Updated on 09/17/2011 10:47AM

Finest stock now running overseas


NEW YORK - If the Kentucky breeding industry is still wondering how a New York-bred could win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, it should understand that many of the best horses bred in the Bluegrass no longer run in America.

One need look no further than this week's events at Royal Ascot, where six of the 12 group race winners through the first four days of the meeting were Kentucky-breds.

Dubai Destination in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, Nayef in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes, Russian Rhythm in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes, Spanish Sun in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes, Three Valleys in the Group 3 Coventry Stakes, and Membership in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes all hail from Kentucky. The first four are all classic-race quality.

Of the three Group 1 winners, Dubai Destination and Russian Rhythm are by Kingmambo. The third, Nayef, is by Gulch. Spanish Sun is by El Prado, who briefly led the American sire list earlier this year and still stands fourth. Three Valleys is by Diesis, while Membership is out of a mare by Diesis. Three other Ascot group race winners, Zafeen, Russian Valour and Shanty Star, are by Kentucky-bred stallions.

One might argue that Kingmambo, Diesis, and Zafonic do not have bloodlines that produce major winners on dirt, but that is not the point. They, like Northern Dancer, Nijinsky, and Nureyev before them, occupy the attentions of many of the best-producing mares in the world. The offspring of those mares are largely controlled by foreign interests. Dubai Destination, Nayef, Spanish Sun, Three Valleys and Membership are all bred and owned by European-based Arabs.

And when the Europeans, Arabs, and Japanese don't have control of a mare, they have the knack of supplementing their forces at the sales. Witness the British-based Arab owner Saeed Suhail, who picked up a Kentucky-bred yearling son of

Kris S. at the 2001 Keeneland September sale for $275,000. Turned over to Michael Stoute, the colt won this year's Epsom Derby as Kris Kin, a victory that enabled Kris S. to vault from 43rd to fifth in the North American stallion standings.

Two of the three leading stallions in North America owe their positions in large part to foreign-owned horses who were imported into the United States only recently. Third-place Carson City is the sire of the Godolphin-owned State City, the winner of the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, while first-place A.P. Indy's leading earner is Mineshaft, owned by Will Farish and partners.

Mineshaft is a perfect example of why America's 3-year-olds rank decidedly lower than their European counterparts, the politically driven International Classification notwithstanding. He began his career with trainer John Gosden in England, but his best performance was when he was promoted to third in the Group 3 Prix Daphnis at Maisons-Laffitte. Sent to Bobby Frankel, he has prospered on dirt, winning three graded races and narrowly missing in last Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs while spotting the winner eight pounds.

In addressing the discomfort the Kentucky breeding industry faced in light of Funny Cide's heroics, Mineshaft provides illumination. What if he had been trained in America as a 3-year-old? What if Kris Kin had remained in America and raced here as a 3-year-old? How many other European-trained horses, be they Kentucky-bred or European-bred with American bloodlines, who remained in Europe throughout their careers, could have added to the quality of racing in America?

The ever-increasing number of graded race victories by foreign imports in the older horse divisions on both turf and dirt raises an important question concerning the quality of 2-year-old and 3-year-old racing in America. If those horses who are winning races like the Charlie Whittingham, the Manhattan, the Pimlico Special, and the Metropolitan Handicap had been in America when they were 2 and 3, the landscape of American racing would be a much more beautiful thing. Their absence and the absence of those who got away and remained in Europe, suggest that American racing at the 2- and 3-year-old level is decidedly inferior to the European product.

This problem didn't exist in the 1970's, when the mass exodus of American bloodstock to Europe was only beginning. We have the memories of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar, and Spectacular Bid to remind us of what it was, and of what it will probably never be again.