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.


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!

French Lessons

The increasing success of French bred horses has been the most striking element of National Hunt breeding over the last decade. Mon Mome in the Grand National, Binocular and Hors la Loi in the Champion Hurdle, Kauto Star in the Gold Cup and Master Minded, Voy Pur Ustedes and Azertyuiop in the Queen Mother Champion Chase have taken jumps racing top prizes. Trainers and owners aren’t oblivious to such success and the respective champion trainers Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins are long time converts to the merits of French breds. The Irish and British breeding sectors do not seem to have actively responded to the new market realities and if nothing is done they will continue to lose market share. If the Anglo- Irish racing and breeding authorities wish to meet the challenge they need to think strategically and act courageously.

Understanding the marketplace
Someone once explained the difference between advertising and marketing as follows- with advertising you try and sell what you’ve made, with marketing you only make what you can sell. With respect to Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and British Bloodstock Marketing they are actually in the advertising game trying to promote a product that has already been produced. Their governing bodies need to think about true marketing and how their respective breeding and racing industries can produce and showcase products that are truly in demand.

The French breds that are in demand in the UK and Ireland have previously demonstrated ability on the racecourse. For a buyer this means that the horses are broken, schooled, fit and ready to run and yet they are at an age when many of their Anglo-Irish peers are still being left to develop. The problem for the Anglo-Irish store horse is that the evidence in favour of this model versus the French model is inconclusive at best. However there can be no doubt in an owner’s mind regarding the costs and time involved in bringing his store horse to the racetrack. The traditionalists used to argue that horses who had started “too early” would burn out quickly but the racing careers of such as Kauto Star (36 runs over 8 seasons and counting), Big Bucks (30 runs and counting), Mon Mome (41 runs) have changed that assumption. In addition some veterinary evidence may indicate a beneficial impact of early exercise and training on subsequent injury rates.

Meeting the challenge- race planners

Underpinning the French system is the race programme that provides lots of opportunities to test younger horses. There is no reason why elements of the French racing programme cannot be adopted by the Anglo-Irish race-planners. It might horrify some (or many), but why not run three year old bumpers, three year old hurdles from February onwards and four year old chases on a regular basis? The world would not end and traditional race programming would still exist for less precocious types. In a business situation rather than allowing a competitor an unchallenged position you would seek to win back the business and such moves would allow a segment of the market to compete directly with the French runners. An additional benefit of such moves is that it would allow breeders earlier indications of the merits of jumping stallions. Given that many jumps stallions are deceased before their worth has been established this is another important consideration.

Meeting the challenge- breeders

1. I don’t believe that French jumps stallions are manifestly superior to their Anglo-Irish counterparts but there are some lessons that might be learned. Firstly a much greater number of French stallions have actually raced over jumps. In the UK and Ireland the likes of Alderbrook, Midnight Legend, Broadsword and Monksfield performed over jumps but they represented a tiny minority of the stallion population. It seems incongruous that jumps breeders do not seem to place any weighting (and often a negative weighting) on stallions having demonstrated an ability to jump. It is also worth remembering that one of the outstanding steeplechase sires of the modern era, Roselier, won the French champion hurdle.

2. There has been a loss of diversity in the National Hunt stallion ranks. This is driven by huge books for fashionable stallions, many of whom are unproven. There has also been an unhealthy concentration on certain sire lines especially sons of Sadler’s Wells. The consequence is reduced opportunities for other stallions to make a breakthrough. The French have smaller book sizes and many stallions get an opportunity there that would not be available in the UK or Ireland. Irish and UK breeders should be less fashion conscious and more adventurous.

3. Invest in proven French stallions. Larger book sizes give Irish and UK stallion masters an economic advantage over their French rivals. This affords them the opportunity to tap into successful French lines. The purchase of Robin Des Pres and Robin Des Champs for stud duty in Ireland are indicators that some studs are adopting this policy. More studmasters should use this key difference between the marketplaces to their advantage. In a business context this is analogous to poaching your opposition’s key staff, something that can strengthen your position and weaken theirs.


Competition between breeding nations is healthy and can lead to improved standards all round. The French have done a superb job in gaining a very substantial share of the Anglo-Irish market, driven by racecourse success. This success has naturally resulted in higher prices for promising young stock and some purchasers are now questioning whether there is still value to be obtained. However it would be a very dangerous assumption by Anglo-Irish breeders that the French will price themselves out of the market. With the Anglo-Irish industry in crisis, doing nothing is not an option so radical and new thinking is required to regain competitiveness.

Lope de Vega- something to write about

Lope de Vega was a celebrated Spanish writer, ranked almost the equal of Cervantes and the author of an incredible 1800 plays (thanks Wikipedia). Last weekend’s French Guineas (Poule d’Essai des Poulains) saw another Lope de Vega defeat Dick Turpin by half a length.  The equine Lope is unlikely to achieve evarlasting fame but on a line through Dick Turpin there is currently little between him and Makfi at the top of the European rankings for milers.

Lope de Vega- performance to date

Lope de Vega was a very useful two year old winning his first two starts before winding up his season with a close fourth behind Siyouni in the Grand Criterium. He was third, beaten only half a length on his seasonal reappearance in the Prix de Fontainbleu before his half length success in the Poule D’Essai des Poulains.  In the aftermath of his victory it was stated that he would be aimed at the 10 furlongs of the French Derby. On pedigree, he should have a reasonable chance of getting the additional two furlongs.

Lope de Vega- bred for the French Guineas

In some respects Lope de Vega was bred for the French Guineas. His sire Shamardal won the race in 2005 and his broodmare sire Vettori won the 1995 edition of the race. In addition his grandam Lady Golconda is a daughter of Kendor who won the 1989 renewal.  Furthermore Rahy is the broodmare sire of Giants Causway and Rahy is a son of Blushing Groom the winner of the 1977 renewal.

Shamardal’s racing career

Shamardal was unbeaten on turf, winning the Dewhurst at two for Mark Johnston, before winning the French Guineas (from the luckless Indesatchel ridden by Jamie (Frank) Spencer) at three. He followed up in the first 10 furlong French Derby defeating the fast finishing Hurricane Run.  In the case of both French classics he benefitted from canny rides from Frankie Dettori.  Just 9 days after the French Derby he contested the St James Palace Stakes and he put up an extremely impressive performance that marked him out as an outstanding performer. Unfortunatley it proved to be his last race.

Shamardal’s life story was certainly interesting as he was diagnosed as a wobbler, his first owner Abdulla Buhaleeba sold him at the end of his two year old career after reputedly incurring significant casino losses. He was by Coolmores Giant’s Causeway out of a sister to Godolphins Street Cry, but Coolmore passed him over at the Houghton Sales after failing an endoscopic test. He was the star of Giant’s Causeway’s first crop that also featured Footstepsinthesand and Karen’s Caper.

Shamardal’s stud career

Shamardal’s first crop 143 was conceived off a fee of €40,000. From that crop Arctic was a group 3 winner in Ireland before disappointing somewhat in the Middle Park stakes. Shakespearean won the Solario Stakes and followed up in the Goffs million.  As three year olds Siyaadah won the UAE 1000 Guineas and Zazou won a German Group 3 before coming a close sixth behind Lope de Vega in the Franch Guineas.  From his time in Australia he is represented by Faint Perfume who is a dual Group 1 winner including the Crown Oaks over 12 and half furlongs. He is currently listed as €20000 and should be popular at that price as he is delivering plenty of stakes horses.

Lady Vettori

Lady Vettori, the dam of Lope de Vega won  her first five races as a two year old including the Group 3 Prix du Calvados. She finished her season with a highly creditable third in the Prix Marcel Boussac. She ran just once at three when just touched off in the Prix Imprudence. At stud she had four foals prior to Lope de Vega, the best of whom was Bal de la Rose (by Cadeuax Genereux) who was a 10 furlong Group 3 winner. Lady Vettori is herself a half sister to a stakes performer in Rosey de Megeve (by Efisio) and there are some decent connections further back in the pedigree. However, overall it is not a particularly high class family and it was her racing merit not her pedigree that saw Lady Vettori sold for €500,000 in December 2005.


His run in the French Guineas represented a career best performance for Lope de Vega. His manner of victory was not overly impressive and he will probably need to show further improvement if he is to succeed in his stated target of the French Derby.  He is a nice advert for his sire Shamardal who is one of the leading lights of a bunch of highly promising new sires to burst on the scene. His dam Lady Vettori owned a modest enough pedigree but she was a superior racehorse and she can certainly take her share of the credit for her sons success.  Machiavellian appears 3*3 in the pedigree as broodmare sire of Shamardal and sire of Vettori but rather than reading too much into that I think we can just credit the combination of a much better than average sire and dam.

LOPE DE VEGA (IRE) 2007 c ch

(USA) 2002
Causeway (USA) 1997
Cat (USA) 1983
Bird (USA) 1978
(USA) 1976
Storm (USA) 1991
(USA) 1985
(USA) 1979
(GB) 1993
(USA) 1987
Prospector (USA) 1970
De Folie (USA) 1982
Street (GB) 1982
(GB) 1976
(FR) 1976
Vettori (GB) 1997
(IRE) 1992
(USA) 1987
Prospector (USA) 1970
De Folie (USA) 1982
Distingue (USA) 1980
Ivor (USA) 1965
(USA) 1975
Golconda (FR) 1992
Kendor(FR) 1986 Kenmare
(FR) 1975
Mecene (FR) 1982
Sharp (FR) 1981
(IRE) 1976
(FR) 1970

Cheltenham Review (belated)

It may be old news at this stage but in my defence I was moving house and I was without internet access for a period. Therefore I hope you will forgive me for belatedly reflecting on this years Cheltenham festival.

1. A disappointing Cheltenham

Cheltenham 2010 was a disappointment. All the races were run and we got some new champions but it lacked any performances that will live long in the memory. In the Gold Cup we saw the best of neither Kauto Star nor Denman and thus far the winner Imperial Commander (Flemensfirth x Ballinlovane by Le Moss) ranks as a good but not a great winner.

The Champion hurdle got the result we expected in 2009 but not so much in 2010 with Binocular triumphing (see full pedigree review ) . He was a good winner and although runner up Khyber Kim (Mujahid x Jungle Rose by Shirley Heights) franked the form by winning the Aintree hurdle the belief remains that the current crop of 2 mile hurdlers are unexceptional.  As an aside it is worth noting that Binocular was effectively declared a non-runner a few weeks before Cheltenham and he drifted to 999-1 on betfair.  It is interesting to compare the media fawning over Nicky Henderson with their treatment of other trainers who have ruled fancied horses out of big races before doing a u-turn.

Master Minded failed in his attempt to join the legends of the game by winning a third Champion Chase. The winner Big Zeb (Oscar- Our Siveen by Deep Run) looked good and is another marker of the skills of his trainer Colm Murphy.

Of the defending champions in the big four races only Big Bucks (Cadoudal-Buck’s by Le Glorieux) retained his crown and enhanced his reputation. He followed up at Aintree and is now unbeaten in his last 7 runs over hurdles.

 The potentially star hurdler that we expected to see was last years bumper winner Dunguib (Presenting-Edermine Berry by Durgam). However the Irish banker was only third behind Menorah (Kings Theatre-Maid for Adventure by Strong Gale). Criticism of Dunguibs jockey was unwarranted as he was never travelling like the superstar that so many had expected to see.

Key Numbers

There were 12 Group 1 races over the four days of Cheltenham.  The influence of Sadler’s Wells was never far away and 6 of the races fell to his grandsons and one to his great grandson (Binocular). For the record King’s Theatre had a double with Menorah  and the Bumper winner Cue Card (King’s Theatre-Wicked Crack by King’s Ride) and Oscar matched his achievment with Big Zeb and  Peddlers Cross (Oscar-Patscilla by Squill) winning the 2mile 5 novice hurdle. Accordion had a winner with Alberta’s run in the Ryanair chase and Golden Tornado who like Accordion was unraced, sired Berties Dream winner of the 3 mile novice hurdle.  Golden Tornado is a half brother to the American trained Irish 2000 Guineas winner Fourstarsallstar who sired the cross country chase winner A New Story.  The non-Sadlers Wells line stallions with Grade 1 winners were the Alleged horse Flemensfirth with Imperial Commander,  Cadoudal with Big Bucks, Pistolet Blue with Arkle winner Sizing Europe, Presenting with RSA winner Weapons Amnesty although he is out of an Old VIc mare and finally Triumph hurdle winner Soldatino who has a very obscure French pedigree being sired by Graveron a non-stakes winning grandson of Mill Reef out of an AQPS mare (“autre que pur sang” — “other than thoroughbred.”)

Ireland v France

The media often bill Cheltenham as an Anglo-Irish battle, but an equally interesting battle has arisen between Irish and French breds.  This year only 3 of the 12 Group 1’s went to French breds (Binocular, Big Bucks, Soldantino) but they still managed 9 winners overall and relative to their numbers they are disproportionately successful compared to their Irish and UK rivals. This years battle may have gone to the Irish but the war is far from over. It has been interesting to note how Irish studs have started to invest in proven or promising French jumps stallions as happened with Pistolet Bleu and more recently with Robin des Champs and Robin des Pres. Given the larger book sizes in Ireland, the buying power of Irish studs tends to be greater and it will be interesting to see whether the French repeat the mistakes of the 1970’s and 1980’s when they failed to hold onto their best flat stallions such as Lyphard, Riverman and Nureyev.

10 days that changed the world (of bloodstock)

The last 2 weeks have seen huge amounts of top level action in the UK, Ireland and France. It would be easy to simply write about one top level winner but I aim to please so here are ten items of interest from the past two weeks…….

1.Sea the Stars- His greatness is unquestioned, but is he the greatest ever?

The answer is no. Sea the Stars is undoubtedly a fantastic horse whose consistency and versatility has to admired but some of the praise has been vastly overdone. I believe that I have seen better individual performances over a mile, 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs. It is interesting to compare his level of form with that of last year’s winner Zarkava. She also won an Arc by two lengths beating Youmzain, over a mile she trounced Goldikova in the French Guineas and she was both a Group 1 winner at two and unbeaten throughout her career. However would anyone seriously suggest that she might be the greatest horse of all time,as has been mentioned in the case of Sea the Stars?

2. Mighty Mighty Montjeu.

We have learned that when Montjeu sires a good two year old, that horse becomes a top class three year old. Thus far his only Group One winning two year olds have all become Derby winners namely Authorized, Motivator and Fame and Glory. For good measure Jukebox Jury who won last years Royal Lodge has now become a Group 1 winner after narrowly triumphing in the Preis Von Europa.  On Saturday 26th September at Ascot in the Royal Lodge Joshua Tree won well. The next day in the Curragh’s Beresford Stakes,St Nicholas Abbey was even more impressive and become ante post favourite for next year’s Derby. For good measure Bikini Babe was runner up in the CL Weld Stakes.  As if to remind everyone that he still sires the odd decent older horse he had an Australian Group 1 winner Speed Gifted to complement Jukebox Jury’s success at the highest level. With Fame & Glory likely to stay in training it would be no surprise if he is champion sire in 2010.

3. John Oxx- You can’t get away from his influence!

Back in 2000 Sinndar gave John Oxx the best day he could ever have hoped for when winning the Arc on the same day as Namid won the Prix de’lAbbaye. In 2009 apart from Sea the Stars he won the Prix de Cadran with Alandi who spoilt Yeats farewell to racing. This was Alandi’s second major victory in three weeks following on from his Irish St Leger victory. The weekend also gave plenty of reminders of that memorable day in 2000 as Namid sired Total Victory who followed his sire in triumphing in the Abbaye and Sinndar was responsible for Youmzain who again had to settle for the runner-up spot for the 3rd successive Arc. For good measure Sinndar sired Rosanara who was quite impressive in retaining her unbeaten record in the Prix Marcel Boussac. I wrote in one of my first posts that Sinndar was badly overlooked by Irish breeders. He is now resident in France where I hope he gets the big books that he deserves as he is more than capable of siring a top horse. Total Gallery became Namid’s first Group 1 winner but he has probably arrived too late to make much of a difference to Namid’s reputation and his lack of major success saw the median for his yearlings slip to €5600 in 2008.

4.The Aga Khan- as good as it gets.

The Aga Khan had an incredible weekend. Group 1 successes for Shalanaya, Alandi, Siyouni, Rosanara, Varenar represent an incredible return and a vindication of his breeding policy.The sires involved Lomitas,Galileo, Pivotal, Sinndar and Rock of Gibraltar, are a decidedly mixed bunch but such success highlights the strength of his female lines.His non-conformist approach to stallion selection often sees him responsible for breeding the best offspring of many overlooked stallions. For good measure Daryakana (by Selkirk) and Manighar (by Linamix) picked up Group 2 races. Looking at some of the pedigrees involved familiar names quickly appear. The third dam of Shalanaya is Sharmeen the dam of Shergar, the dam of Alandi is a full sister to Oaks winner Aliysa, the grand-dam of Siyouni is Slipstream Queen who was dam of Slickly and was presumably purchased as part of the Lagardere purchase so it is fitting that he won the race commemorating Jean Luc Lagardere. Rosanara is out of a Linamix mare so again it can be taken that she was part of the Lagardere acquisition. Varenar is a half brother to Visindar who started favourite for the 2006 Derby on the back of an impressive win in the Prix Greffulhe and Daryakana is out Daryaba who won the French Oaks and Prix Vermeille in 1999.

5. Pivotal- another gap on the cv filled

I am a huge admirer of Pivotal and it is interesting to monitor the impact of the better mares on his results. The Prix Jean-Luc de Lagedare say a first and third for Cheveley Parks finest, comprising Siyouni and Buzzword. Interestingly both are our of Danehill mares and this is a cross that has been tried repeatedly since the success of Saoire in the Irish Guineas. Kitty Kiernan is another representative of this cross. Surprisingly it was the first time that Pivotal had sired a Group 1 winning two year old although he did have Group 2 winners previously in Captain Rio and Excellent Art.

6. Sahm- a loss

Sahm was impeccably bred being by Mr Prospector out of Salsabail. However I always felt he was at stud on the wrong continent. He has had relatively few runners in Europe and most of them were with Kevin Prendergast, who never seemed to train a bad one eg Mustameet, Adaala, Red Moloney. He also sired Maram who won last years Breeders Cup Fillies Turf.  Now he has had a Group 1 winner in surprise Sun Chariot winner Sahpreasa. Sahm died in 2007 aged only 13 and before he really got to capitalise on his better than expected results.

7. Sales races- distorting the truth

There were a number of sales races over the past 8 days with the Tattersalls races at Newmarket and the Goffs races at the Curragh.  Amazingly for the second year running Hawk Wing sired the winner of one of these sales races (Lucky General) to put him near the top of the two year old rankings again. This is a travesty of justice if it means that someone in the distant future comes to the conclusion that it was a mistake to banish this great racehorse but dreadful sire to Korea. Shamardal sired another Shakespearen the winner of the Goffs Million Mile and along with Arctic who was somewhat disappointing in the Middle Park he ensures that Shamardal will feature near the top of the first season sires listing. At Newmarket in the Tattersalls races Danehill Dancer sired Lilly Langtry the winner of the fillies races which means that he will now win the Anglo-Irish championship at the expense of Cape Cross. 

8. Middle Park in decline

THe Middle Park stakes has been in decline for a long period. In the past twenty years only Oasis Dream and Rodrigo de Triano have gone on to Group 1 success as three year olds. This years field was small but select with all the runners having shown a high level of form. In winning Azwaan retained his unbeaten record but he wasn’t overly impressive. Alhaarth throws all sorts and this year he was very unlucky that Mourayan didn’t win thus years St Leger as he got no sort of run. In the past Alhaarth has shown his versatility by siring sprinters (Dominica), milers (Haafhd) and middle distance horses (Bandari).  Accordingly it is hard to say how far Azwaan will stay but it will be a surprise if he wins next years 2000 Guineas.

9. Special Duty- omens are good

Special Duty showed a very impressive turn of foot to win the Cheveley Park. She has already been highly tried taking on colts when beating Siyouni in the Prix Robert Papin and finishing second to Arcano in the Prix Morny. She is from a top class family as her dam is a full sister to Sightseek who won 7 Grade 1’s for Juddmonte. Her sire Hennessy died in 2007 whilst on duty in South America and he is one of those sires that seemed to be around forever yet he was only 14 when he died. In Europe he is known solely for outstanding two year old Johannesburg and it is to be hoped that Special Duty trains on a little better than he did. She will most likely be targetted at the 1000 Guineas and she seems to have a good chance of giving Criquette Head her fourth success in that classic.

10. Singspiel – A value sire

I think that Hibaayeb was fortunate not to be disqualified after winning the Fillies Mile. She clearly impeded Lady Darshaan who is incidentally a half sister to Prix de l’Abbaye winner Total Gallery. However she kept the race and thereby became the 12th Group 1 winner for Singspiel and his third this year after Eastern Anthem and Dar Re Mei. Singspiel saw a significant reduction in his stud fee some years ago and he is value at £15000. Hibaayeb’s fourth dam is Oh So Fair who achieved fame as the dam of Oh So Sharp.



Horse age sex




Race and distance


Dam (broodmare sire)


04/10/09 Total Gallery 3 c Namid Prix de l’Abbaye Gr 1 (5f) Diary (GreenDesert)
04/10/09 Sea the Stars 3 c Cape Cross Prix de l’Arc Gr 1 (12f) Urban Sea (Miswaki)
04/10/09 Shalanaya 3 f Lomitas Prix de l’Opera Gr 1 (10f) Shalamantika (Nashwan)
04/10/09 Alandi 4 c Galileo Prix de Cadran Gr 1 (20f) Aliya (Darshaan)
04/10/09 Siyouni 2 c Pivotal Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (7f) Sichilla (Danehill)
04/10/09 Rosanara 2 f Sinndar Prix Marcel Boussac Gr1 (8f) Rosawa (Linamix)
04/10/10 Varenar 3 c Rock of Gibraltar Prix de la Foret Gr 1 (10f) Visor (Mr Prospector)
03/10/09 Sahpresa 4 f Sahm Sun Chariot Gr 1 (8f) Sorpresa (Pleasant Tap)
03/10/09 Speed Gifted 5 g Montjeu The Metropolitan Gr 1 (12f) Good Standing (Distant View)
02/10/09 Special Duty 2 f Hennessy Cheveley Park Gr 1(6f) Quest to Peak (Distant View)
02/10/09 Awzaan 2 c Alhaarth Middle Park Gr 1 (6f) Nufoos (Zafonic)
27/09/09 St Nicholas Abbey 2 c Montjeu Beresford Stakes Gr 2 (8f) Leaping Water (Sure Blade)


Jukebox Jury 3 c Montjeu Preis Von Europa Gr 1 (12f) Mare Aux Fees (Kenmare)
26/09/09 Hibaayeb 2 f Singspiel Fillies Mile Gr 1 (8f) Lady Zonda (Lion Cavern)
26/09/09 Rip Van Winkle 3c Galileo QEII Gr 1 (8f) Looking Back (Stravinsky)
26/09/09 Joshua Tree 2 c Montjeu Royal Lodge Gr 2 (8f) Madeira Mist (Grand Lodge)

Stewards, disqualifications and breeding- a potted history

The disqualification of Dar Re Mi after her victory in the Prix Vermeille was a decision that ignored common sense (see video ). The failure of the appeal against the decision adds insult to the injury. Stacelita was awarded the race and thereby retained her unbeaten record. Cynics will argue that it is probably not a coincidence that Dar Re Mi is trained in Britain whereas Stacelita is French trained. Certainly looking at controversial disqualifications over the years it seems that throughout Europe, foreign trained runners seem to be disproportionately affected. From a breeding perspective the decision is not going to alter the mating plans for either Dar Re Mi or Stacelita both of whom are already multiple Group 1 winners and are guaranteed the best available stallions.  This is often the case with fillies, whereas for colts a Group 1 on the cv can have a huge impact on their stud prospects. It is interesting to look back and consider other ill-judged disqualifications and speculate as to the impact the stewards may have had on the thoroughbred breed.

Three of the worst stewarding decisions

1. The 1913 Derby

 The most sensational and outrageous disqualification is that of Craganour, first past the post in the 1913 Derby. The race is now remembered primarily for the death of the sufragette Emily Davison, but there was also sensational drama in the stewards room. The race was awarded to 100/1 shot Aboyeur, who like Craganour was a son of Desmond.  Craganour was an unlucky horse who had earlier been robbed of the 2000 Guineas by an incompetent judge.

The story of his disqualification in the Derby is even more unfortunate. It was a rough race that saw five horses pass the line in a blanket finish. However most accounts clearly label Aboyeur as the villain of the piece.  Aboyeur was a bad tempered brute who took a bite at Craganour, the mark of which was clearly visible on Cragnour. However amongst the stewards on the day was Eustace Loder who was determined to deny Craganour the most famous prize in racing.

His motives were complicated as ironically Loder was the breeder of Craganour. One suggestion was that he was annoyed at having sold the horse but more likely it was because he despised Bower Ismay, the owner of Craganour because of an affair between Ismay and Loder’s sister-in-law.  Ismay was also part of the shipping family that owned the White Star Line which at the time were deeply unpopular because of the Titanic disaster. Ismay was also a Harrovian and all the stewards were Etonians in a world where such things mattered. In a travesty of justice Eustace contrived to have the luckless Craganour disqualified and Aboyeur awarded the race. The chief witness for the prosecution was the jockey William Saxby who had been jocked off Craganour, so naturally his impartiality was open to question. Craganour was sold to Argentinan interests for £30,000 and never ran again (a condition of his sale). He subsequently did well in Argentina. We can only speculate how he would have fared in the UK. Aboyeur was beaten in both his subsequent starts, went to stud in Russia and disappeared after the Russian revolution. The disqualification may have been a major injustice but it probably had only a minor impact on breeding history.  Not surprisingly there isn’t a head on camera reel available but this link shows some great footage from  Epsom on that fateful day

2. The 1981 2000 Guineas.

( ). It is difficult to assess the merits of this disqualification from this video (Nureyev was placed last for bumping Posse) but it seriously annoyed Francois Boutin who felt that xenophobia played a role. Nureyev retired with nothing more lofty than a  Group 3 (the Prix Thomas Byron which he won on his 2 year old debut) on his cv, along with the Prix Djebel.

It didn’t stop Nureyev becoming one of the greatest sires of the age with 135 stakes winners from just over 800 foals (17%). His sole season in France left behind Theatrical and his subsequent move to Kentucky saw him leave sire champions across a range of distances such as Miesque, Sonic Lady, Spinning World, Reams of Verse, Soviet Star, Zilzal, Fasliyev,Peintre Celebre etc. He has also become a significant broodmare sire with the likes of Big Brown, Bago, Desert King and Zabeel in the Southern Hemisphere.

In contrast, Known Fact never scaled the same heights, despite retiring as a classic winner to complement his victory in the previous years Middle Park Stakes. From a similar number of foals he left  behind 53 stakes winners (7%). He is primarily remembered for the brilliant Warning and he also sired top class Markofdistinction and So Factual.

3.The 1988 Ascot Gold Cup:

 Another very controversial decision. French trained Royal Gait ridden by Cash Asmussen was undoubtedly the best horse in the race but was disqualified for interference with the unplaced El Conquistador. The race was then awarded to Sadeem. Royal Gait was a gelding so it had no impact on his stud career. He did achieve fame in another sphere when winning the Champion Hurdle for James Fanshawe in 1992. Sadeem won the race on merit in 1989 but failed in his attempt for further success in 1990. Sadeem did secure a place at stud but by the 1980’s stayers were deeply unfashionable for breeding purposes so having an additional Ascot Gold Cup on his cv made little difference to his prospects of stud success.

Technical Disqualifications-Major implications

1. Aliysa Affair

Outside of raceday disqualifications, disqualifications on technical grounds can often generate controversy. In recent years the most high profile incident involved the Aga Khan’s 1989 Oaks winner Aliysa. The Aga Khan subsequently produced  expert evidence that essentially showed that the horse doped itself and that there were flaws in the drug testing regime. However the disqualification was never likely to be reversed and Snow Bride was awarded the race. The Aga Khan withdrew all his horses from the UK and it was a number of years before he had a runner there and longer still before he again had horses in training in the UK. The loss of such a major owner had huge implications for may British trainers such as Luca Cumani and Michael Stoute and it undoubtedly changed bloodstock history as the Aga Khan focused on France and Ireland. Incidentally Snow Bride entered the history books as the dam of Derby, King George and Arc winner Lammtarra and Aliysa was dam of Craven Stakes winner Desert Story and grand-dam of Irish Derby and King George winner Alamshar.

2. Chamour Affair

The disqualification that almost had the greatest impact on modern horse breeding occurred in a modest race in 1960. Chamour trained by Vincent O’Brien had just won a race won a maiden but a dope test showed traces of an amphetamine derivative. O’Brien was disqualified for 18 months and his reputation was in tatters. He considered never training again. However legal action led to an apology from the Turf Club, a reduction in his suspension to 12 months and a change in the rules. The testing undertaken was described as ‘a woman with a bucket’ and the supposed trace that they found was considered by many to be beyond the capabilities of the equipment available at the time. It’s easy to imagine that the bowler hatted brigade were motivated by animosity towards the young genius whom they considered to be getting above his station. Vincent recounted how many years later one of the stewards responsible approached him with an outstretched hand and said “O’Brien I’ll forgive you if you’ll forgive me”. Vincent left the room without a word. It is difficult to imagine what the bloodstock world would now resemble, without the influence of the Master of Ballydoyle.

3. Sadler’s Wells the unknown sire!

The most unusual disqualification in recent years concerned subsequent Dewhurst winner Prince of Dance. From the first crop of Sadler’s Wells and out of Oaks winner Sun Princess he was disqualified after winning the Washington Singer Stakes. The race conditions required that the runners be sired by horses who had won over a mile and a half and as Sadler’s Wells had never won beyone 10 furlongs disqualification was automatic. It seems amazing that neither connections nor anyone on race day noticed this breach of the race conditions, particularly one involving such a prominent first season sire.


Stewards are human and accordingly their impartiality can sometimes be called into question-mostly by punters talking through their pockets. That said they have a difficult job to do and they get things right more often than not.  The standard of stewarding has definitely improved, significantly helped by improved camera technology and replays.The assistance of professional stewards has also helped the situation.  From a breeding prespective their decisions often have enormous financial consequences so it is unsurprising that they are frequently challenged and appealed. On a light hearted note, stewards are rarely mentioned in popular culture but they received a very unflattering reference in the Pogues song ‘Bottle of Smoke’!

“Stewards inquiries
Swift and fiery
I had the bottle of smoke
Inquisitions and suppositions
I had the bottle of smoke

Fuck the stewards
A trip to lourdes
Might give the old fuckers
The power of sight
Screaming springers and stoppers
And call out coppers
But the money still gleams in my hand like a light”

Cavalryman Charges to Glory

Since the change in distance of the Prix de Jockey Club, the Grand Prix de Paris has assumed the mantle of the ‘real’ French Derby. Run on Bastille Day, this years Grand Prix de Paris was a weak affair and the winning performance of Cavalryman would have to be rated well below the Derby winning performances of Sea the Stars and Fame and Glory. The field comprised only 8 runners, half of them were trained by Aidan O’Brien and there were no previous Group 1 winners in the field.

 In the end it was a triumph for Sheikh Mohammed who owned the winner and third and their respective sires.  It also served as a reminder of the glory days of Godolphin.

The winner Cavalryman is by Halling (the name of a Nordic folk dance according to wikipedia) who was an early star for Godolphin. Cavalryman is a belated first Group one winer for Halling who incredibly had 12 Group 2 winners before finally breaking through at the top level. Interestingly in his previous run in the Prix Greffulhe he was defeated by the unbeaten Cutlass Bay who is another son of Halling and may also prove Group one class.

Hallings pedigree and race record:

Halling was a sound, top class individual. His sire Diesis was a champion two year old who won the Middle Park and Dewhurst. Diesis was a full brother to an ever better horse in Kris. At stud Diesis’ earned a reputation as fillies sire and sired three Oaks winners in Diminuendo, Ramruma and Love Divine. Apart from Halling his best colt was Elmaamul who although a generally disappointing sire is responsible for Muhtathir who has started very promisingly in his stud career.

Halling’s dam Dance Machine was a winner of the Sweet Solera Stakes at two. Despite his parents precocity, Halling was unraced at two and made his debut in July 1994 for John Gosden. However it wasn’t until his fourth race, a lowly Ripon handicap that he got off the mark. He never looked back and by October 1994 he was an impressive winner of the Cambridgeshire. This victory saw him leave John Gosden for Godolphin. He wintered in Dubai notching 3 modest victories at Nad Al Sheba before he was next seen in July’s Eclipse Stakes. He caused a modest surprise by making all and leaving the likes of Singspiel, Red Bishop, Muhtarram and Eltish in his wake.  He followed up a month later in the Juddmonte International where he was impressive in defeating Bahri.  That victory represented his eight consecutive victory.

He was then targeted at the Breeders Cup Classic where he met another horse in the midst of a long winning streak- Cigar. However he totally failed to run to form and was eased up in the straight.

He wintered in Dubai and was Goldolphins primary hope in the Dubai World Cup. However he once more failed to handle dirt or mighty Cigar.

Back in Europe and on turf, he won a very weak renewal of the Prix D’Ispahan run on very soft ground. He went on to record a second win in the Eclipse defeating Bijou D’Inde and Pentire under another front running ride. He then won his second Juddmonte International again making all. His swansong was the Champion Stakes, where in a vintage renewal he was defeated by Bosra Sham with Timarida in third. He finished his career as the winner of 12 of his 18 starts including 5 Group ones. He had proven himself a top class, courageous performer, who could make all or come from behind. Surprisingly he was never asked to race beyond ten furlongs but there were grounds for suggesting that it would have been within his compass.

Halling’s stud record:

Halling’s stud career has been marked by misfortune and mismanagement but he has still compiled a very respectable record. From 480 foals of racing age he has had 361 starters (75%), 240 winners (50%) and 38 (8%) black type winners. His offspring average winning distance is 10.4 furlongs which clearly indicates the stamina that he transmits. Unsurpisingly precococity is not his forte but he has consistently delivered top runners without ever managing a superstar. His first crop included a pair of Group 2 winners in Dandoun and Chancellor as well Foodbroker Fancy who won the Lupe and finished second in the Sun Chariot.

He has sired classic horses including The Geezer who was second in the St Leger to Scorpion and Something Exciting who was second to Eswarah in the Oaks. Norse Dancer finished third in the 2000 Guineas and fourth in the Derby along with a host of other Group 1 placings. Along with Coastal Path he is probably the best son of Halling to date and he is now at Wood Farm Stud in the UK for £2500.

There are a number of top stayers to his credit primarily Coastal Path, Franklins Gardens, Mkuzi and Bauer who came within a nose of winning last years Melbourne Cup.

Halling was sent to stand in the United Arab Emirates in 2004 and spent three seasons there as part of an experiment by Sheikh Mohammed. He is now back in the UK standing at £8000 but such a move cannot have helped his prospects. Halling seems to work with horses from all backgrounds and he is no doubt is opened up to a huge number of mares by only having a single strain of Northern Dancer and that in his fourth generation (fifth generation of any foal). For those who believe in nicks it is worth noting his success with Danzig mares as this has produced the Group 2 winning brothers Boscobel and Cutlass Bay as well as Group one placed Age of Reason.


Cavalryman’s dam Silversword was also trained by Andre Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed. She was talented and was placed second in the 12 furlong Group 3 Prix de Royaumont.  She was a daughter of recently deceased Highest Honor who like Halling won the Prix D’Ispahan. Silversword is already the dam of Finity (by Diesis) a three parts sister to Cavalryman who finished third in C L Weld stakes. Cavalryman’s granddam Silver Cobra is also the dam of Double Honour (a sister to Silversword) who finished second in a Goodwood Cup before embarking on a jumping career that saw him run in a Grand National. Silver Cobra is by the Roberto horse Silver Hawk who finished third in the Derby. Interestingly Halling has previously combined with Roberto to produce Mkuzi a multiple stakes winner for John Oxx. Cavalryman’s pedigree is an outcross for the first five generations. 


The Grand Prix de Paris was Cavalrymans’s first effort at 12 furlongs and he clearly improved for the step up in trip. He is still lightly raced and Andre Fabre has indicated that he may target him for the Prix de l’Arc. At the moment that may seem fanciful, but if he takes after Halling it would be unwise to rule out significant further improvement as he matures. Furthermore Fabre has an exceptional record in the Arc and on that basis he is a horse worth considering come Paris in October.


CAVALRYMAN (GB) 2006 c b

(USA) 1991
(GB) 1980
Up (GB) 1969
(USA) 1961
(GB) 1961
Sure (GB) 1971
(FR) 1962
Angels (GB) 1963
Machine (GB) 1982
Dancer (USA) 1972
(CAN) 1967
Valley (USA) 1967
A Lady (IRE) 1974
(USA) 1967
(IRE) 1969
(FR) 1993
Honor (FR) 1983
(FR) 1975
(GB) 1970
Of Ireland (GB) 1964
River (FR) 1978
(USA) 1969
(USA) 1970
Cobra (USA) 1986
Hawk (USA) 1979
(USA) 1969
Vitesse (USA) 1966
(USA) 1979
(SAF) 1964
(USA) 1972