Not only did the Newmarket Guineas turn a shining light on to two emerging blue hens but they also paid tribute to the achievements of the renowned breeder Gerald Leigh. It is over 20 years since Leigh died but his influence continues to run deep through the breed to the extent that his families today remain instantly recognisable.
Leigh was not a breeder who operated with a large number of mares at his Eydon Hall Farm. High quality was key, an approach that naturally placed his families on such a sound footing. As such, the fact that two of them sit behind Chaldean and Mawj is remarkable yet unsurprising.
Chaldean’s win in a rain-sodden 2,000 Guineas will go down in history as Frankie Dettori’s last Classic victory on the Rowley Mile, so it’s quite fitting that he should descend from the Ghislaine family responsible for Markofdistinction, who provided a then 19-year-old Dettori with his first Royal Ascot winner in the 1989 Queen Anne Stakes and then a first Group 1 in the following year’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Fast forward over 30 years and Ghislaine’s great-great-granddaughter Suelita is developing into something of a blue hen for the Harper’s Whitsbury Manor Stud. Famously bought for just 21,500gns by Chris Harper at the 2013 Tattersalls December Sale, the Italian-winning daughter of Dutch Art foaled Listed scorer The Broghie Man (by Cityscape) in her first year, Listed-placed Gloves Lynch (by Mukhadram) in her second, Mill Reef Stakes winner Alkumait (by Showcasing) in her fourth and Listed-placed Get Ahead (a daughter of Showcasing who seems a likely candidate to score in stakes company at some point) in her fifth. Chaldean, one of 26 Group or Grade 1 winners for Frankel, is her sixth foal.
It’s quite fitting that Chaldean should descend from the Ghislaine family responsible for Markofdistinction, who provided Dettori with his first Group 1 winner in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes
Suelita doesn’t have a two-year-old – Chaldean was a May 10 foal and indeed is the youngest winner of the 2,000 Guineas since Rodrigo De Triano (born May 27) in 1992. However, waiting in the wings is a Kingman yearling filly, who topped last year’s Tattersalls December Foal Sale when sold to Juddmonte Farms for 1,000,000gns.
Suelita is inbred 3×3 to Machiavellian, a pattern she shares with Lope De Vega, and descends from Ghislaine as a granddaughter of Leigh’s North American Grade 3 winner Horatia (by Machiavellian). In turn, Horatia was a half-sister to the Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Stakes winner Opinion Poll and out of Ahead, a half-sister to Markofdistinction and daughter of Ghislaine.
Leigh bought into this family with the purchase of Cambretta, a Roberto granddaughter of 1957 Dewhurst Stakes winner Torbella, from Robert Sangster in 1978 and proceeded to breed three foals out of the mare, including Group 3 winners Pluralisme and Only, before selling her at the 1982 Keeneland November Sale for $1 million to the Maktoum family’s Aston Upthorpe Stud. The Nodouble foal she was carrying at the time turned out to be German Group 3 winner Singletta.
Her Icecapade daughter Ghislaine was not one of the mare’s stakes winners, her career highlight coming when successful by a wide margin at Sandown on her debut as a three-year-old for Guy Harwood. However, having been retained by Leigh, she is the one who has done most to propel the line forward to the point that today she is the ancestress of 30 stakes winners, among them Group 1 winners Pierro, now a highly successful stallion for Coolmore Australia, and Laverock in addition to Chaldean and Markofdistinction.
The success of Mawj’s immediate family for Godolphin represents a circle of sorts given that they descend directly from Royal Statute, whose Yorkshire Oaks-winning daughter Awaasif was one of the first really good fillies owned by Sheikh Mohammed
Meanwhile, the success of Mawj’s immediate family for Godolphin represents a circle of sorts given that they descend directly from Royal Statute, whose Yorkshire Oaks-winning daughter Awaasif was one of the first really good fillies owned by Sheikh Mohammed. Awaasif later foaled Oaks winner Snow Bride, in turn the dam of Godolphin’s champion Lammtarra.
As an Exceed And Excel daughter of a New Approach mare, Mawj boasts a strong Darley stamp. The tough Godolphin homebred becomes the 18th Group/Grade 1 winner for Darley’s venerable former shuttler Exceed And Excel, now a permanent resident in Australia, and the fourth Group 1 winner out of a mare out of New Approach. Another is top two-year-old Earthlight, now a popular young stallion at Darley’s Kildangan Stud in Ireland.
Mawj’s dam Modern Ideals is rapidly gaining blue hen status with the 1,000 Guineas winner preceded by last year’s Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Breeders’ Cup Mile hero Modern Games and Listed scorer Modern News. Thus Modern Ideals has pulled off the notable accomplishment of producing winners of both the French and Newmarket Guineas, a rare achievement but one that also draws parallels with her relation Korveya, dam of the 1991 Poulains winner Hector Protector and 1996 1,000 Guineas heroine Bosra Sham.
Korveya was a Riverman daughter of the 1976 1,000 Guineas runner-up Konafa, a Damascus half-sister to Awaasif. Konafa ultimately wound up in the hands of Stavros Niarchos, who bred both Korveya and her elder half-sibling, the Italian champion Proskona. Both incidentally also ended up in the ownership of Leigh; Korveya was bought for $700,000 in 1989 and in a good bit of business was resold as a 16-year-old for $7 million in 1998 to Reynolds Bell while Proskona was purchased in December 1994 through Alex Scrope.
Canadian Grade 2 winner Calista was the best of seven winners out of Proskona but in time the daughter of Mr Prospector also became the ancestress of Prix Lupin and Criterium International winner Act One, one of the last good horses bred by Leigh, as well as the Group/Grade 1-placed fillies Summer Solstice and Summer Solo.
Within 18 months of Leigh’s death in the summer of 2002, the majority of his stock had changed hands in a private transaction to Sheikh Mohammed in a deal that reportedly valued the group at £35 million. The highlight on paper was Leigh’s Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Gossamer, a sister to Barathea who would provide Sheikh Mohammed with a Racing Post Trophy winner in Ibn Khaldun. Another foal out of Gossamer, Veil Of Silence, is the dam of Godolphin’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Mischief Magic.
The group also included Proskona’s placed Nashwan daughter Epitome, who did her bit to underline the stock’s worth by producing Godolphin’s 2016 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Ultra. This branch of the family continues to thrive outside of Modern Ideals since another daughter, Listed-placed Epic Similie (by Lomitas), is the granddam of recent Cutler Bay Stakes winners Behind Enemy Lines (by Sioux Nation).
However, the moment very much belongs to Modern Ideals. Ten years on from an underwhelming two-start racing career with Andre Fabre, she ranks as one of the most successful producers of the current era. Not only have her leading progeny shown immense talent but they are also tough horses – Modern Games has finished in the frame in eight Group/Grade 1 races since November 2021 while Mawj was one of the toughest two-year-old fillies of last season when her performances included a win in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes. It will be fascinating to see whether the mare’s Mastercraftsman two-year-old filly will be able to uphold the family the tradition.