07/28/2005 11:00PM

Sons of Diesis belatedly making an impact


LEXINGTON, Ky. - One of the elder statesmen of Kentucky breeding, the Sharpen Up stallion Diesis, fired up another good one in Europe over the weekend, as his daughter New Girlfriend, out of the Dynaformer mare New Story, won the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin against colts.

New Girlfriend comes by her precocity honestly. New Story was second in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac in France late in her 2-year-old season, and Diesis was the leading juvenile colt of his year in England, when he won the Group 1 Dewhurst and Middle Park stakes.

So not only is there good speed in this pedigree, but New Girlfriend is likely to race well through the fall at distances up to a mile and possibly could mature into a Guineas contender next season.

That was the pattern of development with her sire, as well, before he began his distinguished stud career at Alice and John Chandler's Mill Ridge Farm. Acquiring an interest in the colt as a 2-year-old from his owner-breeder, Lord Howard de Walden, Alice Chandler recalled that "we bought half after the Middle Park, and the acquisition was a private transaction. We were keeping quiet about it, but after Diesis won the Dewhurst, it was so exciting, I nearly exploded."

After going to stud at Mill Ridge, Diesis exploded on the international marketplace with the quality and high performance of his racers. He had champion Diminuendo in his first crop, and Diesis immediately became one of the highest-profile sires for European racing.

Whatever future successes come to New Girlfriend, they will surely be in races on turf in Europe. That's where the majority of the offspring by Diesis find their best form, and "that's also been the limitation on him," said Bayne Welker, director of sales at Mill Ridge Farm. "From his stakes horses, he's better than 90 percent as a grass producer, and his market is pretty well defined as European."

Not surprisingly, that has limited his commercial appeal in the U.S. market, but despite those restrictions, European breeders and some American breeders looking to produce a good horse have continued sending mares to the stallion.

Despite some market prejudices, Chandler said, "Here at Mill Ridge, we're going to make a place for the championship-level turf horse as a sire," and with precedents such as Nijinsky, Lyphard, Riverman, Sharpen Up, and his son Diesis, breeding to stallions who made their reputations on turf can be very rewarding.

With Diesis, the stallion's consistency and breeders' confidence in his capability of getting high-quality racing stock have kept the stallion's book full at $30,000 live foal for years.

Now 25, Diesis is in the twilight of his career, but just like Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, and other high-end sires, the truly top stallion is capable of siring important racehorses at any age.

Both Diesis, who was a champion at 2, and his full brother, the champion miler Kris, have proved themselves to be very successful sires of high-quality racers. They have sired top 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and classic stock.

Among the best by Diesis are European champions Diminuendo (English and Irish Oaks), Ramruma (English and Irish Oaks), Halling (the Eclipse and Juddmonte International twice each, as well as the Prix d'Ispahan), and Elmaamul (Eclipse Stakes and Phoenix Champion), as well as the current Group 1 winner Magistretti (Man o' War Stakes).

The only real knock on Diesis and his brother Kris has been that their sons have not carried on at their exalted level. But here, rather late in his stud career, Diesis has been fighting back against that impression.

Last Sunday, Sweet Return, a son of Elmaamul, won the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap, running nine furlongs on turf in 1:46.40.

Twice a winner at the Group 1 level, Elmaamul was also third in the English Derby. From his sire's third crop, Elmaamul was one of the fine early racers who helped put his sire's name in lights and made Diesis one of the most sought-after international sires of the mid- to late-1980's.

Coming from the seventh crop by Diesis was the outstanding international performer Halling, who won five Group 1 races. Halling was considered a very serious rival to American champion Cigar in the 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic.

Unable to get the traction that produced his amazing finishes in Europe, Halling spun his wheels in the Classic, in which he finished last of 11.

A horse who showed his best form with maturity, Halling has been a thoroughly useful stallion in Europe, and on Tuesday, his son The Geezer won the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood. Defeating his rivals by five lengths in the race at about 12 furlongs, The Geezer is now one of the favorites for the St. Leger in September.

With the examples of Halling, who has a half-dozen other group winners in Europe this year, and Elmaamul, sons of Diesis may find a higher regard as stallion prospects. And one of the immediate beneficiaries of any renewed interest could be group stakes winner Three Valleys. This son of Diesis won the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at 2, when he also ran second in the Group 1 Dewhurst.

Now racing in America, Three Valleys won a tough allowance in California last week in what was surely a prep for further stakes competition.