Updated on 09/15/2011 1:50PM

Approaching the end of the Nureyev era

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The handsome bay stallion Nureyev is still standing at stud at age 24, but recent news is a reminder that the stallion's dancing days are nearly done.

His fertility was always fickle, but it has slipped the past few years, despite the best efforts of the veterinary staff at Walmac International, where Nureyev, a son of Northern Dancer, stands at stud. As a result of his lessening fertility, his book for 2002 will be restricted to mares owned or designated by shareholders.

Breeders will be losing access to one of the best sires of quality performers in the sport and one of the last top-class sons of Northern Dancer. Their loss extends to the racing public as well.

This weekend's races, with major stakes such as the Arlington Million, Pacific Classic, Secretariat, and Beverly D, show how much of a mark Nureyev has made as a stallion.

Among Nureyev's offspring racing this weekend, Skimming, winner of last year's Pacific Classic at Del Mar, will attempt a second victory in that rich race, and Senure - winner of the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth after With Anticipation was disqualified - will attempt to win the Arlington Million in Chicago.

Both of these horses are 5-year-olds bred by Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms. Juddmonte has been one of the most consistent supporters of Nureyev at stud, sending him top-quality mares year after year, despite his unpredictable fertility, and the Lexington nursery has been notably favored by success with this stallion.

In addition to Grade 1 winners Skimming and Senure, among the top-quality offspring Juddmonte has bred and raced from breedings to Nureyev is Reams of Verse, who won the English Oaks and is now a broodmare at Juddmonte.

The dams of Skimming and Senure are also still producing at Juddmonte. Skimming, out of the Grade 2 stakes winner Skimble, is inbred to Northern Dancer 2x3. His dam, an attractive chestnut daughter of Lyphard, is actually quite like Nureyev in size and proportions. She is medium sized and lengthy, rather than tall. She has quality and refinement, and her even temperament may have balanced out some of the nervous energy that Nureyev frequently passes on.

In addition to producing Skimming, Skimble has foaled the 2-year-old Tree Pipit, by Woodman. Her yearling is a filly by Gone West, and her foal of 2001 is a filly by Red Ransom.

In contrast to Skimble, the dam of Senure is the tall and powerful Diesis mare Diese. A mare with plenty of scope and length, Diese is a good example of the type frequently sired by Diesis, horses with size and strength.

Diese has a 2-year-old filly by Distant View named Starlight Night and a yearling filly by Swain. She did not produce a foal in 2001.

Like Skimble, Diese was also a high-class racemare, winning a Group 3 race in France.

As these two different types of mares indicate, Nureyev has sired quality stakes winners from numerous lines of broodmares. Some of his champions include Zilzal (out of a mare by Le Fabuleux), Miesque (Prove Out), Spinning World (Riverman), Peintre Celebre (Alydar), and Theatrical (Sassafras).

Recent research indicates what horsemen have long believed: that the stallion makes a stronger contribution to body shape and the mare contributes more to the size of foals. Given this, it makes sense that a fast, well-made stallion like Nureyev would sire successful offspring from many different mares and broodmare sire lines.

From the good-sized Sassafras mare Tree of Knowledge, he sired champion Theatrical, who has many of his sire's best qualities, along with substantially more size. Theatrical, blessed with fertility, soundness, and enthusiasm for racing, has proven to be Nureyev's best son at stud. In fact, he could have an even more successful weekend than his sire.

Theatrical's best runner this year is the top turf mare Astra, and the stallion will have a serious contender for the Arlington Million in Hap, a flashy chestnut who is probably the best turf horse in the East. In addition, Theatrical also has the 3-year-olds Startac and Strut the Stage, who have already shown good form, and they may blossom like so many other of Theatrical's produce to become even better with maturity.

Theatrical stands at Diamond A Farm, formerly Brookside Farm, and the management at Diamond A, like those at Walmac, will have plenty to root for in the racing across the country this weekend.