10/17/2014 5:37PM

Sparkman: Exceed And Excel is exceedingly good

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Joe Labozetta/NYRA
Legendary, a recent Grade 3 winner at Belmont, is by Exceed And Excel.

Geneticists have yet to come up with a scientific explanation of what makes a sire of sires. And while it may be tempting to view the phenomenon as a man-made construct with no genetic basis, that explanation, too, remains unconvincing, at least for the most extreme cases.

Whatever the genetic substrate may be, there is no doubt at all that the late, great Danehill was the greatest sire of sires since his grandsire, Northern Dancer. The leading sire a record-tying eight times in Australia, twice in England, and three times in France, Danehill passed that influence on to an impressive group of sons. Redoute’s Choice (three times), Flying Spur, Fastnet Rock, and Exceed And Excel have led the sire list in Australia, Danehill Dancer led the combined English/Irish sire list in 2009, and Dansili topped the French list in 2006.

Even that collection of leading sires does not come close to doing justice to Danehill’s prowess as a sire of sires. A seemingly endless list of sons headed by Al Maher, Blackfriars, Catbird, Commands, Danasinga, Danewin, Danzero, Darci Brahma, Desert King, and Keeper have sired multiple Group 1 winners and many classic winners and champions in the Antipodes.

At the same time, Clodovil, Danetime, Duke of Marmalade, Holy Roman Emperor, Kodiac, Oratorio, and Rock of Gibraltar are all successful sires in Europe, Tiger Hill has flown the Danehill flag in Germany, Academy Award has been a top sire in Scandinavia, Ace in India, Amigoni in Brazil, and Catcher In The Rye in Argentina.

Perhaps partly because of American breeders’ irrational aversion to “foreign” bloodlines and grass horses for the last 20 years or so, the Danehill phenomenon has been almost wholly invisible on this continent – except at the Breeders’ Cup. Only one high-class son of Danehill has stood in America, and his 2004 Epsom Derby winner, North Light, was so poorly patronized at Adena Springs in Kentucky that he was soon transferred to Frank Stronach’s Canadian base and has now been repatriated to England to stand at Lanwades Stud.

The neglect of the Danehill male line in America is unlikely to change, but at least we occasionally get a taste of how good his sons can be, most recently with the victory of Exceed And Excel’s son Legendary in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker Stakes on Oct. 11 at Belmont Park. Bred in Australia by the Ascot Breeding Partnership, Exceed And Excel was one of 11 Australian or New Zealand champions sired by Danehill, who was himself the highweighted European sprinter as a 3-year-old in 1989.

Danehill was, of course, American-bred, by three-time leading sire Danzig out of Razyana, by His Majesty, a granddaughter of Northern Dancer’s dam, Natalma, by Native Dancer. And although Exceed And Excel was Australian-bred, his pedigree is entirely American. His dam, Patrona, by Seattle Slew’s English classic-winning half-brother, Lomond, was bred in California by Jenine Sahadi, and her dam, Gladiolus, by Watch Your Step, was a very fast, sound, and prolific sprinter whose seven stakes victories were highlighted by a win in the Grade 3 Interborough Handicap.

From the great and thoroughly American family that also gave us Domino and Affirmed, Gladiolus produced English Group 3 winner Stylish Senor, by El Gran Senor, French stakes winner Dramatis, by Spectacular Bid, and American stakes winner Swamp King, by Vice Regent.

Exceed And Excel showed high speed from the moment he stepped on a racetrack, running 1,100 meters (about 5 1/2 furlongs) in 1:04.32 at Canterbury on March 6, 2003, to win his maiden in his first start. Second, beaten a head, by Handsome Ransom in the Group 3 Black Opal Stakes in his next start, he then defeated Untouchable by that same margin in the Group 2 Todman Slipper Trial. In Australia’s richest race, the Group 1 Golden Slipper itself, however, Exceed And Excel led for the first five furlongs but faded in the sixth, finishing ninth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths.

Sixth in his comeback race at 3, Exceed And Excel then won three in succession, the Group 2 Up and Coming Stakes and Group 3 Roman Consul Stakes at about six furlongs and the Group 1 Dubai Racing Club Cup at about seven furlongs in 1:21.20. Exceed And Excel’s primary asset, though, was front-running speed, and he appeared not to stay the distance in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas at about a mile.

Exceed And Excel raced only at about six furlongs thereafter and showed just how fast he was, running the distance in 1:08.27 in the Group 2 Royal Sovereign and 1:08.72 in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap. That kind of speed inevitably attracted investment in Exceed And Excel as a sire prospect from Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, and he raced in the sheikh’s colors in his only subsequent start.

Since Exceed and Excel was clearly the best sprinter in Australia, the only way Sheikh Mohammed could increase his value as a stallion was to win a race in England. Exceed And Excel made the attempt in England’s most prestigious sprint, the Group 1 July Cup, but he made no show at all, finishing 19th of 20.

Retired to shuttle between Sheikh Mohammed’s outposts in England and Australia, Exceed And Excel was an instant and sustained success in both venues. Exceedingly Good (out of Common Smytzer, by Snippets) from his first crop down under won the Group 3 Maribyrnong Plate, annually Australia’s first important juvenile event of the season, and Exceed and Excel has never stopped getting precocious juveniles and sprinter-milers in the Antipodes.

He has sired Australian champions Overreach (Bahia, by Snippets), Sidestep (Dextrous, by Quest for Fame), Guelph (Camarilla, by Elusive Quality), and Earthquake (Cataclysm, by Marauding), plus the top-class Helmet (Accessories, by Singspiel), among others south of the equator.

Exceed And Excel has been almost as effective in Europe, where his list is headed by Excelebration (Sun Shower, by Indian Ridge), the second-best European miler of the Frankel era; Group 1-winning sprinter Margot Did (Special Dancer, by Shareef Dancer); and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Outstrip (Asi Siempre, by El Prado). Legendary is Exceed And Excel’s 86th stakes winner from 1,294 foals ages 3 and up, a respectable 6.6 percent ratio.

Legendary is the fifth foal out of Red Carnation, by Polar Falcon, a good stakes-winning mare from the same family as this year’s champion pro tem European 3-year-old Australia. The 18th Earl of Derby acquired Legendary’s seventh dam, Gradisca, by Goya, in the early 1950s through a trade with Madame Elisabeth Couturie, owner of Haras du Mesnil. Gradisca produced two important daughters by Alycidon: Almah, the granddam of the great Australian champion Kingston Town, by Bletchingly, and Samanda, the granddam of the best horse bred by the 18th Earl, 1985 Arlington Million winner Teleprompter, by Welsh Pageant.

Teleprompter’s full sister Selection Board is the dam of the best horse bred and raced by the current 19th Earl of Derby, the multiple European and U.S. champion Ouija Board, by Cape Cross, who is the dam of Australia, by Galileo.

The 18th Earl sold Teleprompter’s half-sister Rosia Bay, by High Top, to Lord Porchester, who bred from her Italian champion Ibn Bey, by Mill Reef, who ran second to Unbridled in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks winner Roseate Tern, by Blakeney. Cheveley Park Stud purchased Rosia Bay’s daughter by Mummy’s Pet, Cerise Bouquet, for only $16,000 through agent David Minton at the 1987 Keeneland January sale and bred highweighted English 2-year-old filly Red Camellia, by Polar Falcon, who also placed in the French 1000 Guineas equivalent at 3. Red Camellia is the dam of Group 1 winner Red Bloom, by Selkirk, and stakes winner Red Gala, by Sinndar.

Walter Swinburn Sr.’s Genesis Green Stud purchased Red Camellia’s half-sister Red Bouquet, by Reference Point, for about $35,000 at the 1996 Tattersalls December sale. She produced two stakes winners for Swinburn and his son, Walter Swinburn Jr.: Red Fort, by Green Desert, and Red Carnation, who is very closely related to Red Camellia, since she is also a daughter of Pivotal’s sire, Polar Falcon. Red Carnation was listed as sold for about $39,000 at the Tattersalls October yearling sale in 1999 and again for about $23,000 at a “breeze-up” 2-year-old sale the following spring, and raced in the colors of the Red Carnation Partnership, which included the Swinburns.

Placed in her two starts at 2, she won a Newmarket handicap at a mile and a handicap at about 10 1/2 furlongs at Haydock at 3. Kept in training as a 4-year-old, she won only the last of her eight starts, but that earned her all-important black type in the 1 1/2-mile Serlby Stakes at Doncaster.

Her first, third, and fourth foals were all minor winners, and Legendary failed to meet his reserve as a yearling at Tattersalls October in 2010 at a hammer price of about $20,000. He has repaid the Swinburns’ faith in him many times over. The Knickerbocker was Legendary’s sixth win in 19 career starts, the first 13 of which were in his native land.

Red Carnation produced only one more foal, minor winner Red Tulip, by Kheleyf.

Legendary, a gelding, is inbred 4x4x4 to Northern Dancer, but both his sire and paternal grandsire are more intensely inbred. Danehill, of course, was inbred 3x3 to Northern Dancer’s dam, Natalma, by Native Dancer, and since Exceed And Excel’s broodmare sire, Lomond, was by Northern Dancer, that intensified the inbreeding further, making him 3x3 to Northern Dancer and 4x4x4 to Natalma.

Such intense inbreeding has often preceded an explosion of class in subsequent generations. It certainly worked for Danehill. Exceed And Excel has not yet reached such legendary status, but he is certainly exceedingly good.