06/06/2016 10:52AM

Sparkman: Urban Sea's record as broodmare hard to beat


It would be difficult, if not impossible, to exaggerate the historical and genetic importance of the late broodmare Urban Sea.

In the 238-year history of the Epsom Derby, 10 other mares have produced two winners of the Derby, most recently Windmill Girl, by Hornbeam, dam of 1969 Derby hero Blakeney, by Hethersett, and 1973 winner Morston, by Ragusa. Among those 11 immortal broodmares, only one, Penelope, by Trumpator, dam of 1810 winner Whalebone and 1815 winner Whisker, both by Waxy, produced sons of anything like the influence as sires as Urban Sea’s sons Galileo, by Sadler’s Wells, and Sea the Stars, by Cape Cross.

Galileo, winner of the Derby in 2001, is almost universally regarded as the world’s best sire, having led the English/Irish sire list in seven of the last eight years, and has sired Derby winners New Approach (2008), Ruler of the World (2013), and Australia (2014). Sea the Stars earned an even bigger reputation as a racehorse than Galileo, winning six consecutive Group 1 races at 3 in 2009, adding the Derby to his victory in the classic 2000 Guineas and crowning his career with a thrilling victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

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Retired to the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud in 2010, Sea the Stars sired 2014 Epsom Oaks winner Taghrooda (out of the Aga Khan-bred Ezima, by Sadler’s Wells) and 2014 German Derby winner Sea the Moon (Sanwa, by Monsun) in his first crop, but Harzand, winner of the 2016 Epsom Derby on June 4, is his first winner of the historic Epsom classic. Thus, Urban Sea, either individually or through one of her sons, is responsible for six of the last 15 winners of the Epsom Derby.

Bred and owned by the Aga Khan, Harzand is the fifth foal and third stakes winner out of Hazariya, by Xaar, following listed winner Hazarafa, by Daylami, and Group 3 winner Harasiya, by Pivotal. Hazariya is a granddaughter of Hazy Idea, by Hethersett, a good racemare purchased by the Aga Khan in 1987 from the Holliday family’s famous Cleaboy Stud. Hazy Idea, winner of the March Stakes and Crookham Stakes, was inbred 3x3 to Netherton Maid, by Nearco, a stakes-winning full sister to Lionel Holliday’s Epsom Oaks winner Neasham Belle, a granddaughter of Cleaboy’s famous foundation mare Lost Soul, by Solario.

Hazy Idea had already produced multiple Group 1-winning sprinter Hittite Glory, by Habitat, and two other stakes winners, but her line has not been especially successful for the Aga Khan Studs. Before Harzand’s victory last Saturday, none of Hazy Idea’s Aga Khan-bred descendants had won above Group 3 level, although Hazy Idea’s granddaughter Hannda, by Dr. Devious, who was sold out of the Aga Khan’s stud, is dam of Group 1 winner and English highweight Seal of Approval, by Authorized.

The Derby was Harzand’s third victory from only four starts, and he is one of 25 stakes winners to date sired by Sea the Stars from his first three crops, which number 308 foals. That 8.1 percent stakes-winners-to-foals ratio is well short of Galileo’s 12.5 percent strike rate from his 1,654 Northern Hemisphere-sired 3-year-olds and older, but Sea the Stars will never sire the 150-plus foals per crop that Galileo churns out year after year. Thus, good as he is, Sea the Stars is unlikely to mount a serious challenge to Galileo’s dominance of European sire lists.

In fact, Galileo was the sire of both US Army Ranger and Idaho, who finished second and third behind Harzand in the Derby, as well as the brilliant filly Minding, who extricated herself from an impossible position to add the Epsom Oaks to her victory in the 1000 Guineas. That gave Urban Sea a clean sweep of classic laurels at Epsom, and Galileo also is the broodmare sire of 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold.

Urban Sea was, of course, a top-class racemare, winning the 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and her produce record is without parallel among 21st century broodmares. In addition to her two Derby winners, her 11 foals included Group 1/Grade 1 winners My Typhoon and Black Sam Bellamy, and four other stakes winners, including Melikah and All Too Beautiful, both of whom placed in the Epsom Oaks. In addition, All Too Beautiful’s daughter Wonder of Wonders also ran second in the Epsom Oaks, and another granddaughter of Urban Sea, Bracelet won the Irish Oaks.

That is a record that will be hard to beat.