07/24/2017 8:57AM

Sparkman: Hunt's victory in the Eddie Read puts spotlight on sire Dark Angel

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Emily Shields
Hunt, a son of Dark Angel, wins the Grade 2 Eddie Read on Saturday at Del Mar.

Coolmore Stud raised eyebrows early in 2007 when it announced that its top 2-year-old of 2006 Holy Roman Emperor would be retired to stud, even though he was perfectly sound and trainer Aidan O’Brien was optimistic about his chances to win the 2,000 Guineas. Coolmore’s rationale for the retirement, though, was understandable.

Its 2005 champion 2-year-old and 2006 2,000 Guineas winner George Washington, by Danehill, had proven almost completely sterile early in his first season at stud, and Holy Roman Emperor, another top son of Danehill, would fit most of the mares scheduled to be bred to George Washington.

At the end of the 2007 racing season, however, another perfectly sound top 2-year-old was retired to stud without that kind of justifiable economic logic. Dark Angel, winner of that season’s prestigious Middle Park Stakes, was retired to Morristown Lattin and Yeomanstown Stud in Ireland because there were no Group 1 opportunities restricted to 3-year-old sprinters for Dark Angel to target as a sophomore.

That gap in the European racing program has since been filled by the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, and Dark Angel’s son Harry Angel led the field on a merry chase in this year’s edition before succumbing to the closing charge of Caravaggio. A few weeks later, Harry Angel (out of Beatrix Potter, by Cadeaux Genereux) had his revenge on Caravaggio when he won the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket.

Harry Angel is the third Group 1-winning sprinter sired by Dark Angel, who showed his versatility as a stallion when his son Hunt (Mansiya, by Vettori) won the Grade 2 Eddie Read Handicap at nine furlongs at Del Mar on Saturday.

Bred in Ireland by Yeomanstown Stud, Dark Angel is one of three Group 1-winning sprinters among the 47 stakes winners sired by Acclamation, a Group 1-winning sprinter himself who was the best son of another Group 1-winning sprinter Royal Applause. Royal Applause’s sire, Waajib, was the second-best son of El Gran Senor’s champion full brother Try My Best, sire of Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and top sire Last Tycoon.

This comparatively obscure branch of the dominant Northern Dancer male line has survived in Europe and Australia, but Hunt’s Eddie Read victory is perhaps the most notable victory in the U.S. for the Try My Best male line since Last Tycoon.

Though he raced only at 2, Dark Angel was kept busy for a European-trained juvenile, winning four of his nine starts, including the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes in addition to the Group 1 Middle Park. Timeform, however, rated Dark Angel at only 113, about 10 pounds below the level usually required to win a Middle Park, and 12 pounds below the 125 rating awarded to Holy Roman Emperor the previous season.

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Thus, Dark Angel went to stud with some prejudice against him in more traditionalist quarters of the breeding industry, but he has figuratively thumbed his nose at doubters. He has sired 2013 Group 1 Diamond Jubilee and July Cup winner Lethal Force (Land Army, by Desert Style) and dual Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes winner Mecca’s Angel (Folga, by Atraf), both English highweights, among his 40 stakes winners from 605 foals age 3 and up (6.6%).

Hunt, who was bred in Ireland by Michael O’Callaghan, is one of three winners produced by Mansiya, by the good French and Brazilian sire Vettori, and from a family that has enjoyed success in recent generations over longer distances. Mansiya is half-sister to the stakes-winning steeplechaser Shadows Lengthen, by Dansili, and to 1 1/2-mile Cheshire Oaks winner Abury, by Law Society. Another half-sister, Badius, by Sadler’s Wells, is dam of multiple South African Group 1 winner Bad Girl Runs, by Western Winter. Mansiya is a fifth-generation descendant, however, of the speedy family developed by the late Dare Wigan, descending from the Vilmorin mare Pelting.

The most striking aspect of Hunt’s pedigree, though, is his 3x3 inbreeding to the champion European 2-year-old and top sire Machiavellian, by Mr. Prospector. Dark Angel’s dam, Midnight Angel, was a daughter of Machiavellian, and Vettori, winner of the French 2,000 Guineas equivalent, the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, in 1995, was Machiavellian’s first classic-winning son.

Hunt won one of his seven starts in Ireland at 2 and 3, and the Eddie Read was his second stakes win and fifth win from 15 starts in the U.S., following his victory in the listed Siren Lure Stakes at Santa Anita last year.