05/17/2007 11:00PM

Danzig gone, but his influence lives on


LEXINGTON, Ky. - In the span of eight days, the deceased sire Danzig reminded racing people and breeders why he was such a great stallion. On May 5, Danzig's son Hard Spun set the pace and ran on through the stretch to finish second to Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby. Last Sunday, another of his offspring, Astronomer Royal, won the French 2000 Guineas (Poule d'Essai des Poulains) at Longchamp by a half-length.

Street Sense and Astronomer Royal are outstanding examples of the qualities that Danzig imparted to his offspring with uncommon regularity. His stock were sound and competitive athletes who showed grit and speed. Most could carry their speed at least a mile, with a select few being competitive at the top level over distances of 10 furlongs or longer.

In short, Danzig was an exceptional sire, as attested by his excellent 18opercent stakes winners from foals. Nearly 200 of his colts and fillies have become stakes winners, with literally dozens of major winners around the world.

As good and hardy as Danzig was, only his fame is immortal, and Hard Spun and Astronomer Royal are among the 32 live foals reported to The Jockey Club from the great stallion's next-to-last crop. His final crop of 27 foals turned 2 this year.

Having spent his entire career at the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm, Danzig was pensioned from breeding after the 2004 breeding season and died in 2006 at age 29.

Danzig's reputation for excellence was enhanced by the victory of Astronomer Royal in France. Matt Lyons is farm manager for ClassicStar, which bred and sold the colt, and he said that Astronomer Royal was "a big, strong colt who always had a lot of natural muscling to him. He had a powerful forearm and hip, with a big, loose walk on him. He was a bit of a tough character but always one of the best horses from that crop."

Bred on the same cross as the group stakes winner Mull of Kintyre, Astronomer Royal was quite attractive to the European market, and he was sold privately and races for Derrick Smith.

Whereas Astronomer Royal was bred in Kentucky and won his classic in France, Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun was bred by one of the premier Pennsylvania operations, Brushwood Stable (Betty Moran) and Michael Moran, and races for Fox Hill Farms. The colt was sent through the ring at the 2005 Keeneland September sale, was unsold at $485,000, and then sold privately to Fox Hill owner Rick Porter.

Hard Spun is out of the Turkoman mare Turkish Tryst. She is also the dam of stakes winner Our Rite of Spring (by Stravinsky) and stakes-placed Wild Current (Wild Again).

Turkish Tryst produced a bay filly by Kingmambo on March 14 this year and has been bred back to Storm Cat.

Reiley McDonald, who consigns the Brushwood stock at auction through Eaton Sales and advises the breeders, said that "we are counting days" from the last cover to determine pregnancy on the mare. He described Turkish Tryst as a "big, rugged mare typical of Turkoman and Alydar. That's where Hard Spun gets a lot of his size, and the mare always puts a good foal on the ground."

Before becoming such an important producer, Turkish Tryst was a good performer on the track who won the April Run Stakes at 5 and also ran third in the Grade 2 Matchmaker Stakes. Bred in Kentucky at Darby Dan Farm, Turkish Tryst was the only stakes winner from her dam, Darbyvail.

This is one of Darby Dan's most famous families and one of its most successful classic-producing families.

Darbyvail is a half-sister to three stakes winners. The best of these was Little Current (Sea-Bird), the Eclipse Award winner as champion 3-year-old colt of 1974 and victor in the 1974 Preakness and Belmont stakes.

Little Current's dam, the My Babu mare Luiana, was a half-sister to a pair of the most famous performers from Darby Dan in the early 1960's. These were champions Primonetta and Chateaugay. Luiana and her famous siblings were out of the Polynesian mare Banquet Bell, a very fast stakes winner at 2.

Banquet Bell's daughter Primonetta was a stakes winner from 2 through 4, winning the Alabama and Spinster, among other good races. Chateaugay, on the other hand, showed his best at 3, winning the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and missing the Triple Crown with a second in the Preakness.

A victory by Hard Spun at Pimlico would settle some old scores for the family.