New season, old stories

The Craven meeting at Newmarket is all about looking ahead to future classics, but it can also remind us of past glories. The highlight of the first day was the very impressive performance of Fantasia in the Nell Gwyn stakes.  In winning, Fantasia became the first winner of the race for Sadler’s Wells. The King of Coolmore may be retired but he still has plenty of runners to come and he could still conceivably challenge for a 15th sires title.

Fantasia is another success for the Sadler’s Wells-Darshaan cross. From 158 foals,  24 (15%) were black type winners and 8 were Group 1 winners. Standouts included High Chaparral, Islington, Milan,  Ebadiyla, and Septimus. However, impressive as these figures seem, they are only marginally better than the great sires overall record.

It would be easy to assume that the Oaks would be the natural target for Fantasia, but that would be to ignore the other influences on her family. Fantasia’s dam Blue Symphony ran 13 times for Ed Dunlop and Gainsborough Stud (the name for Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoums interests), managing just one win as a three year old in a 10 furlong Brighton maiden. She was decidedly moderate and at her best was rated 67.  Blue Symphony was deemed surplus to requirements by Gainsborough and was eventually submitted to the Tattersalls November sales where she fetched 250,000 Guineas.

As such a price indicates there was more to like about Blue Symphony than a Brighton maiden win. The attraction was Fantasia’s grand dam Blue Duster who was a brilliant unbeaten two year old for David Loder. Amongst her four victories were the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Cheveley Park. At three her best run was a second in the Haydock Sprint Cup. The furthest she ran was the six and a half furlongs of the Prix Maurice De Gheest.  Remarkably her brother Zieten was also an unbeaten two year old, who won four times  and he won the Middle Park stakes which is the colts equivalent of the Cheveley Park. Kept in training for two more years he failed to significantly enhance his reputation although he did manage a victory in the Challenge Stakes (again at Newmarket).

Blue Duster’s aptitude for sprint distances was hardly surprising for a daughter of Danzig and the Habitat mare Blue Note.  Blue Note was a top class performer who also won the Prix Maurice de Gheest (back when it was a Group 2) and the Prix de la Porte Maillot.  Her dam Balsamique was a multiple winner in France and interestingly also won twice over jumps,something we can confidently say Fantasia will not be asked to emulate.

Fantasia was a top class two year old winning the Prestige Stakes and running second to Rainbow View in the Fillies Mile at Ascot for trainer Luca Cumani. She was subsequently purchased by George Strawbridge who has decided that he will not run her against Rainbow View (whom he also owns) and instead will target the French Guineas. There is little doubt that she will handle the mile but the question is whether she will get further? Bookmakers seem to think she will and she is currently favourite for the Oaks at 5-1. Those looking to back her for the Oaks (and who believe in such things) would also find some reassurance from her dosage index of 1.0 with a centre of distribution of +.13. However looking at the turn of foot she showed at Newmarket I will be surprised if she stays the Oaks trip. I expect her to be best at a mile like King of Kings, Gossamer and Barathea who were by Sadler’s Wells out of speedy Habitat mares.  That said I would be delighted if she makes a fool of me and gives Sadler’s Wells his sixth Oaks winner.

Regardless of how far she eventually stays, she is an ultra desirable broodmare combining pedigree and performace. The three great European broodmare sires of the modern era Sadler’s Wells, Darshaan and Habitat are all close up in her pedigree. At the end of her racing career George Strawbridge faces a wonderful dilemma in choosing her first mate. Some might think such speculation is premature, but as already stated, classic trials are all about looking to the future….


FANTASIA (GB) 2006 f b

Wells (USA) 1981
Dancer (CAN) 1961
(USA) 1954
(ITY) 1935
Angela (USA) 1944
(USA) 1957
Dancer (USA) 1950
(USA) 1947
Bridge (USA) 1975
Reason (USA) 1968
To Reason (USA) 1958
(USA) 1952
(USA) 1969
(ARG) 1963
(USA) 1964
Symphony (GB) 2000
(GB) 1981
Heights (GB) 1975
Reef (USA) 1968
(GB) 1969
(FR) 1972
(FR) 1959
(FR) 1965
Duster (USA) 1993
(USA) 1977
Dancer (CAN) 1961
De Nom (USA) 1968
Note (FR) 1985
(USA) 1966
(FR) 1973

2 thoughts on “New season, old stories

  1. Victor

    You said that “Fantasia is another success for the Sadler’s Wells-Darshaan cross. From 158 foals, 24 (15%) were black type winners and 8 were Group 1 winners. Standouts included High Chaparral, Islington, Milan, Ebadiyla, and Septimus. However, impressive as these figures seem, they are only marginally better than the great sires overall record.”

    It is true 15% SW foals is only marginally better than Sadler’s Wells’ overall record but what you are missing is that for Darshaan mares there is not anything better going around. Darshaan mares bred to Sadler’s Wells is at a 15% clip which compares to Darshaan mares with all other stallions which is just 5% (1965 foals for 97SW). It may only be a marginal nick for Sadler’s Wells but is a great one for Darshaan mares.

  2. Hi Byron, thanks for the comment. I’m not arguing against the cross, I was just making the point that it is not outperforming to the extent that people might have thought. As for the cross being good for Darshaan mares well thats hardly a surprise considering what an exceptional stallion Sadlers Wells was. You can get similar stats for almost any other broodmare sire if you compare their Sadler’s Wells progeny against all other progeny. He wasn’t champion sire 14 times by chance, and a comparison of a c.200k covering fee against one that might be a small fraction of that is likely to be a bit one sided. I suspect that once the cross become fashionable too many under-credentialled Darshaan mares were over bred to Sadlers Wells purely because of a perceived super nick that may have been more illusory than real! Breeding to one of the greatest sires of the past two centuries will certainly increase your percentage chance of success but that doesn’t mean its the correct decision especially on a value for money basis…

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