06/07/2004 11:00PM

Female side separates Bago

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LAS VEGAS - The best 3-year-old in the world may not be in the United States.

Although Smarty Jones remains the best 3-year-old in this country despite his gallant loss in the Belmont Stakes, there is still an exciting and undefeated 3-year-old in France.

The Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) was the marquee race of Chantilly's most important day of racing on Sunday, which included the Grade 1 Prix Jean Prat, Group 2 Prix de Sandringham, and Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene. But all the talk was about Bago, who toyed with his opponents in the Prix Jean Prat.

Bago was the top-rated European 2-year-old last year, when he won all four of his starts, including dazzling victories in the Group 3 Prix des Chenes and the Group 1 Criterium International over very soft turf.

Despite battling a stubborn virus that delayed his 3-year-old debut, Bago showed he was the same brilliant colt who dominated his rivals last year. In winning the Prix Jean Prat, Bago defeated two highly regarded rivals, Cacique and Ershaad, in his first race at 1 1/8 miles. Over a very fast course, Bago's time was 1:46.60, missing Chantilly's course record by .50 of a second.

Female family full of class

Bago is the result of crossing two exceptional female families - Height of Fashion and Almahmoud - and his female family is a study of what class in the dam is all about. Class in the dam is established when broodmares produce high-quality runners over multiple generations and is exemplified by Bago, whose first six dams (Moonlight's Box, Coup de Genie, Coup de Folie, Raise the Standard, Natalma, and Almahmoud) have all produced stakes winners of the highest quality.

Bago is by Nashwan (by Blushing Groom), a 3-year-old champion in England and France who won 6 of 7 lifetime starts, including such Group 1 races as the Epsom Derby, 2000 Guineas, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and Coral Eclipse Stakes. Nashwan is out of Height of Fashion, who was a Group 1-producing machine. In addition to Nashwan, Height of Fashion produced three other high-class offspring: Unfuwain (Northern Dancer), Alwasmi (Northern Dancer), and Nayef (Gulch).

Bago's dam, Moonlight's Box, is yet another example that an unraced filly, if exquisitely bred, has every right to become a significant broodmare. By Nureyev, Moonlight's Box is out of Coup de Genie, a 2-year-old champion filly in France. As a daughter of Mr. Prospector, Coup de Genie was sent to Santa Anita to compete in the 1993 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in her first start on dirt. Coup de Genie was not a robust filly, and when she washed out badly before the race, her fate was sealed. Coup de Genie nevertheless finished fourth behind the talented trio of Phone Chatter, Sardula, and Heavenly Prize.

Whereas Moonlight's Box was unraced, four of Coup de Genie's foals are major stakes winners: Snake Mountain (A.P. Indy), Glia (A.P. Indy), Loving Kindness (Seattle Slew), and Denebola (Storm Cat), who was one of last year's top 2-year-old fillies in France.

Bago's third dam, Coup de Folie, was an example of the Rasmussen Factor (inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals) at its finest. Coup de Folie's sire (Halo) and dam (Raise the Standard) both trace in tail-female line to Almahmoud through Almahmoud's two daughters, Natalma (Native Dancer) and Cosmah (Cosmic Bomb). Natalma is immortalized as the dam of Northern Dancer, and other important horses descending from Natalma are Danehill and La Prevoyante. Bred to four different stallions, Cosmah produced four stakes winners - champion Tosmah (Tim Tam), Fathers Image (Swaps), Maribeau (Ribot), and Halo (Hail to Reason). Queen Sucree, a full sister to Maribeau, produced 1974 Kentucky Derby winner Cannonade and stakes winners Circle Home, Del Sarto, and Wassl Touch. Flawlessly, Stephan's Odyssey, Catrail, Lotka, and L'Emigrant all descend from Cosmah.

Coup de Folie followed in the footsteps of her outstanding female ancestors, producing Coup de Genie and two full siblings: Machiavellian, who was also a 2-year-old champion in France and is now a major sire, and Ocean of Wisdom, a Group 3 winner. Bred to Irish River, Coup de Folie produced Group 1 winner and sire Exit to Nowhere. And bred to Nureyev, Coup de Folie produced Group 2 winner Hydro Calido.

Cacique another star out of Hasili

Cacique (Danehill), who finished well to be second to Bago under Gary Stevens, is the latest runner out of another special broodmare, Hasili. Cacique is a full brother to three top-class runners - Banks Hill, Dansili, and Intercontinental, who won last weekend's Just a Game Handicap at Belmont. Bred to Green Desert, Hasili also produced multiple stakes winner Heat Haze and must be considered a candidate for Broodmare of the Year honors.

Ershaar, who finished third in the Prix Jean Prat, also has a five-star pedigree. By Kingmambo, Ershaar is out of the Sadler's Wells Group 1 winner Insight, who is a full sister to classic winner Saffron Walden and a half-sister to group winner Dolphin Street (Bluebird). This very active female family also produced 1969 2-year-old champion Silent Screen and current freshman sire Dance Master.

The Prix Jean Prat has all the earmarks of a key race that should have an impact on future European group races and possibly this year's Breeders' Cup.