First published in the October edition of Owner Breeder

There are two sides to every coin and, as such, in the shadow of immense success comes some inevitable drawbacks.

In thoroughbred breeding, one example has been the dominance of Northern Dancer. Whether in Europe, the US or Australasia, it has become a ubiquitous force, giving us Sadler’s Wells and his son Galileo alongside the likes of Danzig, Storm Cat, Nureyev and Lyphard among many others. At the same time, however, other lines have been squeezed out. Perhaps they would have petered out anyway as part of a natural cycle.

However, I can’t help thinking that the process has been accelerated in recent years by a collection of factors; for instance, the arrival of big books and increased importance of the commercial market to go with the power and popularity of Northern Dancer and his descendants.

At the time of writing, 22 of the top 25 stallions on the champion sires’ list descend in one form or another from Northern Dancer. The outliers – Dubawi and his sons Night Of Thunder and New Bay – are descendants of Mr Prospector.

Matters are slightly more varied in the US, where the current top ten consist of two male line descendants of Northern Dancer (Into Mischief and Not This Time), five belonging to Mr Prospector (Quality Road, Curlin, Speightstown, Munnings and Gun Runner), two descendants of A.P. Indy (Tapit and Tonalist) and one welcome representative of Caro (Uncle Mo). Even so, it’s a far cry from the days when the likes of Roberto, Halo, In Reality, Ribot and Princequillo exerted a weighty presence.

Similarly in Europe, those lines descending from the likes of Mill Reef, Blushing Groom, Known Fact and Sharpen Up – all important influences of their day – today hang by a thread while others, such as Dante and Habitat, have more or less died out. And with Le Havre, arguably the last major European-based representative of Blushing Groom, having died earlier this year without a major son to his credit, the book has likely closed on the Blushing Groom sire line.

By the same token, Overbury Stud’s Cityscape and Jack Hobbs represent the sole access to Sharpen Up in these parts, while it is now up to Dream Ahead, a recent switch to Bearstone Stud, and his French-based son Donjuan Triumphant to provide access to Warning, himself a rare descendant of Man O’War via In Reality.

When Frankel became champion sire last year, he became the first British-based stallion to do so since Mill Reef landed the second of his two titles posthumously in 1987. At the time of his death in 1986, Mill Reef’s sire line appeared in good health. His first Derby winner, the 1978 hero Shirley Heights, had already sired his own winner of the Epsom showpiece in Slip Anchor, successful in 1985, while another son of his, Darshaan, had defeated Sadler’s Wells and Rainbow Quest in a Prix du Jockey Club for the ages in 1984.

By the American champion two-year-old Never Bend, Mill Reef provided direct access to Nasrullah, being a grandson of the influential Aga Khan-bred sire, and stood at the National Stud in Newmarket at a time when that sire line also flowed strongly through Red God, sire of Blushing Groom, Grey Sovereign, whose line thrived in France, and Riverman, another son of Never Bend. Sadly, none of those lines are easily accessible today.

Dalakhani: brilliant in his pomp on the track, the son of Darshaan is now forging a legacy as a broodmare sire of note. Photo – George Selwyn

However, in the years following his death, Mill Reef continued to remain very relevant through Darshaan. Under the Aga Khan’s management, Darshaan sired close to 90 stakes winners, among them the brilliant miler Mark Of Esteem alongside the highly accomplished middle-distance performers Hellenic, Kotashaan and Dalakhani. He has long also been an outstanding broodmare influence, his record in that department fuelled by a successful alliance with Sadler’s Wells.

Dalakhani was a yearling when Darshaan succumbed to colic aged 20 in 2001. A half-brother to Daylami, he was swift to serve notice that Darshaan had saved his best until last by capping an unbeaten two-year-old year with a victory in the Criterium International before sweeping the Prix du Jockey Club and Arc during a brilliant season at three. Dalakhani ended 2003 as the year’s champion three-year-old colt and duly retired to Gilltown Stud in Ireland at a fee of €45,000.

Darshaan’s record of a sire of sires was at that time fair, with the achievements of Mark Of Esteem balancing out underwhelming sons such as Kotashaan, Mutamam and Josr Algarhoud. And Dalakhani, aided by good mares and the support of the Aga Khan, initially lived up to expectations, joining Mark Of Esteem as a Classic-producing sire when his first crop threw the Irish Oaks heroine Moonstone and St Leger hero Conduit.

“Dalakhani’s legacy as a sire of sires rests on the Prix du Jockey Club winner Reliable Man, who stood the past season for €6,500 at Gestut Röttgen in Germany”

The fact Dalakhani spent his final season covering at €15,000 tells a story; it didn’t always help that his progeny often benefitted from time and middle-distances. But he was capable of also imparting plenty of class, as illustrated by a stud record that includes 55 stakes winners, among them ten at the top level.

As such, Dalakhani is now a key cog in the fight for the Darshaan sire line to retain its relevance. As with others before it, the line is steadily being squeezed out, although there remains a small pool of British and Irish-based representatives led by Mark Of Esteem’s Derby-winning son Sir Percy, a very capable yet affordable resident of Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, and 24-year-old Olden Times, virtually a private stallion nowadays for Prince Faisal who sprang to prominence earlier in the year as sire of Feilden Stakes winner and 2,000 Guineas fourth Eydon.

As for Dalakhani, his legacy as a sire of sires rests on the Prix du Jockey Club winner Reliable Man, who stood the past season for €6,500 at Gestut Röttgen in Germany, and Solario Stakes winner Fantastic Moon, who stands for €1,000 at Haras du Taillis in France. (Since this article was published, it has been announced that Reliable Man will cease to shuttle from Australia to Germany).

Reliable Man is a capable stallion in both hemispheres as the sire of 19 stakes winners headed by the Australian Group 1 scorers Inspirational Girl, Miami Bound and Miss Sentimental. However, as with Sir Percy (himself the sire of two Group 1 winners), time is running out for him to produce a legitimate sire son – and even then it is doubtful whether one such horse would be given a fair crack of the whip by the market.

On the other hand, Dalakhani has become a broodmare sire of note, as underlined by results from the current season.

In doing so, he is following the example set by Darshaan and his damsire Miswaki, while he obviously benefitted, particularly in his early seasons, from books of high-performing and well-connected mares.

Nevertheless, he deserves credit for a broodmare sire record that to date consists of 51 stakes winners led by champion two-year-old Pinatubo, by Shamardal, top Japanese sprinter Tower Of London, by Raven’s Pass, and American Grade 1 winner Shantisara, by Coulsty. Other high-profile runners include Royal Lodge Stakes winner Royal Patronage (by Wootton Bassett), Dante Stakes winner Thunderous (by Night Of Thunder) and Derby runner-up US Army Ranger (by Galileo), one of five stakes runners out of Moonstone alongside Nelson (by Frankel), Nevis (by Dansili), Stubbs (by Danehill Dancer) and Words (by Dansili).

Indeed, so far this season he has featured as the damsire of seven stakes winners in Europe, who between them have won nearly £2.7 million in earnings, enough to place him within the top 20 European broodmare sires.

The stakes-winning septet are a varied group, ranging from the Group-winning juvenile fillies Meditate (by No Nay Never) and Lakota Sioux (by Sioux Nation) to the Group 3-winning colt Checkandchallenge (by Fast Company) and accomplished sprinter Double Or Bubble (by Exceed And Excel). The latter was bred by Deerfield Farm out of Mango Lady, also dam of another quick Group 3 winner to Exceed And Excel in Mix And Mingle.

Checkandchallenge: Pattern winner is out of a daughter by Dalakhani

Justifying expectations
It doesn’t take too much imagination to envisage Meditate, bred by Lynch Bages and Rhinestone Bloodstock out of Pembina, becoming the next Group 1 winner out of a Dalakhani mare.

Having swept the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and Debutante Stakes at the Curragh for Aidan O’Brien, she most recently ran a fine second to Lezoo in the Cheveley Park Stakes to consolidate her place within the top rank of her generation.

Lakota Sioux hasn’t fared quite so well of late, fading out of the picture after racing prominently in the Moyglare before running down the field in the Rockfel Stakes. However, prior to that she had looked progressive and high-class when landing the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket.

Bred by Fethard Bloodstock out of the Aga Khan-bred Group 3 winner Shemiyla, she is a half-sister to the Group 1-placed Sheraz and on those connections alone was very well bought by her trainers Mark and Charlie Johnston for £15,000 at last year’s Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale.

Meditate and Lakota Sioux share Scat Daddy as a grandsire and, as fast, hardy two-year-olds who were plying their trade early this year, have already demonstrated the attributes for which the sire line has become admired.

Meditate hails from the first €100,000 crop of Coolmore’s No Nay Never, bred in the aftermath of an excellent first group of two-year-olds that included the Middle Park Stakes winner Ten Sovereigns. Confidence has been riding high in the horse, himself an excellent two-year-old who won the Prix Morny, within his home camp since and so far it appears to be well placed, with his current crop of juveniles also highlighted by the Phoenix Stakes winner Little Big Bear, Prix Morny and Middle Park Stakes hero Blackbeard, Group 2 winners Aesop’s Fables and Trillum and the Group 3 scorer Midnight Mile alongside Meditate.

“Coolmore’s association with the sire line stretches back to the days of Storm Bird via his grandson Hennessy”

As for Lakota Sioux, she sits alongside Prix Six Perfections winner Sydneyarms Chelsea as one of two Group 3 winners from the first crop of Coolmore’s Phoenix Stakes winner Sioux Nation. At an opening fee of €12,500 (which has since been dropped to €10,000), Sioux Nation has been an affordable Scat Daddy option from the outset and as such hasn’t lacked for ammunition. Even so, he is making the most of those opportunities, as a group of ten stakes performers among a horde of winners illustrates.

Coolmore’s association with the sire line stretches back to the days of Storm Bird via his grandson Hennessy, who left behind the brilliant Ballydoyle two-year-old Johannesburg. However, it is off the back of the success of Johannesburg’s Grade 1-winning son Scat Daddy that it has accelerated its involvement, which has also included investing in the American Triple Crown hero Justify to stand at its Kentucky arm, Ashford Stud.

Justify has an army of almost 140 first-crop two-year-olds, most of them extremely well connected, as befits his opening fee of $150,000. Unsurprisingly, he was the subject of plenty of hype, but in return he has been quick to satisfy expectations to the extent that he currently reigns among North America’s leading first-crop sires, his tally of winners buoyed by the presence of Saratoga Grade 3 winner Just Cindy and the Grade 1-placed Verifyingamid an array of smart-looking debut winners at some of the big American tracks.

Yet Justify has also been quick to make his presence felt in Europe thanks to the Group-winning fillies Statuette and Aspen Grove, both of whom appeal as legitimate Classic candidates for 2023. Needless to say, the ability to throw high-class performers on both turf and dirt is going to stand him in extremely good stead going forward.