07/31/2008 11:00PM

Danzig's line remains strong globally


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The late Danzig had his 200th stakes winner over the weekend with Olympic, a $3.6 million yearling in 2003, taking the Mataji Stakes on Saturday at Calder.

Although Danzig is now one of three stallions to sire 200 stakes winners, that isn't the measure of the great horse's impact on the breed.

In fact, one of the earlier sires to break the mark for 200 stakes winners was Danzig's son Danehill, the most successful shuttle stallion to date who has become the most important sire in the history of Australian breeding.

The other stallion over the barrier is the recently pensioned Sadler's Wells, who is a son of the great Northern Dancer, like Danzig.

Big Brown, winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, is a son of the Danzig stallion Boundary. Both Danzig and Boundary stood their entire stud careers at Claiborne Farm.

Although Danzig sired champions such as Chief's Crown and Dance Smartly on dirt, his continuing influence has been stronger in countries where racing is principally on turf.

In the upcoming Saratoga select yearling sale, where the lion's share of the catalog is taken up by yearlings from the lines of Storm Cat and Mr. Prospector, there is only one lot by a son of Danzig, Hip No. 94 by Breeders' Cup Mile winner War Chant.

That lack of representation at the select Saratoga venue, from which Danzig is a most distinguished alumnus, might suggest that the power of the Danzig branch of Northern Dancer is on the wane.

That does not appear to be the case, however, when considering the bigger picture of breeding. And what isn't so easily appreciated is the extent of Danzig's influence on breeding and racing internationally.

As a means of assessing the global situation with sire lines, the internationally recognized pedigree consultant Jack Werk said that "Danzig is the most powerful stallion line in the world. In Australia, he is the replacement for the Star Kingdom line, and in Europe, Danzig is the sire of several good sires, especially Danehill and Green Desert, who have a number of good sons."

For example, Danehill's son Duke of Marmalade is the best older horse in Europe, and Danehill has leading sons or grandsons in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Without doubt, Danehill is the most important single conduit for Danzig's international influence, and he has sired nearly 300 stakes winners from a monumental output of foals as a longtime shuttle sire. But other Danzig sons may be equally important in terms of quality.

Certainly, Green Desert has created a sensation in European breeding with his stallion sons such as the high-class sires Cape Cross, Invincible Spirit, and this season's freshman sire sensation Kheleyf.

In assessing the stallion's international prestige, Werk said that "if you look at the sons of Danzig who have sired stakes winners, it's amazing. You can find them in every region and country."

As one of the most important stallions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Danzig has stamped the breed with soundness, speed, and versatility. These traits have allowed his offspring to race and win major races in many different environments and then to pass on their admirable traits to the next generation.

And the horse who did all this was not the most outstanding or striking physical individual, nor the horse with the grandest pedigree.

Danzig was a dark bay horse by the great sire Northern Dancer out of the useful stakes winner and modest broodmare Pas de Nom, who did not produce a stakes winner from her 11 named foals.

But one of them was Danzig, whom Woody Stephens selected for Henryk de Kwiatkowski at the Saratoga sales. Despite having a "questionable" knee, Danzig showed amazing speed in his works and in his three races.

The blazing fast colt was unbeaten in three starts that he won impressively, but he never ran in a stakes, which prompts the following questions:

In today's commercial environment, if a horse like Danzig came along, could he find a place at stud?

Even with an owner as wealthy as de Kwiatkowski, could any stallion farm take a horse who has not won a stakes and get him a sufficiently good book to have a chance to succeed?

With so many unproven stallions taking so much of the mare population in their massive books, how many good mares could possibly be left for a sire prospect who never won a stakes?

What a loss it might have been.

But Stephens wanted Danzig to go to stud at Claiborne, Seth Hancock put together a sound syndicate of breeders to support the horse, and they gave the horse good books of mares.

From those mares, Danzig sired more than 20 percent stakes winners from seven of his first nine crops. He was an amazing horse.