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The first weekend in March saw the history making victory of Legarto – the first New Zealand trained horse to win the race – in the Australian Guineas-Gr1. That event served as a reminder of the still growing legacy of his grandsire, Choisir. A horse who himself recorded a history-making first as a runner, Choisir was also the first horse to indicate that there was a good chance that the Danehill line would extend beyond his sons.
Choisir was a son of Danehill Dancer. A member of the third Northern Hemisphere crop sired by Danehill, Danehill Dancer did his best work at two, winning his first three races, including the National Stakes-Gr1 and Phoenix Stakes-Gr1, and ending his season with a second, beaten a length, by Europe’s top juvenile, Alhaarth, in the Dewhurst Stakes-Gr1, efforts good enough to see him crowned Irish Champion Two Year-Old. Danehill Dancer captured the seven furlong Greenham Stakes-Gr3 first up at three, but was well-beaten in both the English and French 2,000 Guineas-Gr1 over a mile. In his four subsequent outings, he was only able to make the frame once, when beaten less than two lengths by Anabaa in the Prix Maurice de Gheest-Gr1. He retired as a shuttle sire under the Coolmore banner, as one of their less expensive horses, but made his way to his fee in Ireland rising all the way from 3,500 Irish Guineas to a peak of 115,000 Euros.
Danehill Dancer ultimate sired a total of 173 stakes winners, 95 group/graded no less than 22 group/grade one, and proving far more multi-dimensional as a sire than he was a runner. The best from his Northern Hemisphere crops included Mastercraftsman, whose four group one triumphs included the Irish 2,000 Guineas-Gr1, and who himself became a classic sire; Legatissimo, successful in three group one races including the 1,000 Guineas-Gr1, and runner-up in the English Oaks-Gr1; Dancing Rain, winner of the English Oaks-Gr1 and German Oaks-Gr1; Again, winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas-Gr1; English 1,000 Guineas-Gr1 winner, Speciosa; and Esoterique, whose three group one wins include a tally over males in the Prix Jacque le Marois-Gr1. Among Danehill Dancer’s Australian-bred stars, in addition to Choisir, were ace sprinter/miler Private Steer; Atomic Force, successful in the ARC Railway Stakes-Gr1 and ATC Galaxy Handicap-Gr1; Steps In Time winner of the ATC Coolmore Classic-Gr1; VRC Australian Guineas-Gr1 captor Light Fantastic; and Arapaho Miss, who took the VRC Oaks-Gr1.
At the time of the mating that produced Choisir, his dam, Great Selection, would have fitted into the “relatively modest” category, at least as far as her female line was concerned, and Choisir apart, the family has improved very little since. A daughter of Lunchtime, Great Selection was only a minor winner on the track, and her dam, Pensive Mood, a daughter of Biscay, won four races, but garnered only $8,220. Pensive Mood produced four winners from four foals, but all at a very modest level. Choisir’s third dam, Staid – a daughter of Minor Portion – did display more talent on the racecorse, earning black-type with a win in the STC Christmas Cup, but at stud neither she nor her daughters produced anything of note. Staid’s dam, Straightlaced, was half-sister to the black-type winning Emperor’s Flight, but the first top-class horse in the direct female line is Prelate, a half-brother to Choisir’s fifth dam, and winner of the Doncaster. The female line has been in Australia since the importation of Choisir’s eighth dam, the Polymelus mare, Aspic, in the 1920s.
At two, Choisir matched the achievement of his sire and his broodmare sire, earning a juvenile championship. Successful in the Breeders’ Plate on his debut, he added the Inglis Two Year-Old Classic and Skyline Stakes-Gr3 on his next two starts. Prepping for the two year-old Triple Crown with a second in the Pago Pago Stakes-Gr2, he took third to the fillies Calway Gal and Victory Vein in the Golden Slipper-Gr1, second to Victory Vein, with Calaway Gal behind, in the AJC Sires’s Produce Stakes-Gr1, and third to Victory Vein and Half Hennessy in the Champagne Stakes-Gr1.
At three, the striking chestnut didn’t win until his seventh start, although he did take third in the San Fox Stakes-Gr2, Caulfield Guineas-Gr1 and L’Oreal Paris Plate-Gr3. However, he ended his first campaign with a score in the Linlithgow Stakes-Gr2, and when he returned from a spell three months later, it was to capture the Lightning Stakes-Gr1. Third in the Oakleigh Plate-Gr1, and off the board in the Futurity-Gr1 and Newmarket Handicap-Gr1, Choisir was then put away in anticipation of a tilt at the Singapore Sprint. However, when the SARS disease closed down racing in Singapore, Choisir was rerouted to England for the Royal meeting at Ascot.
There, Choisir – who was starting for the first time in three and a half months, and with three defeats since his last win – was despatched as a 25-1 longshot for the King’s Stand Stakes-Gr1. That price reflected not only the layoff and some modest recent form, but also that Choisir was considerably disadvantaged by the weights, considered a four year-old in Europe, although still a three year-old to Southern Hemisphere time, and carrying a grade one winner’s penalty, which saw him conceding weight to all but one of his 19 rivals. In the event, none of this mattered in the slightest, as Choisir dominated from the start. Three lengths clear with four of the five furlongs covered, he scored by a length and a length and a half from future fellow stallion standouts, Acclamation and Oasis Dream, without being fully extended.
Just four days later Choisir faced a tougher group in the six furlong Golden Jubilee Stakes-Gr1, where he was was drawn at very disadvantageous low number in the 17 horse field. However, Choisir’s early speed saw him able to clear the field and move across to better ground. From there he withstood the challenge of the excellent filly Airwave, to score by a half-length, breaking the course record in the process.
Just under three weeks later, Choisir again faced Europe’s sprinting elite in the six furlong July Cup-Gr1. Once again, he was soon at the head of affairs, but this time he was tackled inside the last furlong and a half by Oasis Dream (European Champion at two the previous year, who took Middle Park Stakes-Gr1, and ultimately rated the world’s top three year-old sprinter the following term). The pair enjoyed a good battle, before Oasis Dream edged clear for a 1½ lengths success. Airwave took third, a length further behind Choisir than at Ascot.
Like his sire, Choisir shuttled under the Coolmore banner before passing in 2021 at the age of 22. By the time of his death, he’d sired more than 100 stakes winners (the total now stands at 102), including 11 individual group or grade one winners who scored at that level in 12 different countries.
From his Northern Hemisphere crop, his best were Olympic Glory, Champion Miler in Europe at two and three; Obviously, who took the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint-Gr1 and Shoemaker Mile-Gr1 and The Last Lion, successful in the Middle Park Stakes-Gr1.
His impact was greater in Australia, notably with such as Champion Two year-old Colt, The Mission; Starspangledbanner, who captured the MRC Oakleigh Plate-Gr1 at home, and when sent overseas, added the Golden Jubilee Stakes-Gr1 and July Cup-Gr1 en route to a title as European Champion Sprinter; Sacred Choice, successful in the ATC Doncaster Handicap-Gr1 and VRC Myer Classic-Gr1; Japonisme, who took the VRC Coolmore Stud Stakes-Gr1; Snapdancer, victorious in the MRC Memsie Stakes-Gr1 and SAJC Robert Sangster Stakes-Gr1; the MRC Caulfield Guineas-Gr1 captor, Divine Prophet; and Kushadasi, who took the South Australian Derby-Gr1.
Starspangledbaaner has had the strangest of stud careers. Following his Caulfield Guineas-Gr1 win, a 95% interest was purchased by Coolmore, the 5% being retained by one of the original ownership syndicate. Eventually, the share was sold for a rumoured A$1,000,000 to Anthony Mithen, whose family owned Rosemont Stud.
The next twist came when Starspangledbanner’s first season showed him to be sub-fertile, with 33 foals from his first Irish crop and 30 from his first season in Australia. After attracting just 22 mares in his second Irish season, Starspangledbanner was returned to training, but proved unable to win in six starts. At that point, cutting him to see if that would improve form was suggested, but instead Coolmore agree to let Mithen take Starspangledbanner to Rosemont, to see if a change of scenery might improve his fertility.
He did get 24 mares in foal that first year at Rosemont, but it was hardly enough to return him to commercial viability. What did bring Starspangledbanner back into the limelight was the performance of that first small Northern Hemisphere crop, which produced no less than eight stakes winners, including The Wow Signal, who took the Prix Morny-Gr1 and Coventry Stakes-Gr2 at Royal Ascot (and who sired the MRC Kevin Hayes-Gr3 scorer How Womantic from his only crop); Home of the Brave, successful in six black-type races in England and Australia, Anthem Alexander, winner of the Queen Mary Stakes-Gr2 at Royal Ascot and the Lacken Stakes-Gr3; and the Sceptre Stakes-Gr3 scorer Spangled. With The Wow Signal and Anthem Alexander in particular making an impact at two, Coolmore expressed renewed interest in the stallion returning to Ireland for the 2015 Northern Hemisphere season, but a bout of colic put paid to that plan. He did make the trip the following year, when he had 16 mares in foal to Northern Hemisphere time, and another 46 in foal to Southern Hemisphere time. Since, quite remarkably, Starspangledbanner’s fertility has continued to improve, to the point where he was responsible for 120 live foals in Europe in 2020.
As Starspangledbanner’s fertility improved, so did his record with his runners. From his Northern Hemisphere crops that includes from his 2017 crop, the Cheveley Park Stakes-Gr1 heroine, Millisle; from the 2018 crop State of Rest, who compiled the remarkable record of taking the MVRC WS Cox Plate-Gr1, Prince of Wales’s Stakes-Gr1 at Royal Ascot, Prix Ganay-Gr1 in France and the Saratoga Derby-Gr1 in the U.S., and currently standing his first season at stud in Ireland in 2023, Hong Kong Mile-Gr1 captor California Spangle, and Aristia, who took the Prix Jean Romanet-Gr1; from the 2019 crop came Rhea Moon, successful in the American Oaks-Gr1 and other group winners Flotus, Castle Star and Hermana Estrella; and among Starspangledbanner’s current European three year-olds are group winner Basil Martini. Starspangledbanner has been less impactful in Australia, but he does have six stakes winners, including the group winning Brooklyn Hustle, Field of Gold and Of The Brave.
Standing in France, Olympic Glory has also proved to be an effective sire son of Choisir. He has 11 European stakes winners to date, six of them group winners, including two very good fillies in Watch Me, successful in the Coronation Stakes-Gr1 and Prix Rothschild-Gr1, and Grand Glory, whose four group wins including the Prix Jean Romanet-Gr1. He’s also sired two stakes winners from three crops in Australia, including Eric The Eel, who has taken two graded stakes in Hong Kong, and who also ran second in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup-Gr1 there, and third in the ATC Australian Derby-Gr1.
The only other stakes sire by Choisir in Europe is Stimulation, winner of the Challenge Stakes-Gr2, who has two stakes winners, including the long-distance runner, Sweet Selection, who took the Sagaro Stakes-Gr3.
There are also three sons of Choisir standing in Australia and New Zealand who have sired stakes winners. The one of those on the move is Proisir. Out of an Encosta de Lago mare, Proisir gained a black-type triumph at three taking the Newcastle Spring Stakes-Gr3, and he also earned second in the ATC Spring Champion Stakes-Gr1 and Randwick Guineas-Gr1. Standing at Rich Hill Stud, Walton, New Zealand, Proisir has risen rapidly through the ranks, and at time of writing is New Zealand’s leading sire. He already has 11 stakes winners, nine group from his first four crops, nine of them group and four group one including Legarto. She has won six of her first seven starts, including the New Zealand 1,000 Guineas-Gr1 and on her most recent outing, the VRC Australian Guineas-Gr1. Proisir’s other standouts include the prolific Levante, four times successful in group one competition in New Zealand; Dark Destroyer, winner of the Tarzino Trophy-Gr1, and Pier, who took the New Zealand 2,000 Guineas-Gr1.
Proisir’s MRC Caulfield Guineas-Gr1 winning brother, Divine Prophet, has grade two winners See You In Heaven and Promitto, in the second of his three crops to reach the races so far. Finally, Worthy Cause, whose peak performance came with a win in the GCTC Gunsynd Classic-Gr3, came up with a good one in his first crop in the ATC Surround Stakes-Gr1 scorer, Hinged.
Choisir has also emulated his sire by turning into a very effective broodmare sire. So far his daughters have produced 26 stakes winners. They include a real standout in the Galileo filly, Winter, successful four times at the highest level, including in the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas (both Gr1); Oxted winner of the King’s Stand Stakes-Gr1 and July Cup-Gr1; My Dream Boat, who took the Prince of Wales’s Stakes-Gr1; the British Champions Sprint-Gr1 winner Creative Force; Persuasive, successful in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes-Gr1; and in Australia, VRC Coolmore Stud Stakes-Gr1 heroine, In Secret.
So far, there are more than 30 group one winners, either by Choisir and his sons or grandsons, or out of Choisir mares, and one has to wonder how many there would have been had he been able to go to Singapore, instead of undertaking his history-making journey to Royal Ascot.