It’s still early days for next season’s stallion announcements but already a few early signings have taken place in Britain and Ireland.
The Irish National Stud has recruited Gale Force Ten, a former top lot at the DBS Premier Sale and a son of Stowell Hill’s admirable mare Ronaldsay and Oasis Dream, whose young sons are starting to prove their worth at stud.
Darley were quick to strike for top sprinter Slade Power, winner of this year’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes and July Cup, who may yet prove to be a dual-hemisphere prospect if his November raid on Flemington goes to plan.
One whose Australian forays have brought him fame around the racing world, albeit at the opposite end of the distance spectrum, is the wonderful Dunaden.
He’s far more than the plodder that his top-flight success over two miles may have some believe (not that any plodder can win the Melbourne Cup these days) as he is also a dual Group 1 winner at a mile and a half in the Caulfield Cup and Hong Kong Vase.
As Tony Morris reflects in his column this month, retiring a colt to stud at the end of his two-year-old season isn’t solely a modern invention but it is a growing trend. The Tetrarch is probably the most famous example of a top-class stallion not racing beyond two – though he didn’t actually enter stud until he was four – and as Tony highlights, though he was unfashionably bred he had “written his own pedigree”.
The same could probably be said for Dunaden, though he has proved his worth over many seasons. His almost forgotten sire Nicobar covered just 14 mares in France in the year he was conceived and, sent to Arqana’s December Sale as a foal, Dunaden fetched a bid of just €1,500.
Plenty of future champions have been similarly overlooked as youngsters – six-time Group 1 winner Snow Fairy springs to mind, while Euro Charline, winner of the Beverly D Stakes for the Marco Botti stable in August, reached only Tatttersalls’ minimum bid of 800gns when passing through its February Sale as a ‘short yearling’. These are the kind of tales that must bring shudders to those currently spending whopping sums at the elite yearling sales.
Dunaden’s paternal grandsire Indian Ridge and great grandsire Ahonoora certainly made their mark, the latter’s descendants remaining the only strand of the Byerley Turk line still active in Europe
Though it may no longer be deemed fashionable to hang around in training year after year contesting the world’s top races, hoovering up more than £5 million in prize-money and gaining an army of adoring fans, it is nevertheless fervently hoped, in this quarter at least, that Dunaden will be supported by many more mares than just those owned by Sheikh Fahad, who has specifically located him at Overbury Stud, within hollering distance of Tweenhills, for this very purpose.
Dunaden’s legacy reaches far beyond just his achievements on the track, significant though they were. In winning the Melbourne Cup he ensured that a spark of interest became a full-blown flame of passion for horseracing from the then-new owner Sheikh Fahad. The impact the sheikh and his family have had on the sport in the short time since then has been immense. Their influence on its future can only be imagined.
Whether or not Dunaden gets his chance to influence the bloodlines of the future remains to be seen. His paternal grandsire Indian Ridge and great grandsire Ahonoora certainly made their mark, the latter’s descendants remaining the only strand of the Byerley Turk line still active in Europe – yet another reason to hope that he succeeds.
A further factor for consideration is that he becomes the fourth of the last five Melbourne Cup winners to be retired for stallion duties. Street Cry’s son Shocking is now at Rich Hill Stud in New Zealand, Americain shuttles between Australia’s Swettenham Stud and Calumet Farm in Kentucky, and last year’s winner Fiorente is currently serving his first book of mares at Eliza Park Stud in Victoria.
It is often bemoaned that in Europe we are now emulating Australian breeders’ desire for early speed. It’s true up to a point – and largely dictated by events in the sales ring for those breeding commercially – but the middle-distance stallions are there to be used for those with the desire to breed a potentially decent stayer. Yes, the returns may not be so great if selling as a yearling but the prices paid for horses in training who have shown aptitude at a mile and a half and beyond are not to be sniffed at. And even if you don’t sell, the prize-money to be made from racing a classy and durable middle-distance horse is also encouraging.
It’s not just Dunaden who has amassed an impressive haul – Red Cadeaux has earned more than £4 million, Jakkalberry and Dandino over £1 million, while Mount Athos, Brown Panther and Simenon have each accrued more than £500,000. It will be interesting to see where the entires Dandino and Brown Panther end up for their stud careers. Being by Dansili and Shirocco respectively and both durable and admirable performers, they certainly deserve to be given every chance.