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Sparkman: International pedigrees moving in different directions
The results of the first three American classics and the first four European classics of the season exemplify the different directions in which Thoroughbred genetics appear to be headed on the eastern and western sides of the North Atlantic. As we mentioned in the May 11 issue of DRF Breeding, the A.P. Indy male line produced the winners of both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks for the second straight year.
Neither the A.P. Indy male line nor that of his sire, Seattle Slew, has had much impact in Europe, however, and the results of the first four English and French classics of the season, plus two more last weekend in Italy and Germany, are much more in line with global pedigree trends as far as sire lines go. Four of those six winners are male-line descendants of Northern Dancer, one a fourth-generation male-line descendant of Mr. Prospector, and the sixth is a fourth-generation stirp of Blushing Groom.
Perhaps the most exotic pedigree of the six in international terms is that of Avenir Certain, the winner of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, France’s equivalent of the 1000 Guineas, on May 11. Avenir Certain is one of three stakes winners from the highly promising first crop of Le Havre, the winner of the 2009 French Derby equivalent, the Prix du Jockey-Club. Le Havre has also sired 2014 listed stakes winners Auvray and La Hoguette from 95 foals in his first crop.
Le Havre won four of his six starts, including the listed Prix Djebel, and ran second in the colts’ version of his daughter’s classic, the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. Le Havre was the best son of his sire, Noverre, a high-class miler by Blushing Groom’s outstanding son Rahy. Noverre could never quite live up to the reputation of his three-quarter brother Arazi (by Blushing Groom and out of Noverre’s dam, Danseur Fabuleux, by Northern Dancer) on the racetrack, but he was a very good racehorse nevertheless.
Noverre won five of his 21 starts from 2 to 4, including the 2001 Group 1 Sussex Stakes, and ran second or third in 10 other Group 1 races at distances up to 10 1/2 furlongs. He has actually been a better sire than Arazi, despite not receiving anything like the same opportunity, siring 25 stakes winners from 811 foals (3.1 percent), including additional Grade 1 or Group 1 winners Music Show, I’m a Dreamer, and Enora, but ended up in India before his death in 2012.
One of Noverre’s 25 stakes winners is Cottonmouth, the winner of the 2009 Group 3 Premio Verziere and three other stakes in Italy, whose first foal is 2014 Group 2 Derby Italiano winner Dylan Mouth, by Dylan Thomas. Interestingly, Cottonmouth’s dam, Nafzira, is a daughter of the Aga Khan’s great sire and broodmare sire Darshaan, who also is the sire of Mark of Esteem, the sire of Avenir Certain’s dam, Puggy, who was euthanized last week at 21. Thus, Cottonmouth and Avenir Certain are rather closely related, and that possible affinity between Noverre and Darshaan likely will be repeated by enterprising breeders who send mares to Le Havre in the future.
Dylan Mouth’s sire, Dylan Thomas, was one of the best European-raced sons of the late, great Danehill (by Danzig, by Northern Dancer), winning 10 of 20 starts from 2 to 4, including the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and five other Group 1 races, earning European Horse of the Year honors in 2007. Dylan Thomas has done reasonably well at stud, considering he has had to compete for mares with the great Galileo and other Danehill sons Holy Roman Emperor, Rock of Gibraltar, and Duke of Marmalade at Coolmore. To date, he has sired 14 stakes winners from 519 foals ages 3 and up, but that number includes German Group 1 winner Nymphea and 2013 Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes winner Tannery.
Danehill’s best son at stud in Europe has been Juddmonte’s Dansili, who led the French sire list in 2006. Miss France became the first classic winner for Dansili with her victory in the English 1000 Guineas on May 4, but she is his 17th Group 1 or Grade 1 winner among 92 stakes winners from 997 foals ages 3 and up, a 9.2 percent strike rate. Dansili also is the sire of champions or highweights Dank (2013 champion U.S. turf female), The Fugue, Famous Name, Rail Link, Giofra, Harbinger, Emulous, Zoffany, Fire Lily, and Fallen for You.
Miss France is the second stakes winner out of Miss Tahiti, by Tirol, the highweighted filly at 2 in France in 1995 who won that year’s Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac and ran second in the 1996 French Oaks. She is another outstanding member of a very stout French family that was long a mainstay of the Rothschild stud, tracing to Vieux Manoir’s dam, Vieille Maison.
The closest American connection to any of these European classic winners is the late Bernstein, the sire of Karakontie, the winner of the French 2000 Guineas equivalent, the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. By Storm Cat out of La Affirmed, by Affirmed, Bernstein won 4 of 8 starts in Europe, including the Group 3 Railway Stakes and Concorde Stakes in Ireland, but he enjoyed a very unusual career as a stallion.
Bernstein, who stood at Castleton Lyons in Lexington, Ky., before his death in 2011, was a successful sire in the United States but has sired only two Grade 1 winners among his 45 Northern Hemisphere stakes winners. He was very productive on annual shuttles to Argentina, however, leading the Argentine sire list in 2006 and 2007 and siring four Argentine champions and 16 Group 1 winners in South America.
Karakontie, bred and owned by the Niarchos family, is Bernstein’s first Group 1 winner in Europe, but he was actually foaled in Japan, where his dam, Sun Is Up, by Sunday Silence, was sent to be bred to the Niarchos-bred and -raced Bago. Karakontie is the third stakes winner out of Sun Is Up, who is a half-sister to South African Group 1 winner Amanee, by Pivotal, the best daughter of stakes winner Moon Is Up, by Woodman. Moon Is Up was the least accomplished of five stakes winners out of the Niarchos family’s great racemare and foundation mare Miesque, by Nureyev.
The Northern Dancer male line also is responsible for the recent winner of the German 2000 Guineas equivalent, Lucky Lion, by High Chaparral (by Sadler’s Wells, by Northern Dancer). High Chaparral has been successful both north and south of the equator while shuttling annually between Coolmore’s outposts in Ireland and the Antipodes. A winner of 10 of 13 starts, including the 2002 Epsom Derby and two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, High Chaparral has sired 61 stakes winners from 1,228 foals ages 3 and up.
That 5 percent strike rate cannot compete with the higher percentages of Sadler’s Wells’s best sons, Galileo and Montjeu, but High Chaparral has sired horses of the highest class from less salubrious opportunity, particularly south of the line, where So You Think, Dundeel (called It’s a Dundeel in Australia), and Shoot Out rank among the best horses of recent years. High Chaparral’s best runners in Europe include 2013 highweighted European miler Toronado.
The Mr. Prospector male line has done much better in Europe than A.P. Indy, though, of course, it has about a 20-year head start. Night of Thunder’s victory in the English 2000 Guineas was the second for Mr. Prospector’s great-grandson Dubawi, whose son Makfi captured the first English classic in 2010. Easily the best son of the tragically short-lived Dubai Millennium (in turn the best son of Seeking the Gold, by Mr. Prospector), Dubawi won a classic himself, capturing the 2005 Irish 2000 Guineas.
Dubawi has been a sensation at stud, siring 76 stakes winners from 723 foals ages 3 and up (10.5 percent), establishing himself as one of the world’s best sires through the global exploits of his 15 Group 1 or Grade 1 winners, including Hong Kong champion Lucky Nine and Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso.
Night of Thunder is the first European classic winner out of a daughter of four-time leading English sire Galileo, and he is the first foal out of his stakes-placed dam, Forest Storm. Forest Storm’s third dam, Forest Flower, by Green Forest, was bred in America by Paul Mellon, and she earned championship honors at 2 in England and won the Irish 1000 Guineas.
The Northern Dancer male line has, of course, long been far more dominant in Europe and Australia than it has ever been on the continent of Northern Dancer’s birth. Mr. Prospector, likewise, has translated well to other shores, but despite his siring several high-class winners in Europe, international breeders decided in the 1990s that the Seattle Slew line is suited exclusively to dirt.
That prejudice has been applied even more so to Seattle Slew’s best son and heir, A.P. Indy. Bernardini made some early inroads on that negative perception in Europe but has not really followed through on the other side of the North Atlantic so far, though he has continued to do well in Australia.
With the A.P. Indy male line proliferating rapidly in the United States, can it be long before a son or grandson sires a significant Group 1 winner in Europe?
Anonymous has a point. Although a good sire is important, it would be refreshing to read about the dam side of the successful horse. Many times she had more to do with the success than anyone knows. I can think of a few dams who could probably get bred for free due to the success of their offspring. I know the amount of foals that would be discussed would be limited, but it would be very educational.
Why do people make such a big deal about the sire-line? As if the Y-chromosome in most domesticated horses, not just TBs, is not almost identical? Sire-line analysis came from the 18th Century, when they thought that males just planted a seed in the female, who had no effect genetically on the offspring. We know better now. So why the emphasis on sire-line stuff? We are still using the same bloodlines - our horses are chuck-full of Mr. P and and Northern Dancer bloodlines and so are theirs. If anything, the gene pool is becoming more uniform internationally, which is not a good thing.