve large books next year it would be a serious setback.


Montjeu had a disappointing year. St Nicholas Abbey failed to reappear after his Guineas fifth and Jan Vermeer was somewhat disappointing. Fame & Glory did add two Group 1’s but his season ended in disappointment in the Arc. Joshua Tree won the Canadian International but no obvious stars emerged from his two year old crop. He hasn’t suddenly become a bad sire but a Guineas win for St Nicholas Abbey would have helped fill one of the major gaps in his cv. The other gap is of course his relative lack of success with fillies, something which reduces his popularity with breeders.

Danehill Dancer

Danehill Dancer had two Group 1 winning fillies in Lilly Langtry (ex Hoity Toity by Darshaan) and Ave (ex Anna Amalia by In The Wings). However his results did not do enough to justify his private fee and to my mind he ranks behind Dansili, Pivotal, Dubawi and Oasis Dream amongst the top miler sires in Europe. Although they still refer to him as the best sire son of Danehill in Europe, Coolmore are aware of his limitations. This is evidenced through their use of Dansili rather than Danehill Dancer for many of their elite mares .

The Young Guns

Oratorio and Footstepsinthesand both had their first crop of three year olds. Both could have been expected to see their offspring improve with age. Both disappointed and they now seem pricey at €15000 and €12500 respectively. It would be no surprise to see either or both sold abroad.

Amongst the first season sires there were no fireworks and no Group 1 winners. Holy Roman Emperor (Danehill ex L’On Vite by Secretariat) came second to Iffraaj but there was a distinct lack of quality amongst the quantity. Aussie Rules (Danehill ex Last Second by Alzao) probably did best of the newcomers with a few Group horses included amongst his winners. Hurricane Run (Montjeu ex Hold On by Surumu) did ok considering no one really expected him to get precocious types. Ad Valorem (Danzig ex Classy Women by Relaunch) produced nothing of note and a similar comment applies to Ivan Denosovich (Danehill ex Hollywood Wildcat by Kris S) who will probably be moved on quickly.

middle of the road sires

There is nothing wrong with Peintre Celebre (fee €15,000), Rock of Gibraltar (fee 22,500) or High Chaparral (€15,000) as stallions but their limitations are evident at this stage. High Chaparral should be moved permanently to Coolmore Australia where he is so much more successful and highly regarded.

Next Year

2011 sees the first runners for Strategic Prince (Dansili ex Ausherra by Diesis) and Dylan Thomas (Danehill ex Lagrion by Diesis). It has been a number of years since Coolmore have unearthed a promising new sire and the odds are against Strategic Prince making the breakthrough. Dylan Thomas has the advantage of plenty of well credentialled mares but there is a bias against the staying sons of Danehill.

The end comes quickly

Coolmore has dominated the European scene for so long that it is unsurprising that we start to raise eyebrows at any erosion of its dominance. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 they had 5 of the top 6 stallions in the UK and Irish rankings. In 2009 they had 3 of the top 6 and in 2010 this was down to 2 of the top 6. Their stranglehold has ended.

Reasons for decline.

1.It was inevitable that the massive Arab investment in bloodstock would eventually unearth some top class stallions. This year was a very good year for Darley. Amongst their young stallions Dubawi emerged as a superstar and Shamardal had a fine year. Iffraaj took first season sire honours. King’s Best had two Derby winners in Workforce and Eishin Flash. Cape Cross produced another top class colt in Behkabad. In addition Sheikh Mohammed owns significant stakes in “independent stallions” Invincible Spirit and Pivotal who were 6th and 11th respectively in this years Irish/UK sire table. Juddmonte are sitting pretty with two outstanding young stallions in Dansili and Oasis Dream.

2. You can’t just go out a find a replacement for either Sadlers Wells or Danehill:)

3.Too many eggs in one basket. The Coolmore roster was incredibly top heavy with sons of Danehill, and except for Danehill Dancer they have failed to strike gold with them. The assertion that he is an outstanding sire of sires is open to debate in a European context. Their faith in Danehill Dancer to found a sireline via Mastercraftsman, Choisir and Choisir’s son Starspangledbanner may also prove misguided.

4. Competitors have upped their game in terms of PR, marketing and deal making. Coolmore PR is also becoming a little jaded and it is starting to invite cynicism everytime we hear AP O’Brien describe his latest winner as showing”incredible natural speed but he is so relaxed and settles so well that you could run him in either the July Cup or the Ascot Gold Cup!”

5. The Maktoum boycott didn’t help and would have influenced some breeders decisions

6. The euro sterling exchange rate rose considerably over the noughties with a particularly sharp spike in 2008. This made using Coolmore stallions more expensive for UK breeders.

7. Lack of outcross options. All of the current stallions are Northern Dancer line stallions and breeders will want more options in time

The future

A world leader like Coolmore doesn’t just suddenly disappear into oblivion. Galileo is still only 12 and is poised for a period of dominance. However apart from Montjeu the supporting cast appears weak and similarly their American roster is unexceptional apart from Giants Causeway. However they still have the financial resources to buy the best yearlings and the best trainer in the world to manage them. The ending of the partnership with Johnny Murtagh indicates the pressure that is on everyone to produce results- 14 Group 1 wins this year was still deemed a disappointing year. Their dominance might be in relative decline but they are still the best in the game.

Firm Conclusions about Royal Ascot 2010

Royal Ascot 2010 provided enough material for a book, never mind a blog entry. Trying to summarise the five days racing comprising 30 races, 7 group 1’s and 7 group 2’s is difficult. I went to the trouble of looking at the ninety placed horses over the meeting and comparing the results against the number of runners for each sire. The results are shown below and include a few surprises.

Sire Placed Horses Total Runners
Galileo  6  17
 Danehill Dancer  5  12
 Singspiel  5  9
 Rock of Gibraltar  4  7
 Cape Cross  3  9
 Choisir  3  4
 Dansili  3  7
 Exceed and Excel  3  11
 Oasis Dream  3  12
 Dubawi  2  6
 Green Desert  2  7
 Medicean  2  6
 Pivotal  2  8
 Silvano  2  2

 Galileo top of the charts but ..

Galileo emerges as top of the lists for placed horses but even more so for runners. I would not say he had a particularly good Royal Ascot. Age of Aquarius (ex Clara Bow by Top Ville)ran a fine race in the Gold Cup (20 furlongs) and he was followed home by Purple Moon (ex Vanishing Prairie by Alysheba). Mikhail Glinka (ex Lady Karr by Mark of Esteem) just touched off Theology ( ex Biographie by Mtoto) in the 16 furlong Queens Vase.  These quality stayers are worthy of admiration but breeders are not paying c.175k for Galileo’s services in the hope of getting such a stayer. Galileo’s list of placed performers was completed by Gile na Greine (ex Scribonia by Danehill) who ran a fine second in the Coronation Stakes and Gallic Star (ex Oman Sea by Rahy) who was third in the Ribbesdale.

Danehill Dancer

Danehill Dancer had a good Royal Ascot. Lilly Langtry (ex Hoity Toity by Darshaan) was a good winner of the Coronation Stakes and he produced a promising two year old filly in Memory (ex Nausicaa by Diesis) who won the Albany stakes (Gr 3).  Quadrille (ex Fictitious by Machiavellian) was placed in a listed race and Imposing and Himalya were placed in handicaps. Better still his reputation as a sire of sires was significantly enhanced through the exploits of Choisir and another unfashionable sire son Monsieur Bond had a runner placed in the Queen Mary Stakes.

Singspiel still producing the goods

Singspiel also had five horses placed but from only nine runners. Singspiel’s offspring really love fast ground and he again emphasised why he is regarded as a fillies sire with a 1-2 in the Ribbesdale Stakes through Hibaayeb (ex Lady Zonda by Lion Cavern) and Eldalil (ex White House by Pursuit of Love). Recent reports indicate that his stud career may be at end due to declining fertility and if so he will be sorely missed as he was a great value stallion.

Rock of Gibraltar- yet to find his level

Rock of Gibraltar had a good Royal Ascot but his achievements tend to be slightly below the radar.  Society Rock (ex High Society by Key of Luck) was a fine second in the Golden Jubilee and Jacqueline Quest (ex Croquette Rouge by Croco Rouge) showed her Guineas run was no fluke by finishing third in the Coronation. In addition Rock Jock (ex Perfect Touch by Miswaki) was third in the Jersey Stakes (Gr 3) and London Stripe (ex Agenda by Sadler’s Wells) was second in the King George handicap. He is a decent stallion but his fee needs to come down from €22500 to around €15000.

Choisir – stallion of the week

What a difference a week makes. Like most people I had totally written off Choisir and the fact that he was no longer shuttling to the Northern hemisphere was a blessing. Now I’m not so certain anymore. Starspangledbanner (ex Gold Anthem by Made of Gold) was extremely impressive in the Golden Jubilee and in the Wokingham, Laddies Poker Two (ex Break of Day by Favorite Trick) showed herself to be much more than just a handicapper. For good measure the two year old Reckless Reward (ex Champagne Toni by Second Empire) was second in the Norfolk (Group 2) and his only other runner at the meeting, Stimulation (ex Damiana by Thatching) ran a career best when a close fourth in the Princess of Wales over 10 furlongs.

Dansili- almost the stallion of the week

With three winners Dansili had a fine week. Harbinger (ex Penang Pearl by Bering) was impressive in the Hardwicke Stakes and is capable of winning at Group 1 level. Strawberrydaiquiri (ex Strawberry Morn by Travelling Victor) was a game winner of the Windsor Forest Stakes and Dandino won the King George handicap.  With his better crops coming on stream his place at the top table is assured.

Oasis Dream and Dubawi- the run continues

It was also a good week for the winning producing machine that is Oasis Dream. Approve (ex Wyola by Sadler’s Wells) won the Nofolk Stakes(Gr. 2)  and Rainfall (ex Molomo by Barathea) won the Jersey Stakes. Similarly Dubawi showed his class and versatility.  Monterosso (ex Porto Roca by Barathea) continued his improvement and put himself in line for a tilt at the Irish Derby by winning the 12 furlong King Edward Stakes and Afsare (ex Jumaireyah by Fairy King) also showed improvement to win the listed Hampton Court Stakes.

Exceed and Excel

Exceed and Excel has built his reputation as a sire of two year olds. He didn’t do that reputation any harm by having three two year old’s placed in the course of the meeting.

Sireline of the week

This goes to Danehill. Four of his sons did well namely Danehill Dancer, Rock of Gibraltar, Exceed and Excel and Dansili. In addition Danehill Dancer’s son Choisir had a stellar week.

Disappointment of the week

We always keep an eye on Montjeu’s offspring. He had 12 runners over the week and none of them finished better than fifth. We can only blame the firm going.