04/22/2004 11:00PM

For Europeans, winning classics is in the blood

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NEW YORK - One of the reasons the Epsom Derby became racing's ultimate goal for more than 150 years was its ability to produce winners by sires who were themselves winners of the great classic.

In the early days of the Epsom Derby, that occurred rather often. The 1787 winner, Sir Peter Teazle, later sired four Derby champions. Waxy, the 1793 winner, would sire four future Derby winners, including Whalebone, who was the sire of three Derby winners.

As the number of horses in training increased, the number of classic winners producing classic winners decreased, but that only made such sires more valuable. And as racing spread around the globe, the attention of breeders also became focused on horses who were related to classic winners and other big race winners through their dams.

Nowadays, there are as many races with classic billing as there are racing nations, times three. Most countries run three classics for colts: a 2000 Guineas at one mile, a Derby at 1 1/2 miles, and a St. Leger at 1 3/4 miles. America is the exception to the rule, with Triple Crown races run at distances between 1 3/16 miles and 1 1/2 miles.

While the Triple Crown races are in the same league as the English, Irish, and French derbies as well as the English, Irish, and French 2000 Guineas, an examination of the last 10 winners of those nine races suggests that the American versions are losing ground to their European counterparts, at least in the realm of well-related winners.

Since 1994, our 30 Triple Crown races have been won by horses sired by winners of the nine major colts' classics just six times. Three of those winners - Grindstone, Red Bullet, and Empire Maker - are by Derby and Belmont winner Unbridled. The other three are Charismatic, by Preakness winner Summer Squall; Point Given, by Derby and Belmont winner Thunder Gulch; and Lemon Drop Kid, by French 2000 Guineas winner Kingmambo.

By contrast, 13 of the English, Irish, and French Derby winners since 1994 have been sired by winners of the nine major colts' classics.

Not surprisingly, Irish 2000 Guineas winner Sadler's Wells has been responsible for six of them, including dual Derby winners Montjeu, Galileo, and High Chaparral. French Derby winner Hernando has four, in French and Irish Derby winner Dream Well, as well as French Derby winners Holding Court and Sulamani. English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky has Epsom Derby winner Lammtarra; French Derby winner Darshaan has Epsom Derby winner Dalakhani; and English 2000 Guineas winner Storm Bird has Irish Derby winner Balanchine.

Thirteen European 2000 Guineas winners since 1994 have also been sired by winners of the nine major colts' classics.

Sadler's Wells again heads the list at four, with three English 2000 winners - Entrepreneur, King of Kings, and Refuse to Bend - along with Irish 2000 champ Saffron Walden. French 2000 winner Green Dancer checks in with two, in Irish 2000 winner Desert Prince and French 2000 winner Green Tune.

The other seven are spread singly among French Derby winner Bering, sire of English 2000 winner Pennekamp; French Derby winner Darshaan, sire of English 2000 winner Mark of Esteem; Irish 2000 winner Turtle Island, sire of English 2000 winner Island Sands; French 2000 winner Kingmambo, sire of English 2000 winner Kings Best; Irish 2000 winner Spectrum, sire of English 2000 winner Golan; French 2000 winner Soviet Star, sire of French 2000 winner Ashkalani; and English 2000 winner Doyoun, sire of French 2000 winner Daylami.

Concerning classic winners who are related to Group or Grade 1 winners, the numbers are more balanced between winners of our Triple Crown races and European classic winners.

Seven Triple Crown race winners since 1994 are full brothers or half- brothers to 10 horses who have won 11 Group or Grade 1 races. Empire Maker is a half to Chiselling, Honest Lady, and Chester House. Timber Country is a half to Fort Wood and Hamas. Go for Gin is a half to Pleasant Tap. Charismatic is a half to Millennium Wind, Louis Quatorze is a half to Indy Dancer, and Editor's Note a half to Hold That Tiger.

Note the increased transatlantic lines among that group. That becomes even more pronounced among the six European Derby winners who are halves or fulls to six horses which have won 19 Group or Grade 1 races. Meanwhile, eight European 2000 Guineas winners are halves or fulls to the winners of 17 Group or Grade 1 races.

More importantly, Daylami and Dalakhani are half-brothers, as are Dream Well and Sulamani, and Pennekamp and Black Minnaloushe. By contrast, no American Triple Crown winners in the last 10 years are so closely related.

The discrepancies noted here may be a blip in the history of racing, or they may reveal the edge major European breeders have gained over their American rivals, who lately have sought a quick return on investment as opposed to the more methodical longterm approach of the Europeans and the Arabs.