03/27/2017 11:21AM

Sparkman: Spice of variety in the desert

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Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club
Jack Hobbs, by Halling, wins the Group 1 Sheema Classic on Saturday at Meydan.

The Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector male lines completely dominate worldwide group and graded stakes results, but the eight races at the Dubai World Cup meeting produced a remarkable variety of winners from relatively rare male lines.

Male-line descendants of Northern Dancer captured the Group 2 UAE Derby (Thunder Snow), Group 1 Golden Shaheen (Mind Your Biscuits), and Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, while Mr. Prospector’s descendants won the Group 1 Dubai World Cup (Arrogate) and Group 2 Godolphin Mile (Second Summer), but they accounted for only five of the eight races.

Sunday Silence, a grandson of Hail to Reason, has totally dominated Japanese racing for the last 25 years, so it is not at all surprising that the Japanese winner of the Group 1 Dubai Turf, the filly Vivlos, is by Sunday Silence’s best son Deep Impact, who has led the Japanese sire list for the last seven years. The greatest racehorse ever bred in Japan, Deep Impact is just as dominant as Sunday Silence was, and it will be interesting over the next few years to see what male lines emerge as necessary outcrosses to Sunday Silence, whose male-line descendants occupied seven of the top 10 places on the Japanese sire list in 2016.

European breeders are accustomed to seeing top-class winners by the late, great German sire Monsun, so it also was no surprise to see Vazirabad, by Monsun’s best son Manduro, win the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup over 3,200 meters. Germany’s champion 2-year-old of 2004 and European champion of 2007, Manduro has not achieved the consistent success expected when he retired to Dalham Hall in 2008, but it is not quite fair to brand him a failure. His 28 black-type winners include six Group 1 winners, led by Vazirabad and Brazilian champion Braco Forte.

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Easily the most unusual pedigree among the eight World Cup Day winners, though, belongs to Group 1 Sheema Classic winner Jack Hobbs, who is one of the few remaining male-line descendants of Sharpen Up. Winner of the 1971 Middle Park Stakes, Sharpen Up was the only good horse sired by Native Dancer’s once-raced son Atan, but he forged a remarkable international stud career in the 1970s and ’80s.

Sharpen Up sired six international champions, and his sons Kris, Diesis, and Selkirk were all high-class sires, but none of them produced a true successor to carry on the line.

Jack Hobbs’s sire Halling was the best son of Diesis and won 12 of 18 starts in the mid-1990s, including two editions of both the Group 1 Juddmonte International and Coral Eclipse. Like Manduro, he has not been a bad sire, with 56 black-type winners, but only four of them are Group 1 winners.

Jack Hobbs is Halling’s best son by a considerable margin. Winner of the 2015 Irish Derby and second to the brilliant Golden Horn in the Epsom Derby, Jack Hobbs is almost certainly the only hope for the future of the Sharpen Up male line.

He will certainly offer breeders looking for an outcross an attractive option when he retires to stud, since his pedigree carries only one cross of Northern Dancer in the fifth generation and none of Mr. Prospector. Jack Hobbs’s internal pedigree is replete with relatively rare lines in the fifth generation, including Tantieme, Jaipur, Bustino, Graustark, Lorenzaccio, Mill Reef, and Welsh Pageant, which could turn out to be a useful antidote to the surfeit of Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector in contemporary European pedigrees.

All three of the exotic male-line victories occurred in races on turf, and Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector predictably split the four dirt events. The world’s best racehorse, Arrogate (out of Bubbler, by Distorted Humor) is the best son of Mr. Prospector’s fourth-generation male-line descendant Unbridled’s Song, who is already all but assured of his first U.S. sire championship this year.

Winner of the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 1996 Florida Derby, Unbridled’s Song has been a consistent success with 115 career black-type winners, but fell somewhat out of favor during the middle innings of his stud career because his offspring were considered to be unsound, and none of his early sons became successful stallions.

As it turned out, however, Unbridled’s Song sired his three best sons, Arrogate, Will Take Charge, and Liam’s Map, in his last few crops, so it is far too early to tell whether his branch of the thriving Fappiano stirp of Mr. Prospector will continue.

Arrogate, who delivered an unforgettable performance in the World Cup will certainly have every opportunity to erase the memories of those early stud failures once his racing career is over.