03/08/2013 1:18PM

All Too Hard finds it hard to match famous half-sister


It is too early in the year for Northern Hemisphere 3-year-olds to have sorted themselves out, so perhaps it should not be surprising that if one consults the most recent worldwide rankings of horses competing as 3-year-olds, the highest-rated horse would be Australia’s All Too Hard.

While All Too Hard’s name and qualifications to be considered the world’s best 3-year-old in training might be unfamiliar to Americans, the name of his much more famous half-sister will not be. All Too Hard is a younger half-brother of the highest-rated racehorse in training anywhere in the world, the undefeated Black Caviar, who won her 23rd consecutive race just a week before All Too Hard captured the Group 1 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield on Feb. 23.

While All Too Hard’s third Group 1 victory, his sixth career win in 11 starts, cannot compete with Black Caviar’s 23 straight wins and 13 Group 1 triumphs, his overall record is comparable to any of his American or European rivals from the crop born in 2009 and perhaps surpassed only by Japanese Horse of the Year Gentildonna.

All Too Hard is the third foal of his dam, Helsinge, by Desert Sun, following Black Caviar, by Bel Esprit, and her full brother, Moshe, who won three of his five starts as a 3-year-old but never faced the starter in a stakes race. Moshe now stands at Eliza Park Stud, primarily on Black Caviar’s reputation.

Black Caviar was impressive enough as a yearling to sell for $197,337 at the 2008 Inglis Melbourne premier yearling sale, and Moshe went through the same ring for $47,970 the following year. By the time All Too Hard appeared in Inglis’s Easter sale in Sydney in 2011, however, Black Caviar was 12 races into her record-setting spree, and the Hawkes family of trainers (father John and sons Michael and Wayne) had to pay a sale-topping $1,025,000 Australian ($1,062,310) for him.

All Too Hard appeared to be worth every penny when he won his first three starts as a 2-year-old in the late Australian summer of 2012 (February and March), culminating with a one-length score in the Group 2 Henry Bucks Sires Produce Stakes at Flemington. Australian champion 2-year-old Pierro was too good for him in the Group 1 Inglis Sires’ Produce Stakes, though, and All Too Hard ranked second, five pounds behind Pierro, on the 2011-12 Australian Free Handicap.

All Too Hard’s losing streak continued through his first three starts as a 3-year-old last Australian spring, but in the Group 1 Beck Caulfield Guineas (roughly equivalent to the Preakness Stakes), he deprived the heavily favored Pierro of his unbeaten record by a half-length. Another defeat followed in the $3,111,900 W. S. Cox Plate, Australia’s most prestigious weight-for-age race, but All Too Hard covered himself with distinction over the extended 1 1/4 miles, fighting the 4-year-old New Zealand star Ocean Park all the way to the wire before finishing second by a neck.

After the traditional Australian spell on the sidelines during the hottest summer months, All Too Hard has easily won the Group 1 C. F. Orr Stakes as well as the Futurity.

Just why All Too Hard’s dam, Helsinge, has produced two horses as good as Black Caviar and All Too Hard will doubtless remain one of the mysteries of Thoroughbred genetics, but it is the job of pedigree analysts to find answers to questions that were never asked at the time a mating was created.

Helsinge is certainly bred well enough to be a good, if not necessarily great, broodmare. Her sire, Desert Sun, by Green Desert, was a good racehorse in England and America but well below the top of the tree. A winner of only three of 23 lifetime starts, he placed in stakes on both sides of the Atlantic but never managed to win one. That was exactly the kind of race record that breeders in New Zealand found affordable before the shuttle-stallion concept practically eliminated the demand for that type of horse.

Desert Sun made the most of his opportunities, siring 34 stakes winners, led by three-time Australian Horse of the Year Sunline. Desert Sun’s daughters also have produced 11 stakes winners, including Group 1 winner Rockdale and 2012 Hollywood Turf Cup winner Grandeur.

Helsinge herself never raced, but she is a half-sister to Australian Group 1 winner Magnus, by Flying Spur, and to Australian Group 2 winner Wilander, by Exceed And Excel. Their dam, Scandinavia, by top New Zealand sire Snippets, was a high-class filly, winning at the Group 2 level in Australia, and she is a half-sister to stakes winners Midnight Sun (by Western Symphony), Frosty the Snowman (by Christmas Tree), and Russian Tea Room (by Raise a Cup).

All Too Hard’s fourth dam, Love Song (by Warpath), was a Danish Oaks winner who was imported to Australia, but there is very little in the next few generations along the female line to explain this sudden explosion of class. In fact, one must trace as far back as Helsinge’s 11th dam, Third Trick, the second dam of 1926 Epsom Oaks winner Short Story, to find a direct connection to English classic form.

All Too Hard, however, is quite closely related to his dam’s two group-winning half-siblings. His sire, Casino Prince, who has sired only one other stakes winner, was a Group 1-winning sprinter by Magnus’s sire, Flying Spur, the leading Australian sire of 2006-07. Both Flying Spur and Exceed And Excel, the sire of Wilander, are sons of nine-time leading Australian sire and two-time leading English sire Danehill, and thereby hangs the rest of the tale.

Both Helsinge’s paternal grandsire, Green Desert, and Danehill are sons of three-time leading American sire Danzig, which makes All Too Hard inbred 4x4 to that great son of Northern Dancer. In fact, Flying Spur and Green Desert are bred on a similar pattern, since Green Desert is by Danzig out of a daughter of Sir Ivor, and Flying Spur is by the best son of Danzig out of a granddaughter of Sir Ivor.

Given the international success of the male line of Danzig through Danehill, Green Desert, Anabaa, Chief’s Crown, National Assembly, Hard Spun, et al., it is inevitable that, along with Sadler’s Wells, Danzig will be the next natural inbreeding target for international breeders. Already, more than 130 international stakes winners inbred to Danzig within the first four generations have appeared, including at least 22 Group 1 or Grade 1 winners, led by U.S. champion I’ll Have Another, Hong Kong champion Able One, and 2012 Garden City Stakes winner Samitar.

Helsinge has since produced a filly by great Australian sire Redoute’s Choice named Belle Couture, who topped last April’s Easter sale at A$2.6 million ($2,681,380), and her full brother is just as certain to be the Sydney star this year.

There is also a full sister to Black Caviar romping the sunburnt fields of Australia dreaming dreams of future conquests.

She will have to do more than dream to match her famous siblings.