06/06/2014 3:50PM

Sparkman: Broodmare Holy Moon accomplishes unique feat


The Group 2 Italian Oaks on May 25 produced a unique result.

Since the end of World War II in 1945, only seven broodmares had produced three (or, in one extraordinary case, four) winners of classic races in major Northern Hemisphere racing countries, excluding Japan. The victory of Final Score, by Dylan Thomas, not only added the name of her dam, Holy Moon, by Hernando, to that most exclusive of broodmare clubs but, in fact, inaugurated a new sorority with a membership of one.

Final Score was the third consecutive Italian Oaks winner produced by Holy Moon, following the victories of Cherry Collect, by Oratorio, in 2012, and Charity Line, by Manduro, in 2013. Only one other mare on the list of dams of three or more classic winners in the modern era has produced three consecutive classic winners, Morning Dew, but those three did not win the same race, and Morning Dew was barren in 1946 after producing Irish classic winners Grand Weather and Morning Wings in 1944 and 1945, respectively, and before producing Irish classic winner Morning Madam in 1947. (The list includes all mares who produced at least one of their classic winners after 1946 or later.)

In fact, if one scans the lists of the entire history of all five recognized classic races in England, Ireland, France, Germany, and Italy, plus the three American Triple Crown races, no mare has ever produced three consecutive winners of the same classic in the entire history of the Thoroughbred. Libra, dam of St. Leger and Irish Derby winners Ribocco and Ribero in 1967 and 1968; Irish Bird, dam of French Derby winners Bikala and Assert in 1981 and 1982; and Korveya, dam of French 2000 Guineas winners Hector Protector and Shanghai in 1991 and 1992 have come closest to matching that feat since World War II.

Whatever one might think of the status of the Italian Oaks, which lost its Group 1 status in 2007 but still ranks as a classic race, producing three straight winners of any race that consistently attracts the best runners available is a truly extraordinary feat. And while one obviously could never predict such a unique accomplishment, it was certainly predictable from Holy Moon’s pedigree and race record that she had every chance to be a first-class producer.

Bred in Ireland by Stall Eos, Holy Moon was the fifth foal of Centinela, by Caerleon, an unplaced but very well-bred mare who produced nothing else of note, but was a half-sister to 1993 Italian Oaks winner Bright Generation, by Rainbow Quest. Bright Generation is the dam of stakes winner Fathayer, by Volponi, and the second dam of French highweighted 2-year-old Dabirsim, by Hat Trick.

Bright Generation’s and Centinela’s dam, New Generation, by Young Generation, was a half-sister to the high-class multiple French Group 3 winner Nonoalca, by Nonoalco, dam of Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes winner Great Navigator, by Gulch, out of the brilliant 1967 Prix Morny winner Madina, by Beau Prince II. Madina was bred and raced by Baron Edouard de Rothschild, but descended from a family developed principally by the greatest of French breeders, Marcel Boussac. Madina’s fifth dam was Only One, by Son o’ Mine, dam of Boussac’s first French Derby winner, Ramus, by Rabelais, and ancestress of Boussac stars Scratch, Jock, and Janitor, among others.

Holy Moon’s sire, Hernando, by Niniski, was one of the best of his generation in Europe in 1993, winning the French Derby and Group 1 Prix Lupin and running second to English champion Commander in Chief in the Irish Derby and to Carnegie in the 1994 Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Hernando developed into a very good sire at Kirsten Rausing’s Lanwades Stud, siring 60 stakes winners to date from 674 foals age 3 and up (8.9 percent), including French Derby winners Sulamani and Holding Court, Epsom Oaks winner Look Here, and Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes winner Gitano Hernando.

Sold to trainer Alduino Botti for the equivalent of only $2,319 at the 2001 Goffs October yearling sale, Holy Moon ran 12 times at 3 and 4 in Italy for Botti’s Scuderia Dioscuri. Holy Moon won three of her four starts at 3, including the listed Premio E.B.F. Terme di Mera at Merano over about 1 3/8 miles. She won two more allowance races at around 1 1/4 miles from eight starts at 4 and placed in the listed Premio Giovanni Falck at about 1 1/2 miles.

In other words, Holy Moon was a pretty good race filly from a very good family that had not done a whole lot to encourage breeders in the last few generations. She was also closely inbred, however, a factor clever breeders have taken advantage of for hundreds of years. Holy Moon’s paternal grandsire, Niniski, was a classic-winning son of the great racehorse and sire Nijinsky II, as was her maternal grandsire, Caerleon, giving Holy Moon a 3x3 duplication of Nijinsky II and an inbreeding coefficient of 4.54 percent through the first six generations. Hernando’s dam, not so incidentally, also carries similar close inbreeding, a 3x3 double of Buckpasser.

Cherry Collect, by Oratorio, Holy Moon’s first Italian Oaks winner and her third foal, won eight of her 10 starts with two seconds at 2 and 3, topped by a victory in the Italian 1000 Guineas equivalent in addition to the Italian Oaks. Cherry Collect was the highweighted 3-year-old filly on the Italian Free handicap in 2012, and was obviously the best filly in Italy that year.

Charity Line, Holy Moon’s 2010 filly by Manduro, was not as precocious as Cherry Collect but is still unbeaten after six starts at 2 and 3 and reportedly is being aimed at a more international campaign this year by Botti. Winner of her only start at 2, Charity Line added the Group 1 Premio Lydia Tesio to her Italian Oaks victory at 3.

Final Score, by Dylan Thomas, is also unbeaten in only three starts in a career that has followed a pattern similar to that of Charity Line.

All three fillies were bred by the Botti family’s Razza del Velino and race for Scuderia Dioscuri. And, yes, Holy Moon may well have a chance for a fourth consecutive Italian Oaks winner, since she has a 2-year-old filly by Rock of Gibraltar, named Wordless, who has not yet raced.

Rock of Gibraltar was a top-class son of the great sire and sire of sires Danehill, as are Oratorio, sire of Cherry Collect, and Dylan Thomas, sire of Final Score. Both Oratorio and Dylan Thomas have been moderately successful at stud without reaching the elite level among European or Australian sires.

Oratorio, winner of the Group 1 Eclipse and Irish Champion stakes, has sired 41 stakes winners from 1,091 foals age 3 and up (3.8 percent), including Group 1 winners Military Attack (Horse of the Year in Hong Kong), Banchee (champion 2-year-old filly in New Zealand), Beethoven, Biz the Nurse, Manawanui, and Temida.

Dylan Thomas, Europe’s Horse of the Year in 2007, has sired 16 stakes winners from 519 foals age 3 and up (3.1 percent), including 2014 Italian Derby winner Dylan Mouth, and Grade 1/Group 1 winners Tannery and Nymphea.

Charity Line’s sire, Manduro, would have been heavily favored to beat Dylan Thomas in the 2007 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but for breaking down in his prep race and was rated the best horse in Europe that year by international handicappers after going unbeaten in five starts, including three Group 1 races. Manduro, the best son of great German sire Monsun, has not made as good a start at stud as hoped, with 14 stakes winners from 311 foals age 3 and up (4.5 percent), led by Charity Line, Group 1 winner Mandaean, and Godolphin’s highly regarded True Story, slated to start in the Epsom Derby on June 7.

Even in the extremely unlikely event that Wordless, Holy Moon’s 2-year-old filly, should win the 2015 Italian Oaks, Holy Moon’s incredible run of success will come to an end no later than in 2016, since her 2013 foal is a colt by 2011 Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi.

Whatever happens next, Holy Moon has accomplished something no other broodmare has ever done – producing three straight winners of the same classic race.