As the fillies hurtled into the final hundred yards of the Investec Oaks, one thing was certain – victory would go to one or other of Danehill’s champion stallion sons. But which one? Legatissimo, a daughter of 2009’s champion sire Danehill Dancer, appeared to be well on her way to becoming the first 1,000 Guineas winner to take the Oaks since Kazzia in 2002. In hot pursuit, though, was the unconsidered Qualify, representing Fastnet Rock, Australia’s champion sire of 2011-12. Of course it was Qualify who got up to snatch a short-head victory – and her victory began a tremendous couple of days for her sire.
Less than 24 hours later, thousands of miles away at Doomben near Brisbane, Fastnet Rock’s son Magicool lined up for the Queensland Derby, a race widely thought to be at the mercy of Montjeu’s grandson Werther. However, it was Magicool who prevailed by three-quarters of a length to provide a Group 1 double not only for Fastnet Rock but also for Magicool’s broodmare sire Galileo, sire also of Qualify’s dam Perihelion. Magicool’s win may well help Fastnet Rock regain the title of champion sire, as it boosted the stallion’s lead over Danehill’s son Exceed And Excel to nearly AUS$1 million. If he succeeds, sons of Danehill will increase their hold on the Australian championship to seven in the ten years since Danehill recorded the last of his nine titles.
To put the icing on the cake, the Doomben programme also featured the Group 1 BMW JJ Atkins, a 1600m contest for two-year-olds. Victory went to Press Statement, an unbeaten colt from the first crop sired by Fastnet Rock’s second-crop son Hinchinbrook. Bearing in mind that Hinchinbrook’s 14-race career yielded just two wins – headed by a Group 3 sprint success at two – his success with Press Statement surely bodes well for Fastnet Rock’s other stallion sons. British breeders are familiar with his fast son Foxwedge, whose first-crop foals sold creditably at the end of 2014. We can expect them to sell even better as yearlings this year, judging by the prices paid for some of his first Australian yearlings, such as AUS$560,000, $440,000, $425,000 and $420,000.
To many people the phrase ‘champion sprinter’ implies a degree of precocity
By an unwanted coincidence, this run of success came just a few months after Coolmore reversed the original decision to shuttle Fastnet Rock to Ireland for a sixth consecutive year. Perhaps the reversal was prompted by the fact that Fastnet Rock’s 2014 book in Ireland had stood at ‘only’ 85 mares, compared to 190 the previous year. As his first two Irish crops had been represented by nothing better than a pair of Group 3 winners in 2014 – the middle-distance colt Fascinating Rock and Qualify – the chances are that his 2015 book would again struggle to justify the expense and risk.
It is also possible that Coolmore were keen to rest a stallion who has been extremely busy for a decade. Starting out in 2005, Fastnet Rock has covered 2,204 mares in his first ten Australian seasons – and you don’t need to be a mathematical genius to see that that equates to an average of 220 mares a year. For five of those years he has also been on duty in Ireland, where he covered a total of 679 mares, and his combined totals for Ireland and Australia stood at 370 mares in 2011, 387 in 2012 and 402 in 2013.
In contrast, Fastnet Rock had covered only 79 mares on his first visit to Ireland because the decision to include him in the shuttle team from Australia had been a late one. He was of course billed as a champion sprinter – an accolade earned with six Graded stakes victories in his second season.
To many people the phrase ‘champion sprinter’ implies a degree of precocity, and Fastnet Rock did indeed finish fourth in the Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes. However, Fastnet Rock failed to win any of his seven juvenile starts and was much more effective at three. Although he enjoyed plenty of success as a sire of two-year-olds in Australia, would he be able to follow suit in Ireland? Arguably his main role at Coolmore was to try to inject speed into stamina-packed daughters of the likes of Sadler’s Wells, Galileo, Montjeu etc.
He has sired a couple of comparatively speedy Listed winners from Sadler’s Wells mares, namely Table Rock (over a mile at three) and Smuggler’s Cove (over seven furlongs at two). However, his second-crop foals out of Sadler’s Wells mares also include the very useful middle-distance colt Cape Clear Island and the Cheshire Oaks winner Diamondsandrubies, who did extremely well to finish fourth behind Qualify after a very rough passage in the Oaks.
As I mentioned earlier, Qualify is out of a Galileo mare, as is Magicool, whose finest success came over 2200m. You may well remember Magicool’s dam Perfect Truth, as she led throughout to win the Cheshire Oaks. I think it is reasonable to expect that Fastnet Rock’s progeny bred along these lines are likely to be suited by a mile and a quarter or more (the nearest he has come to siring a fast horse in Ireland is Cougar Mountain, who performed well in a couple of Group 1 sprints in 2014).
This comes as no great surprise, as some of Fastnet Rock’s top Australian performers have enjoyed Group 1 success at a mile and a quarter or more, including Atlantic Jewel, Mosheen and Super Cool.
It will be interesting to see whether Qualify’s Oaks win proves to be a launch-pad for further major wins for Fastnet Rock’s northern hemisphere progeny. It could well be, as he covered 179 mares in Ireland in 2012 and 190 the following year, which means he has two large crops (much larger than his first) coming on line. Eight members of his large two-year-old crop are listed as being in training with Aidan O’Brien, including Qualify’s brother Shogun and a half-brother to Bracelet and Wading.