03/29/2014 11:26AM

Sparkman: Beat Hollow has touch of success in Ireland

Beat Hollow, a Group 1 winner for Juddmonte, developed into a successful sire.

Ever since American breeders began to shy away from breeding to grass horses, especially foreign-bred ones, in the mid-1990s, European-breds have increasingly dominated our best turf races. Among the three North American turf races for males specifically designed to attract foreign runners, horses trained in Europe have won 11 of the last 14 Breeders’ Cup Turfs, nine of the last 14 Canadian Internationals, and six of the last 14 Arlington Millions. And in both the Canadian International and Arlington Million for that time span, three more horses began their careers abroad but had transferred to American trainers by the time they registered their big wins.

Among the three corresponding filly-and-mare races, European-trained runners have won six of the last 14 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turfs, with four winners trained here who began their racing careers abroad; seven of 14 E.P. Taylor Stakes winners were trained abroad, with four other imports winning; and three editions of the Beverly D. Stakes have been won by foreign-trained mares, but the remaining 11 of the most recent 14 runnings went to horses originally trained abroad.

The late Bobby Frankel trained seven of the 25 winners of those six races who began their careers abroad, five of them in the familiar green and pink silks of Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, including 2002 Arlington Million winner Beat Hollow. Retired to Abdullah’s Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket, England, in 2003, Beat Hollow has endured rather mixed results at stud, but he is responsible for the first European group stakes winner of the 2014 season, Juddmonte’s humorously named Vote Often, the winner of the Group 3 Park Express Stakes on March 23.

Like the majority of Abdullah’s horses, Beat Hollow began his racing career in England, specifically with the late, great trainer Henry Cecil. He was an easy winner of his only start at 2, a one-mile maiden race at Yarmouth, and given his pedigree, it inevitably pointed his racing career toward Epsom Downs on the first Saturday in June.

By 14-time leading sire Sadler’s Wells, Beat Hollow’s dam, Wemyss Bight, by Dancing Brave, won 5 of 7 starts in France and Ireland, topped by a comfortable victory in the 1993 Group 1 Irish Oaks. A half-sister to stakes winner Vacamonte, by Caerleon, Wemyss Bight was the best daughter of one of Juddmonte’s coterie of foundation mares, Bahamian, by Mill Reef.

Purchased for about $480,000 at the 1986 Tattersalls October yearling sale, Bahamian proved her worth on the racecourse, winning the Oaks Trial Stakes at Lingfield and placing in three group races over distances beyond 1 1/2 miles. Bahamian’s daughters have produced 10 stakes winners for Juddmonte, including the great sire Oasis Dream, by Green Desert, and Group 1 winners Reefscape, by Linamix, and Zenda, by Zamindar, in addition to Beat Hollow. Zenda is also the dam of Kingman, by Invincible Spirit, one of the winter-book favorites for the 2014 2000 Guineas.

Beat Hollow duly won his Epsom Derby prep, taking the 1 1/4-mile Newmarket Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths, but he ran up against two real champions at Epsom, finishing third, beaten six lengths by Sinndar and five by Sakhee. Oddly, though he finished well clear of the rest of the field at Epsom, Beat Hollow was never tried at 1 1/2 miles again. He confirmed his top-class ability with a one-length win in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at about 1 1/4 miles at Longchamp, but that proved his last start at 3, as he suffered what was described as a minor injury to a hind joint on the gallops later that summer.

Beat Hollow’s absence from the racecourse stretched to more than 19 months, and when he finally reappeared as a 5-year-old, it was from Frankel’s barn in a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer at Santa Anita, which he won with minimal fuss. Beaten a neck by Sarafan in the Grade 2 Explosive Bid Handicap at Fair Grounds, he returned to his best form in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs, stalking a solid pace and holding off With Anticipation by 1 1/4 lengths.

Beat Hollow led almost all the way in the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap, beating Forbidden Apple by two lengths, but got trapped on the rail in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar, getting out late to finish second to Sarafan. Beat Hollow had pulled hard in the Eddie Read, and he certainly ran eagerly from just off the early pace of Forbidden Apple in the Arlington Million but had barely enough left to hold off Sarafan by a head in a five-horse blanket finish.

That tendency to pull hard early might have been one of the reasons his connections chose to point toward the Breeders’ Cup Mile rather than the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ Cup Turf, but it was a choice doomed to failure. Beat Hollow had not run over so short a distance since his 2-year-old days, and he finished third in his Breeders’ Cup prep, the Keeneland Turf Mile. Cecil had also scratched him twice from scheduled tests in England on soft going, and when it rained at Arlington Park, his Breeders’ Cup effort was compromised. He finished sixth, beaten five lengths by Domedriver.

Retired to Banstead Manor in 2003, Beat Hollow sired Group 3 winner Charlotte O Fraise (out of Dundel, by Machiavellian) and three minor stakes winners in his first crop, but his only Northern Hemisphere Group 1 winner, Proportional, did not arrive until his third crop. By that time, Beat Hollow’s star was very much on the wane among commercial breeders, and he moved to Ballylinch Stud in Ireland in 2012.

Vote Often is a full sister to Proportional, who won the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac–Criterium des Pouliches in 2008, earning French highweight honors among juvenile fillies in the process. The two full sisters are daughters of Minority, by Generous, who ran second in the 1998 Group 3 Prix de Minerve and third in the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre. Minority is a granddaughter of another of the many Juddmonte foundation mares, Fabulous Native, a Le Fabuleux mare Juddmonte purchased for $400,000 at the 1987 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Fabulous Native, a great-granddaughter of foundation mare Exclusive, by Shut Out, had already produced Italian champion St. Hilarion, by Sir Ivor, and Group 3 winner Ballet de France, by Northern Dancer, and she foaled two more good ones for Juddmonte, multiple graded winner Savinio, by The Minstrel, and French stakes winner Native Justice, by Alleged. Ballet de France produced multiple Group 1 winner and sire Muhtarram, by Alleged, and is ancestress of six other stakes winners.

Minskip, a winning full sister to Savinio, is the dam of stakes winners Skipping, by Rainbow Quest, and Innocent Air, by Galileo, in addition to Minority. Minority’s half-sister Skiphall, by Halling, is the dam of Folk Opera, by Singspiel, one of the seven E.P. Taylor winners trained abroad in the last 14 years.

One cannot know, of course, whether Khalid Abdullah himself is familiar with the aphorism “Vote early, vote often,” which has been attributed to everyone from Boss Tweed to Al Capone to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Whoever might be responsible, however, Vote Often is one of the more clever names of recent years, playing off the names of both her sire, Beat Hollow, and her dam, Minority.

Vote Often’s full sister Proportional was apparently a rather lucky Group 1 winner who was never able to reproduce her impressive three-length victory over subsequent classic winner Elusive Wave in the Marcel Boussac. Vote Often clearly is not as precocious, but she was staying on well at the end of the Park Express and may prove a stronger threat over longer distances than in the Irish 1000 Guineas, her connections’ stated target.

Beat Hollow himself was certainly bred to stay 1 1/2 miles but obviously was considered better over shorter distances by his extremely competent connections. Physically, the muscular Beat Hollow is far more reminiscent of his grandsire, Northern Dancer, than the majority of the progeny of Sadler’s Wells, and his eager running style may have limited his scope.

Vote Often is Beat Hollow’s 22nd stakes winner from 401 foals ages 3 and up, a 5.5 percent strike rate, and the stallion was represented in the West Coast turf division by recent Grade 2 winner Vagabond Shoes (Atiza, by Singspiel), who unfortunately was euthanized March 22 after injuring a cannon bone in the San Luis Rey Stakes. It is his lack of top-level runners that resulted in Beat Hollow’s transfer from Newmarket to Ireland. He also has sired Australian Group 1 winner Beaten Up (Frog, by Akarad), but his most talented runner to date is likely Sea Moon (Eva Luna, by Alleged), a high-class stayer who won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and ran second to St Nicholas Abbey in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Whether Vote Often can improve that record at the top level will be revealed over the next few months.