Vintage year if weather gods allow

A quirk of nature, or can climate account for one crop being better than the next? more »

Monday, September 2, 2013

I don’t think it was just a trick of my imagination that 2012’s European three-year-olds were an unexceptional bunch. Timeform gave only one of them a rating higher than 124 (Camelot on 128) and Paul Curtis of the Racing Post wrote that “the Classic generation failed to come up to scratch on almost every front”. He rated the Japanese colt Gold Ship superior to all the three-year-olds which raced in Europe.

The World Thoroughbred Rankings compilers also put the proverbial boot in, rating none of the three-year-olds higher than 125, even though every one of the previous 12 champion three-year-olds had been rated 128 or higher, with the best of them (Sea The Stars and Frankel) receiving ratings of 136.

So how do we explain why a whole generation appears to be less talented than its predecessors? I would be tempted to consider the effects of climate, such as the depressingly long periods of wet, dull weather in 2012, but surely this can’t explain why 2009’s whole northern hemisphere crop failed to live up to expectations. I’m afraid that I’ll have to fall back on that hoary cliché that animals are not machines and that it is unrealistic to expect each crop to replicate its predecessor’s achievements.
As a consultant to Juddmonte Farms, I have had first-hand experience of this phenomenon, even though Juddmonte’s stallions and broodmares have achieved admirable consistency over the years. Inevitably, though, there has been the odd blip, as has been highlighted by the sharply contrasting results achieved by Dansili’s 2009 and 2010 crops.

The general view was that Juddmonte’s 2009 Dansili foals were a particularly pleasing collection

As the Juddmonte managers have been around long enough to have seen numerous Group winners graduate from Dansili’s first seven crops, they now have a very good idea of what a promising youngster by Dansili looks like. The general view was that Juddmonte’s 2009 Dansili foals were a particularly pleasing collection, and the anticipation was increased by the fact that they included brothers or sisters to several stakes winners, headed by the Group 1 winners Proviso, Passage Of Time and Zambezi Sun.
Inexplicably, none of them has so far won a Group race, though three have become Listed winners. Dansili can’t be blamed, as his 2009 foals for other breeders included the Group 1-winning fillies Fallen For You and The Fugue, plus their fellow Group winners Thomas Chippendale, Dank, Requinto, Fire Lily and Entifaadha.

Fortunately, it has proved a very different story with Juddmonte’s 2010 foals by Dansili, which so far include five Group winners and a Listed winner. Famous Name’s sister Big Break set the ball rolling last year, when she proved too strong for a field which included Magician in the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes. The Royal Ascot meeting saw Riposte add to the Frankel family’s achievements, when she took the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes, a couple of hours before the progressive Remote landed the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes.

In July it was the turn of Flintshire, who gave Dansili his third victory in the Grand Prix de Paris with a performance which marked him out as a potential Arc winner. Then August started in great style when the buzzy Winsili displayed plenty of courage to give Juddmonte its fourth recent victory in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes.

The Listed win came from Disclaimer and there have also been successes from Ashdan, So Beloved, Fledged, Abated, Premium, Mission Approved, Bracing Breeze and the French filly Shared Account, so there have been very few blanks among Juddmonte’s 2010 Dansilis.

Perhaps the hotter summer this year is proving beneficial to the progeny of a stallion who preferred a sound surface, but the contrast between these two groups is probably just another of those inexplicable quirks which make racing and breeding so fascinating.

The Doyles’ love affair with Arakan
A generous pat on the back is surely owed to Peter and Ross Doyle, following the success of Toormore in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. The Doyles paid £36,000 at Doncaster’s Premier Sale for this Arakan colt, who is now unbeaten in two starts.

Peter Doyle had previously paid €26,000 at Tattersalls Ireland’s 2008 September Yearling Sale for a colt from Arakan’s first crop and €20,000 for another son of the Ballyhane Stud resident at the same sale two years later. The 26,000-euro colt, of course, turned out to be Dick Turpin, who eventually retired to the National Stud as a dual Group 1 winner of nearly £1 million. His best efforts also included creditable seconds in the English, French and Irish versions of the 2,000 Guineas.

The 20,000-euro colt Trumpet Major also proved a rare bargain, as he has scored at Group level in each of his three seasons in training, including the Champagne Stakes at two and the Bet365 Mile at four. He also has a fourth in the 2,000 Guineas on his CV.

What makes this trio of notable successes all the more remarkable is that Dick Turpin, Trumpet Major and Toormore are the only Group winners sired by Arakan, who has only one other stakes winner to his credit, in the three-year-old Sruthan, who cost only €1,000 as a yearling.

Arakan also deserves a pat on the back (as does the Richard Hannon team). He sired Toormore and Trumpet Major from unraced mares and Dick Turpin from a filly who failed to win in 12 attempts. However, Toormore has a Group 3 two-year-old winner as his third dam, Trumpet Major has a German Oaks winner as his second dam and Dick Turpin’s dam is a half-sister to the fast and precocious Deep Finesse.

You can get a good idea of how difficult it has been for Arakan to make his mark from the fact that Trumpet Major comes from a 2009 crop numbering only 15; Sruthan comes from a 2010 crop numbering 17; and Toormore comes from a crop of 50, conceived after Dick Turpin began to draw attention to Arakan’s potential. Even Arakan’s 2012 crop numbers fewer than 40. However, this smart son of Nureyev was very busy in 2012, when he is credited with covering 239 mares, so the Doyles are going to be very busy inspecting his stock at the 2014 yearling sales.

Europe’s stars could benefit from being raced at range of trips

I suspect I’m not the only one who admires the versatility shown by many of Australia’s top performers. One of the first to catch my attention was the 1993 Hardwicke Stakes winner Jeune, a confirmed middle-distance performer in England who proved far less one-dimensional after his transfer to Australia.

This son of Kalaglow earned two Group 1 wins in 1994, one over nine furlongs in the Underwood Stakes and the other over two miles in the Melbourne Cup. The following year saw him win the CF Orr Stakes over seven furlongs. Similarly, Lonhro, by Octagonal, moved up and down the distance scale, winning Group 1 races over virtually every distance from seven furlongs to a mile and a half.

It is the records which make me wonder whether Europe’s top performers could be more versatile than they are often given the chance to demonstrate. I had no such thoughts, however, about High Chaparral, who excelled over a mile and a half to the extent that he won the Derby, Irish Derby and two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf. After all, he represented the same Sadler’s Wells/Darshaan cross as Ebadiyla (Prix Royal-Oak), Septimus (Irish St Leger and Doncaster Cup), Milan (St Leger) and Election Day (third in the Gold Cup).

But as Galileo has repeatedly shown, the ability to shine over a mile and a half needn’t negate a stallion’s potential to sire outstanding milers, especially with some help from his mares. This High Chaparral has now done, in the shape of the admirable Toronado.

It is worth highlighting that High Chaparral wasn’t without an element of speed. He won the Racing Post Trophy over a mile at two and later collected four Group races over a mile and a quarter.
The way that National Hunt breeders were circling High Chaparral like hungry wolves a few years ago suggested that breeders were beginning to abandon him. However, he has confirmed that he can occasionally pass on his considerable two-year-old ability to such as Toronado, Wrote (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf), Joanna and Serienhoehe.

Of course his New Zealand-conceived progeny have won some top prizes over a mile and a half or more, including the Australian Derby, a Caulfield Cup and a VRC Victoria Derby, but there have been many more Group victories over shorter distances.

For example, his 2013 Australian Derby winner It’s A Dundeel has also won Group 1 events over a mile and a mile and a quarter. His first Australian Derby winner, Shoot Out, gained his three subsequent Group 1 successes over a mile, and So You Think’s third in the two-mile Melbourne Cup has to be judged alongside his wins in the Underwood Stakes over nine furlongs and two editions of the Cox Plate over a mile and a quarter. So You Think also won the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes over a mile and a quarter, as did Descarado.

High Chaparral has repeatedly shown that he benefits from the speed normally to be found in the Danzig line. Wrote is out of a Green Desert mare, as is Fillies’ Mile runner-up Lady Darshaan, and his Group winners out of Danehill mares include Noll Wallop, a Group 3 winner over a mile. Toronado isn’t out of a Danzig line mare but his second dam Wedding Gift is a talented miler by a son of Danzig.

Needless to say, Toronado is by no means the first major performer sired by a son of Sadler’s Wells from a Gone West-line mare. Montjeu’s son Motivator, another winner of the Racing Post Trophy and the Derby, was the first to draw attention to this cross’s potential and Montjeu went on to sire another five Group winners from mares belonging to the Gone West line.

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