2014 End of Season Awards- ‘The Victors’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Madame Chiang-special, special, special!

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

 

MADAME CHIANG (GB) 2011 f b

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

Bracelet- Another Jewel for Urban Sea

Bracelet put herself into the classic picture with a smart success in the Group 3, 1000 Guineas trial at Leopardstown, run over 7 furlongs on soft ground. She quickened nicely from the highly regarded Balansiya (Shamardal ex Baliyana by Dalakhani) who was bidding to give Dermot Weld an important success for his new owner the Aga Khan.

Bracelet is a representative of the best female line in the book, that of Urban Sea . The list of stars descending directly from the Arc winner include Galileo, Sea the Stars, Born to Sea, Black Sam Bellamy, My Typhoon, Masterstroke and Wonder of Wonders. Bracelet is a full sister to Wading to won the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at two and was expected to make into a classic contender but never ran again. Their dam Cherry Hinton retired as a maiden but that doesn’t do justice to her level of ability which saw her finish runner up in a Group 3 and finish fifth in the Oaks. She has a two year old filly by Giant’s Causeway called Simply A Star. Cherry Hinton’s 2010 foal was colt subsequently name Lake Michigan. Injury meant he was unraced but he has just secured a place at stud in Park House Stud, Co Carlow as a National Hunt sire.

Bracelet is a further reminder that Montjeu isn’t entirely useless as a fillies sire! His reputation with fillies benefited from the victory in the Irish Oaks of Chicquita, who is now a Ballydoyle stablemate of Bracelet having sold for for 6 million euros during Paul Makin’s disposal sale. It’s hard to know how far Bracelet will stay, she will certainly stay the extra furlong of the Guineas, should stay 10 furlongs and after that who knows. Bracelet is now best priced 16-1 for the 1000 Guineas and as low as 8-1 for the Oaks. To my mind the 16-1 looks a good price for a filly who should progress considerably from her first run of the season and who has a pedigree that screams classic contender (pedigree listed below). Make up your own mind on her potential by watching the video of her race below

 

Bracelet (IRE) 2011 f b

Montjeu
(IRE) 1996
Sadler’s
Wells (USA) 1981
Northern
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Nearctic
(USA) 1954
Natalma
(USA) 1957
Fairy
Bridge (USA) 1975
Bold
Reason (USA) 1968
Special
(USA) 1969
Floripedes
(FR) 1985
Top
Ville (IRE) 1976
High
Top (IRE) 1969
Sega
Ville (USA) 1968
Toute
Cy (FR) 1979
Tennyson
(FR) 1970
Adele
Toumignon (IRE) 1971
Cherry
Hinton (GB) 2004
Green
Desert (USA) 1983
Danzig
(USA) 1977
Northern
Dancer (CAN) 1961
Pas
De Nom (USA) 1968
Foreign
Courier (USA) 1979
Sir
Ivor (USA) 1965
Courtly
Dee (USA) 1968
Urban
Sea (USA) 1989
Miswaki
(USA) 1978
Mr
Prospector (USA) 1970
Hopespringseternal
(USA) 1971
Allegretta
(GB) 1978
Lombard
(GER) 1967
Anatevka
(GER) 1969

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 🙂 ) 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….

Frankel was great but Secretariat was the greatest

Time brings perspective. Throughout 2012 we had to listen to a racing press repeating the mantra that Frankel was the greatest horse ever.  The poignancy of this great horse arriving as Henry Cecil entered the final stages of his storied life transferred the story from the racing pages to the front pages.  As an unbeaten winner of 14 races, encompassing 10 group 1’s and 9 consecutive group 1’s there is no doubt about his greatness but I would be very slow to accord him the accolade of ‘the greatest’.  Now with the passing of time and the reduction in hype it’s easier to properly consider his place in the pantheon of the greats.

Firstly what constitutes greatness? For me it its firstly a matter of brilliance backed up by consistency, durability and versatility. To be the greatest ever you must demonstrate more of these qualities than any other racehorse in history. For me Frankel scores exceptionally well in terms of brilliance and consistency, he scores reasonably in terms of durability but he scores lowly in terms of versatility.  Is there a horse who can outscore him using these 4 criteria? I believe there is – and his name is Secretariat.

Frankel vs Secretariat for brilliance: Verdict = draw

Frankel had brilliance. His Guineas performance looked the most impressive since Tudor Minstrel although we subsequently learned that the form was moderate for a classic with only Roderic O’ Connor ever subsequently winning a Group 1.  As a three year old his Sussex win over Canford Cliffs was impressive (although Canford was injured) and as a four year old his performance in the Queen Anne was astonishing and his Lockinge and Juddmonte performances hard to fault. Frankel showed brilliance in abundance. However so did Secretariat. His two year old performances (eg his 8 length victory in the Laurel Futurity)made him not just champion two year old but horse of the year.  He was a better two year old than Frankel who was unimpressive in winning the Dewhurst.  At three his achievement in setting track records in the triple crown races and three other track records (one tied) is remarkable. And then there is his Belmont performance- it really is an extreme in terms of performance. Watch again to remind yourself of the horse who ‘ran a hole in the wind’ in  a time of 2:24 to win a classic by 31 lengths.  Frankel had time to mature to reach his peak at four, Secretariat wasn’t given that opportunity but he didn’t need to further prove his greatness.  I have attached videos of Frankel’s Queen Anne and Secretariat’s Belmont to remind readers of how great they were in their prime.

Frankel vs Secretariat for consistency: Verdict = Frankel

Frankel was unbeaten in 14 races, ten of them Group 1’s. His only slightly disappointing run was the 2011 St James Palace Stakes where he was all out to hold off Zoffany by three quarter’s of a length.  However that is only nit-picking in a perfect record.  Secretariat by contrast lost his unbeaten record on his first start. A disqualification in the Champagne Stakes meant his two year old record finished as 7 out of 9 wins.  His three year old career started with two victories before a defeat in the Wood Memorial (he was suffering from an abcess). After his triple crown he mixed the good with the bad and suffered surprise defeats in the Whitney Stakes and the Woodward Stakes.  His busy three year old season eventually finished with a record of 9 wins from 12 starts to give an overall career record of 16 wins and 5 defeats.

Frankel vs Secretariat for durability: Verdict = Secretariat

Frankel raced 14 times over three seasons.  Secretariat raced 21 times in two seasons and retired sound despite having 19 of his races on the less forgiving dirt tracks. Big Red had plenty toughness to go with his talent whereas Frankel was wrapped in cotton wool by comparison.

Frankel vs Secretariat for versatility: Verdict = Secretariat

In his first two seasons Frankel raced in distances that ranged all the way from 7 furlongs to…..8 furlongs. He waited until he was a mature four year old before finally stepping up to 10 furlongs.  He never left England and never had to cope with the demands placed on a horse by long distance travel. He was also unimpressive on his final run when tackling officially soft ground for the only time since his debut.

Secretariat won from 6 furlongs to 13 furlongs in the Canadian International. His final two races (the Man o’ War and the Canadian International ) were on turf. On dirt he ran on fast and he ran on sloppy tracks and he coped with all of these diverse conditions.

Conclusion-   Some horses like Hawk Wing in the Lockinge Stakes are capable of one extraordinary performance but incapable of reproducing it.  In contrast his stable mate and contemporary Rock of Gibraltar produced high class performances with great consistency but nothing extraordinary.  Sea the Stars produced very very high class performances with great consistency over a variety of distances but for me he never produced a breathtaking performance. Frankel and Secretariat both were capable of extraordinary performances and both did so with regularity. I scored the decision marginally in favour of Secretariat but would respect the views of any Frankel fans who think otherwise. Moving on to the next question- will Frankel prove to be a better sire than Secretariat? I would be certain he won’t be a better broodmare sire and I’ve a hunch that like Secretariat he might prove slightly disappointing considering the level of expectation that exists.

Enjoy Frankel in the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot

Watch Secretariat’s amazing win in the 1973 Belmont Stakes