04/17/2017 9:49AM

Sparkman: Four-win day for Godolphin homebreds at Keeneland

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Dickinson, by Medaglia d'Oro, gets up at the wire to win the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland.

Over the last two decades, the two largest racing and breeding operations on the planet have taken distinctly separate tacks. The Coolmore partnership has been all about the Northern Dancer line horses Sadler’s Wells and Danehill, with those two or their sons Danehill Dancer and Galileo leading the English sire list every year since 1992. Godolphin, meanwhile, has been much more eclectic, sprinkling ample doses of Mr. Prospector, Seattle Slew, and even the exotic Monsun into their global stallion rosters.

That divide was on display in Godolphin’s four-timer Saturday at Keeneland, all with homebreds born under the Darley banner. Tasteful, a daughter of the late Darley homebred sire Street Cry, won her maiden; Zennor, by Darley sire Medaglia d’Oro, captured an allowance race; Watershed, by another Darley homebred sire, champion Bernardini, won the Grade 3 Ben Ali Handicap; and finally Dickinson, by Medaglia d’Oro, nailed champion Lady Eli right on the wire to win the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley.

Dickinson is a fourth-generation product of Sheikh Mohammed’s far-flung breeding operation, while Watershed is the third generation owned by Darley along his female line. Sheikh Mohammed purchased Dickinson’s third dam, Flagbird, by Nureyev, privately from W.S. Farish, and she earned highweight honors in England, Ireland, and Italy before producing three stakes-placed runners for Godolphin, including Dickinson’s second dam, Dubai Belle, by Mr. Prospector.

Dubai Belle took advantage of the powerful nick between A.P. Indy and Mr. Prospector, foaling stakes winner Dubai Dancer and Grade 1 Ashland Stakes winner Little Belle, who also ran second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and C.C.A. Oaks.

:: DRF BREEDING LIVE: Real-time coverage of breeding and sales

Dickinson is the second foal to live out of Little Belle, whose first, the Distorted Humor gelding Telegraph Hill, has won 3 of 35 starts, mostly in claiming company. Little Belle has produced only one other foal, Dickinson’s full brother Southern States who is winless in seven starts in Europe.

Sheikh Mohammed’s principal adviser John Ferguson signed the ticket at $525,000 for Watershed’s second dam, Minister Wife, in foal to Bertrando, at the 2000 Keeneland November sale. Winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle, Minister Wife is dam of Grade 3 Arlington Oaks and Iowa Oaks winner Marietta, by Darley sire Machiavellian, as well as Watershed’s dam, Thousand Islands, by Darley’s short-lived homebred champion Dubai Millennium, winner of the Prix Occitanie in France.

Watershed is the fourth foal to live out of Thousand Islands, whose second foal, Footbridge, by Street Cry, ran second in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap in 2014. Thousand Islands has since produced Watershed’s unraced 3-year-old full brother Ocean Bluff and a yearling colt by Arch.

Inevitably, both Dickinson and Watershed descend from great female families. Dickinson is a tenth-generation descendant of the immortal La Troienne, through her foundation mare granddaughter Striking and Striking’s great-granddaughter The Garden Club, by Herbager, one of the foundation broodmares for Will Farish’s Lane’s End. The Garden Club’s descendants include Grade 1 winners Mineshaft, Tomisue’s Delight, Prospector’s Delite, and Runup the Colors.

Watershed is a seventh-generation scion of The Squaw II, by Sickle, dam of C.C.A. Oaks winners How and Cherokee Rose, as well as Spinaway winner Sequoia, all by Princequillo. The Squaw II’s descendants include Tom Rolfe, Sham, and Ack Ack.

Dickinson’s sire Medaglia d’Oro, by El Prado recorded his 105th stakes winner from 1,299 foals age 3 and up (8.1 percent) last week, and Dickinson is his 17th Grade 1 or Group 1 winner, a number that includes the great champion fillies Rachel Alexandra and Songbird.

Watershed’s sire, Darley homebred Bernardini, has now sired 58 stakes winners from 1,240 foals age 3 and up (4.7 percent), including 13 Grade 1 or Group 1 winners, headed by champion Ruud Awakening and the brilliant filly Cavorting.

For more than 30 years, Sheikh Mohammed dominated international yearling markets, often appearing to buy whatever struck his fancy, regardless of cost, but he has markedly decreased his spending at yearling sales over the last decade, especially in the United States. Indeed with a broodmare band that exceeds 300 mares worldwide, the Ruler of Dubai is hardly in need of ammunition for his expansive racing stables in Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan.

In truth, it is arguable that Sheikh Mohammed’s broodmare band has under-performed at times, given their uniformly exquisite pedigrees and generally high-class racing performance. The Godolphin racing stable, though, has shown distinct signs of revival recently after a relatively down period by their extraordinarily high standards.

With homebreds like Dickinson and Watershed at their disposal, they have little need to look elsewhere.