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“Now everything’s a little upside down. As a matter of fact the wheels have stopped”
It’s a safe bet that Bob Dylan didn’t have the havoc wreaked by COVID-19 in mind when he penned those lines which appear on his 1974 stunner “Idiot Wind,” but they are not a bad description of the 21st century’s version of the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918. As with the world at large, everything has also been turned “a little upside down” in the microcosm that is horse-racing. This is particularly so with the classics in both the U.S. and Europe. True, in the U.S., the Belmont Stakes (G1) was run on it’s usual weekend, but instead of the last event of the Triple Crown, it was run as the first, and at nine furlongs rather than it’s usual twelve. The normal first leg, the Kentucky Derby (G1) will be contested in early September, rather than on the first Saturday in May, with the normal second leg, the Preakness Stakes (G1), usually run two weeks after the Derby, concluding the series in early October. In Europe, the Guineas events took place without any of the usual English or Irish trials being run. Royal Ascot came and went before any of the European Derbys, and the Irish Derby was set to take place before the Epsom Derby.
Still, at least we can be grateful that even the order of events is upside down, as the wheels have started turning again as far as international racing is concerned, and the three major European Guineas events for colt and fillies, the French English, and Irish have all taken part. The first of these, the The Poule d’Essai des Poulains-French 2,000 Guineas (G1) and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches-French 1,000 Guineas (G1), took place on June 1. The Poulains went to Victor Ludorum who scored by a comfortable 1½ lengths over The Summit (Wootton Bassett) and Alson (Areion). This was the fourth win in five starts from Victor Ludorum, who has been three-for-three, including the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) at two, but had only finished third to The Summit on his reappearance three weeks earlier.
Victor Ludorum was one of three undefeated group one winning juveniles to represent his sire, Shamardal (Giant’s Causeway) last year. Shamardal, who passed only recently needs little introduction to Australians, his runners bred in this country including such stars as Faint Perfume, Maybe Discreet, Delectation, Captain Sonador and Puissance de Lune as well as Hong Kong champion Able Friend.
Victor Ludorum’s dam, Antiquities (by the Caro line horse, Kaldouneevers) is also dam of the Dawn Approach filly, Mary Tudor, a black-type winning performer who also took third in the Irish Oaks (G1). She is out of Historian, a French black-type scorer by Pennekamp, out of the Irish Oaks (G1) victress Helen Street. As good as she was as a runner, Helen Street has proven even better as a broodmare, also producing Street Cry. Exceptional as both a racehorse and as stallion, Street Cry captured an Australian Sires’ title, with his runners from his shuttle crops, and will always be remembered here as the sire of Winx.
Helen Street is also dam of Helskinki, a stakes placed sister to Street Cry, who in turn produced none other than Shamardal, which means that Victor Ludorum is inbred 3×3 to Helen Street. He’s not the first stakes winner for the formula, either, as he’s preceded by the French listed winning filly, Shamtee, who is by Shamardal out of another granddaughter of Helen Street. A similar combination had come close to a previous classic winner with Lucida (a group two winner who was beaten just ¾ length in the 2015 Qipco 1,000 Guineas (G1). She was by Shamardal out of a Street Cry mare, so having the sister/brother Helsinki/Street Cry 2×2). Reversing the cross, Street Cry’s son, Shocking, has graded winner Shocking Luck out of a Shamardal mare. It’s worth mentioning that Gr.1 VRC Victoria Derby runnerup Southern Moon is by Shamardal’s promising sire son Puissance de Lune out of a Street Cry mare.
In the Pouliches, Dream And Do scrambled home a nose to the good of Wootton Bassett’s daughter, Speak of the Devil, with another Wootton Bassett filly, Mageva, third. Winner of the last three of her four starts at two, including the Prix Miesque (G3), Dream And Do had gone down by a ½ length to Tropbeau, who finished fourth in the Poule d’Essai, on her debut this year.
Dream And Do is from the seventh Northern Hemisphere crop of Siyouni (by Pivotal, a grandson of Nureyev), winner of the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at (G1) at two, and several times group placed at three, including when runner-up in the Prix Jean Prat (G1). Siyouni, who has risen to not only become the leading sire in France, but one of the best in Europe, has 35 stakes winners to his name, 21 group or graded, also including last year’s Prix du Jockey-Club-French Derby (G1) scorer Sottsass; Ervedya, whose quartet of wins at the highest level include the Poule d’Essai de Pouliches-French 1,000 Guineas (G1); and Laurens who numbers a Prix de Diane-French Oaks (G1) among six group one triumphs.
Dream And Do is out of Venetias Dream, a daughter of the Danzig horse, Librettist, who could do no better than a pair of thirds in nine starts. Venetias Dream is half-sister to the dam of a far more effective Danzig line performer in Charm Spirit, who captured the Prix Jean Prat (G1), Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) and Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (G1). Machaera, the dam of Venetias Dream, is a Machiavellian half-sister to the smart European Danzig duo Snaadee and Russian Bond. Snadee came to in Australia where he sired more than a dozen stakes winners, including grade one laureate, Bedouin. The third dam, Somfas, is a half-sister to the famed runner and producer Fanfreluche (third dam of Flying Spur and fourth dam of Encosta de Lago).
Dream and Do has quite an interesting pedigree pattern, as Siyouni is out of a mare by Danehill (a son of Danzig who is inbred to Natalma), out of a mare by a son of Mr. Prospector, and Venetias Dream is by a son of Danzig out of a mare by Machiavellian, a Mr. Prospector son whose dam is inbred to Natalma’s dam, Almahmoud).
The English 2,000 Guineas (G1) saw something of an upset, with Kameko finishing strongly to deny Wichita (No Nay Never) by a neck with the odds-on favourite, previously unbeaten Pinatubo (Shamardal), last year’s European Champion Two-Year-Old, another length back in third.
Kameko – whose name roughly translates from the Japanese as ‘Turtle Child’ – was making his seasonal debut. Last year, he won on his debut, and was then beaten in photo-finishes for the Solario Stakes (G3) and Royal Lodge Stakes (G2), before ending the year with a decisive victory in a re-arranged Futurity Trophy Stakes (G1) run on the all-weather at Newcastle.
By Kitten’s Joy, Kameko is from the U.S. branch of the Sadler’s Wells sire line established by Irish Champion Two-Year-Old and Leading U.S. Sire, El Prado. One of two outstanding stallions for El Prado, the other being Medaglia d’Oro, Kitten’s Joy emulated his sire as both a Champion on the track and as a sire. He earned an Eclipse Award as top turf male of 2004 as a three-year-old when he took six of eight starts, including the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (G1), Secretariat Stakes (G1), Virginia Derby (G3), Crown Royal American Turf Stakes (G3), Palm Beach Stakes (G3) and Tropical Park Derby (G3). He also added the Firecracker Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2) as a four-year-old.
The Leading North American sire of 2013 and 2018, Kitten’s Joy has now been represented by 98 stakes winners. They include two previous European stars in Hawkbill, who also took the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), and Roaring Lion, who sadly died of colic in New Zealand while on shuttle stallion duty last year. Kitten’s Joy is also responsible for 11 North American grade one winners, including such as Big Blue Kitten, Stephanie’s Kitten, Oscar Performance, Sadler’s Joy, Divisidero, Bobby’s Kitten and Real Solution.
Kameko’s dam, Sweeter Still, owned both racing ability and pedigree. By the Danehill horse, Rock of Gibraltar, and a half-sister to group one winner Kingsbarns and to group winner Belle Artiste, she captured the Senorita Stakes (G3), China Doll Stakes, Sandy Blue Handicap and Light Hearted Stake while racing in the U.S. Despite those promising credentials, Sweeter Still made a dreadful start to her stud career, with only one of the first four foals she produced prior to Kameko reaching the racecourse, and that one finishing unplaced in two starts. As a result, having realized $750,000 when offered carrying her second foal, a Galileo filly, at Keeneland January 2014, Sweeter Still fetched just $35,000 when sold carrying Kameko in the 2016 Keeneland November Sales, and just $1,500 when offered in foal to Optimizer at the same venue two years later.
Kameko’s second dam, Beltisaal, was unplaced while racing in France. She is half-sister to the Italian listed winner, Kafhar, who as a son of In the Wings, is like Kameko and Kingsbarns (the group one winners in the first two dams), a Sadler’s Wells line horse. Kameko’s fourth dam, House Tie, is fourth dam of another Sadler’s Wells line celebrity in Rip Van Winkle (by Galileo), Champion Three-Year-Old Miler and Champion Older Miler in Europe. She’s also fourth dam of a U.S. standout in Madame Dancealot, who took the San Clemente Handicap (G2) and Santa Ana Stakes (G2). House Tie is out of Mesopotamia, Champion Filly in England and Ireland at two, and a famed tap-root who is ancestress of more than 100 stakes winners, 19 of them group or grade one.
The English 1,000 Guineas (G1) resulted in yet another classic winner for the marvellous Galileo, as Love powered home 4½ lengths clear of Cloak of Spirits (Invincible Spirit) and Quadrilateral (Frankel). Love was running for the first time this year, but had a busy two-year-old campaign with seven starts and three wins, including the Silver Flash Stakes (G3), and on her last two outings, the Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1) and Fillies’ Mile (G1). Love is a sister to group winners Flattering and Peach Tree – one who scored over 12 furlongs, and the other successful at as far as 14 furlongs – which bodes well for her Oaks prospects, and she is also half-siser to sprint group winner Lucky Kristale.
Pikaboo, the dam of Love, is by Pivotal. She was unplaced, but is three-quarters sister to a talented pair of sprinters by Pivotal’s son, Kyllachy, in group winner Arabian Gleam and sakes winner Kimberella. She also half-sister to Light Quest, the dam of another Sadler’s Wells line group scorer in Motivator’s daughter, Skia. The third dam is by Danehill out of a half-sister to Don’t Forget Me, who took the 2,000 Guineas (G1) and Irish 1,000 Guineas (G1) in 1987.
Love is one of a remarkable 12 stakes winners, 11 group or graded, other group/grade one winners, including such as Hermosa, Hydrangea, Magical, Rhododendron and The United States, sired by Galileo out of mares by Pivotal, a cross that gives the three-quarters brothers Sadler’s Wells and Nureyev 3×4.
A week later, Galileo made it two classic winners – and a total of eight stakes winners, seven group – from his current three-year-old crop when Peaceful landed the Irish 1,000 Guineas (G1) by a decisive two lengths from Fancy Blue (Deep Impact) with So Wonderful (War Front) third. This was a first black-type tally for Peaceful, who had one win from three starts at two.
A sister to stakes winning and group one placed Easter, Peaceful is out of Missvinsky (Stravinsky), a French listed scorer who also took second in the Prix d’Astarte (G1). The second dam, Miss U Fran, is by Brocco, out of Careless Aly, an Alydar mare who was a sister to Cacoethes, successful in a trio of black-type races in England and the U.S., including the Turf Classic Handicap (G1), and perhaps best remembered for running the formidable Nashwan to a neck in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1). Careless Notion, the dam of Careless Aly and Cacoethes also produced Fabulous Notion, successful in the Santa Susana Stakes (G1), and subsequently dam of Fabulously Fast, heroine of the Test Stakes (G1), and granddam of City of Light, who took the Pegasus World Cup (G1) in 2018. Overall, Careless Notion is ancestress of nearly 40 stakes winners, 15 group or graded, and nine group or grade one, among them Fiji, Champion Turf Mare in the U.S.
Peaceful is one of four stakes winners from 19 starters for Galileo out of Stravinksy mares, the top-class Rip Van Winkle being among the others. This is another version of the cross of Galileo over a mare from the male-line of Nureyev, the three-quarters brother to Galileo’s sire, Sadler’s Wells, we noted with Love.
The Irish 2,000 Guineas (G1) brought something different in the shape of Siskin. The Fappiano line – for all its success on dirt in North America – has made little impact on turf in Europe, or for that matter, Australia. The reason for that is probably that the Fappianos tend to be tall, long-striding, on-pace horses, with high cruising speed, a formula for success on dirt, but one that doesn’t work so well in sit and kick events more common on turf.
Siskin is by First Defence, a son of Unbridled’s Song, who in turn was by Fappiano’s Kentucky Derby winner, Unbridled. First Defence is out of out of a daughter of the distinguished runner and producer, Toussaud, which makes him closely related to the Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Empire Maker, a son of Unbridled and Toussaud. Standing at Juddmonte, as did First Defence, Empire Maker proved a singularly disappointing sire of European turf runners, despite covering some of Juddmonte’s best turf mares, getting only three black-type winners from around 80 European starters. As a paradoxical aside, we can note that Empire Maker’s grandson, American Pharoah is appearing to be a very effective grass sire, and his first crop, now three, already features four group/graded winners on that surface, including Four Wheel Drive, who took last year’s Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) and Maven, successful in the Prix du Bois (G3).
First Defence was out of Honest Lady, a Seattle Slew mare, who won the Santa Monica Handicap (G1) over seven furlongs, and came within a ½ length of capturing the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Like her, First Defence proved best as a sprinter, winning the Forego Handicap (G1) on dirt and on turf the Jaipur Stakes (G3) at four. He also carried his speed 8½ furlongs at three to capture the Long Branch Breeders’ Cup Stakes, and the same year he took second to Hard Spun in the King’s Bishop Stakes (G1). First Defence, who was exported to Saudi Arabia in 2016 has sired 12 stakes winners from 266 starters out of eight Northern Hemisphere crops. He appears to have a real star in Siskin, who is now five-for-five, also including the Railway Stakes (G2) and Phoenix Stakes (G1). First Defence has been represented by two other grade one winners, Close Hatches, the Champion Older Mare of 2014 in North American, and Antonoe, a group winner in France, and successful in the Just a Game Stakes (G1) in the U.S.
Siskin’s dam, the two-year-old winner Bird Flown, a daughter of another fast horse in Oasis Dream, is half-sister to the black-type wining and group placed Barsanti. More significantly, however, as far as Siskin is concerned, is that she is half-sister to the Storm Cat mare, Rising Tornado, dam of both the previously mentioned First Defence products, Close Hatches, and of her sister, Lockdown, a black-type winner who also earned third in the Kentucky Oaks (G1).
The granddam of Siskin, Silver Star, was black-type placed in France and is sister to European Champion Two-Year-Old Xaar, and half-sister to group winners Masterclass and Diese (dam of grade one winner Senure. Silver Star’s stakes placed half-sister Didicoy, was a graded stakes producer who is also third dam of Cityscape, a horse who carried the Juddmonte colors to victory in the Dubai Duty Free (G1), and fourth dam of the 2019 St. Leger (G1) victor, Logician. Monroe, the dam of Silver Star, won the Ballyogan Stakes (G3), sprinting in Ireland, and was also group one placed. By Sir Ivor out of the great producer, Best in Show, Monroe was a sister to Champion Irish Two-Year-Old Malinowski and group winner Gielgud, and half-sister to Kentucky Oaks (G1) victress Blushing With Pride, with other descendants of her dam, Best in Show, including El Gran Senor, Try My Best, Redoute’s Choice, Manhattan Rain, Rags to Riches, Peeping Fawn, Chimes of Freedom, Aldebaran, Good Journey, Aviance, Spinning World, Domedriver, Chinchon, Yagli, Denon, Almond Eye and War of Will.
It’s interesting to note that El Gran Senor – one of the most talented horses on that illustrious list – is sire of the second dam of First Defence, so Siskin, Close Hatches, Lockdown and another First Defence stakes winner, Fame and Power, are all linebred to El Gran Senor’s second dam, Best in Show. This is a pattern we have already seen in Australia with the success of Redoute’s Choice (whose 4th dam is Best In Show) when crossed with daughters of Last Tycoon, whose sire Try My Best is a full brother to El Gran Senor.