06/05/2017 8:45AM

Sparkman: Wings of Eagles's Epsom Derby win an upset on track - and in breeding shed

Wings of Eagles (left), a son of Pour Moi, wins the Epsom Derby over Coolmore stablemate Cliffs of Moher.

The big-book era of Thoroughbred breeding has transformed the always competitive stallion market from gentlemanly to savagely Darwinian. Young stallions, no matter their racecourse accomplishments, are quickly sold off to other markets if their first progeny do not shine immediately and book size falls.

Coolmore is well known for pulling the trigger more quickly than most, and that policy produced an ironic twist on Saturday when the Coolmore partnership’s Wings of Eagles produced a stunning finish to win the 238th Epsom Derby at 40-1 over his much more heavily favored stablemate Cliffs of Moher. Wings of Eagles is from the second crop of Coolmore’s 2011 Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi, who was moved for the 2017 breeding season from Coolmore’s main farm at Fethard to its Grange Stud, whose stallions are marketed strictly as sires of jumpers.

The reason, of course, is that Pour Moi’s first crop of 3-year-olds last year included neither a horse of outstanding quality nor the broad quantity of black-type horses that might have enticed breeders to continue to patronize him as a sire of flat-racing prospects. In addition, although Pour Moi was the third of a record-tying four Epsom Derby winners sired by Sadler’s Wells’s best son, the great Montjeu, neither Motivator (2005 Derby) nor Authorized (2007) had exactly primed the pump with successful stud careers of their own, despite Motivator siring the great filly Treve.

Wings of Eagles is only the seventh stakes winner from 218 foals in Pour Moi’s first two crops (3.2% stakes winners to foals), far below the 10% strike rate Montjeu recorded during a stellar stud career that saw him lead the French sire list in 2005 while siring 33 Group 1 or Grade 1 winners. The best of Pour Moi’s first European-sired crop was the filly Only Mine (out of Truly Mine, by Rock of Gibraltar), winner of the Group 3 Lacken Stakes last year. Pour Moi is, however, also the sire of 2016 champion New Zealand 2-year-old Sacred Elixir (Baltika, by Stravinsky) from a small Southern Hemisphere first crop.

There might, in fact, be a market for Pour Moi as a flat sire in New Zealand, since Montjeu’s New Zealand-bred Group 1-winning son Tavistock (Upstage, by Quest for Fame) has made a sensational start at stud there, and New Zealand is one of the few places in the racing world where stayers are still appreciated.

Pour Moi was certainly a good enough racehorse and well-bred enough to be a good sire. Out of the Darshaan mare Gwynn, from the great Windfields Farm family tracing to Queen’s Statute, the Epsom Derby was his third win in five starts, but it proved to be his last. Winner of the second of his two starts at 2, he won the Group 3 Prix Greffulhe for trainer Andre Fabre at 3 before his Derby victory.

Wings of Eagles was bred in France by Gilles and Aliette Forien and purchased for about $245,000 by M.V. Magnier at the 2015 Arqana Deauville yearling sale. He is the sixth foal out of Ysoldina, by Kendor. Ysoldina was a talented filly who raced from 2 to 4 in France and won only 1 of 11 starts. But she placed in seven stakes, including a third behind the brilliant Divine Proportions in the classic Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, the French 1000 Guineas equivalent.

Ysoldina’s first foal, Torentosa, by Oasis Dream, ran second in the listed Criterium de Vitesse, and her third, Gyrella, Torentosa’s full sister, ran third in the listed Prix Ceres in 2013. Ysoldina has since foaled an unnamed 2-year-old colt by Holy Roman Emperor who sold for about $145,000 at Deauville last year, and a yearling filly by Kingman.

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Ysoldina is half-sister to Appel au Maitre, by Starborough, one of the best horses ever trained in Sweden, and a seven-time champion in Scandinavia. She is also half-sister to Italian high-weight Whortleberry, by Starborough, who is dam of Japanese stakes-winner Straw Hat, by Fuji Kiseki, and to Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary winner Belle et Celebre, by Peintre Celebre, and Group 3 winner Valentino, by Valanour. Wings of Eagles’s second dam, Rotina, by Crystal Glitters, is a half-sister to stakes winner Rupert, by Kendor. Third dam Rudolfina, by Pharly, was a listed winner.

Although Wings of Eagles carries the obligatory three crosses of Northern Dancer 4x5x6 in his pedigree, he possesses an otherwise quite diverse pedigree for a contemporary Thoroughbred. Zeddaan (6x5) is the only other duplicated name within the first six generations, and he boasts Top Ville, Shirley Heights, Conquistador Cielo, Kalamoun, Gay Mecene, Blushing Groom, and Pharly as his fourth-generation great-great grandsires in addition to Northern Dancer.

Neither those relatively uncommon names nor his sire’s demotion as a jumps sire slowed Wings of Eagles, as he swooped on the field during that last thrilling furlong of the Derby.