As a pedigree consultant, there are times of justifiable pride when a client breeds a major winner thanks to your input. Maybe you spotted a young stallion’s potential before the rest of the crowd, or maybe you recognised that a stallion’s physique made him an ideal match for a particular mare. There are other times, though – especially in Europe – where the constraints of bloodlines and price effectively reduce the options to a mere handful, which limits the amount of skill required.
I was reminded of this when Fastnet Rock’s daughter Pizza Bianca stormed through to snatch victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, becoming the first homebred Breeders’ Cup winner for Bobby Flay, a man usually described as an American celebrity chef. During my long innings as a columnist for the Thoroughbred Daily News, I was asked by the TDN’s President Barry Weisbord – a close friend of Flay’s – to suggest matings for a few of Flay’s select group of European-based mares for the 2017 and 2018 breeding seasons. One of those mares was White Hot, the dam of Pizza Bianca.
White Hot first made the news in 2014, when she was consigned by Camas Park Stud to Book 1 of Tattersalls’ October Yearling Sale. You can gain some idea of the strength of her pedigree from the fact that the bidding opened at 500,000gns. Agent Ed Sackville and John Magnier were among those who tried to secure her but in the end it was James Delahooke, acting on behalf of Flay, who made the successful bid of 1,250,000gns. While the filly had to play second fiddle that day to a Galileo half-brother to Harbinger which made 2,600,000gns, she had the distinction of being the highest-priced yearling filly in Europe in 2014.
It’s a reminder of the perils of the racing game that the sale-topping Galileo colt failed to win in three starts for Aidan O’Brien and that the top-priced filly never made it to the races, although she was listed under John Gosden in Horses In Training for 2015 and 2016. However, whereas the colt retained little of his original value, White Hot’s bloodlines meant that she was very deserving of a bit of perseverance on Flay’s behalf. After all, her dam, the Darshaan mare Gwynn, had also been unraced after selling for 250,000gns as a yearling and her lack of a racecourse career hadn’t stopped her developing into an excellent broodmare.
Gwynn, a grand-daughter of that influential broodmare Royal Statute, will always be best remembered as the dam of Derby winner Pour Moi, who was by Montjeu, a son of Sadler’s Wells. White Hot too was by a son of Sadler’s Wells, in the incomparable Galileo. Gwynn had also done very well with Sadler’s Wells himself, producing the Prix de Diane second and Irish Oaks third Gagnoa, and she had also produced the lightly-raced Listed winner Kissed to a previous visit to Galileo.
Pizza Bianca isn’t the only one to add to the family’s prestige in 2021, as Gagnoa is the dam of Ancient Rome, the War Front colt who went so close to defeating Angel Bleu in the Group 1 Criterium International. Other notable updates have come from Ancient Rome’s sister Etoile, who made a winning debut in the Group 3 Fillies’ Sprint Stakes in 2019, and from White Hot’s brother Dawn Patrol, winner of the Group 3 Loughbrown Stakes over two miles after finishing third in the Irish Derby.
After buying White Hot, James Delahooke commented that: “She was my pick of the sale. We tried to buy a Bernardini filly in Keeneland and I was beaten by John Ferguson, and this is the nicest filly I’ve seen since. The page speaks for itself and she’s just a gorgeous filly. She ticked all the boxes.”
The description I was given to work with was “medium size, very correct, good bone, top physical.” Because there was so much money invested in White Hot, it was essential that she visit a stallion whose fee placed him among Europe’s elite. And it was also preferable that this unproven mare should visit a proven stallion in her first season in 2017, so the likes of Kingman and Golden Horn were ruled out. Her pedigree eliminated Galileo, Frankel, Teofilo, Australia and Gleneagles, and Sea The Stars was also crossed off because he created 2 x 3 to Urban Sea.
There were considerable doubts about whether an unraced maiden mare would be able to access the £250,000 Dubawi, who would otherwise have been one of the main contenders. Similar doubts about accessibility applied to Shamardal, whose physical problems limited his 2017 book to 65 mares, owned exclusively by Godolphin, Rabbah Bloodstock, Shadwell or Sheikh Mohammed Obaid. Pivotal and Dansili, at 24 and 21 respectively, were discounted on the score of age and the risk of declining fertility (Dansili was to cover only 29 mares in 2017). Another elderly sire, Invincible Spirit, had been a popular choice for Galileo mares, which had 31 foals of racing age by him, including nine two-year-olds of 2016. However, at that stage, his only black-type winner among the 17 starters was the filly Alea Iacta, who had disappointed after winning an oddly-run Group 3 as a juvenile. So he too was crossed off the list (perhaps wrongly, because his partnership with Galileo mares was to produce the Group 1 two-year-old winner Magna Grecia and three other black-type winners in 2018).
So what was left? Oasis Dream has an ultimately disappointing Group 2 winner to his credit from a Galileo mare, but that was his only black-type winner at that stage from 34 foals of racing age. Dark Angel’s potential was there for all to see, but he had only three foals of racing age out of Galileo mares, of which one had won. His cause wasn’t helped by the fact that his sire Acclamation had nothing out of the ordinary among his eight winners from nine foals out of Galileo mares [Dark Angel had three talented two-year-olds out of Galileo mares in 2021, headed by the dual Group 1 winner Angel Bleu]. Then there was the French-based Siyouni, who had done so well with his cheap crops that his fee had risen to €45,000 by 2017. We now know, thanks to Sottsass and St Mark’s Basilica, that he is one of the go-to stallions for owners of Galileo mares, but in the autumn of 2016 his statistics stood at one non-winning runner from two foals.
Among the stallions with promising records with daughters of Galileo were Exceed And Excel, Lope de Vega and Le Havre. But there was no getting away from the fact that the stallion with the best track record with Galileo broodmares was Fastnet Rock.
My recommendation read as follows:
“FASTNET ROCK has to be on the short list in view of his record with other Galileo mares. As a son of Danehill owned by Coolmore, he has been the default option for plenty of their Galileo mares. The stats are that 48 mares have 74 foals (which includes a lot of young, untried horses). 38 have started, 28 have won and a pleasing 9 (12%) have become black-type winners. They include the Oaks winner Qualify, this year’s Moyglare Stud S. winner Intricately, the leading Dewhurst contender Rivet [who was to win the Racing Post Trophy] and the Group winners Turret Rocks and Zhukova. That’s five good Group winners from 38 starters. Fastnet Rock is a big, masculine horse, on the coarse side, but he clearly suits Galileo’s daughters, which generally possess plenty of quality. Fastnet Rock also sired the Group 1-winning filly Diamondsandrubies from a Sadler’s Wells mare with a Darshaan dam.”
I could have added that daughters of Fastnet Rock’s sire Danehill had enjoyed a spectacularly successful partnership with Galileo.
Highly successful nicks often start to tail off, as more and more breeders climb onto the bandwagon, but that hasn’t happened with the Fastnet Rock-Galileo alliance. Indeed the statistics remain impressive. Zhukova took the Grade 1 Man o’War Stakes in 2017, Unforgotten the Group 1 Australian Oaks in 2018 and Personal the Group 1 VRC Oaks in 2020. The 2021 season has also seen the Fastnet Rock-Galileo partnership maintain its high profile, with Joie de Soir, Fenelon, Pizza Bianca and her fellow American black-type winner Star Devine helping increase the number of black-type winners to 24, from a total of 178 foals, which equates to 13% – just a little higher than the figures I worked with in 2016.
White Hot was sent to Fastnet Rock in 2017 and was believed to be in foal when she was entered for the December Sales. However, she was withdrawn from the sale and no foal was reported. Fortunately, her connections stuck with their original plan in 2018, with Pizza Bianca the result. White Hot has been transferred to the US, where Pizza Bianca was foaled, and she has also produced a 2021 colt by Uncle Mo before being bred to Not This Time.
It is going to be interesting to see what Pizza Bianca’s connections decide to do with their filly in the first half of 2022, as she has raced only on turf in her three-race career and there aren’t many big prizes available to American turf fillies until the second half of the year (the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational is in July).
It is also going to be interesting to see how far Pizza Bianca stays. She is the product of a mating between a champion Australian sprinter and a mare who could have been expected to shine over ten or 12 furlongs. Her come-from-behind style of racing suggests she is going to take after her dam rather than her sire, and this has often been the case with Fastnet Rock’s leading winners out of Galileo mares. Of his 24 black-type winners, Qualify, Magicool, Zhukova, Personal, Turret Rocks, Inverloch, Unforgotten, Star Rock, Fenelon and Joie de Soir have all enjoyed stakes success at a mile and a quarter or more, with most of them staying a mile and a half.
There have been exceptions though. This year’s American three-year-old Star Devine gained her stakes success over 5 ½ furlongs and several others – mainly Australian-breds – have thrived at around a mile.
Fastnet Rock is himself approaching the veteran stage, as he was born in September 2001. There was a time when he covered a phenomenal number of mares, with his Australian books usually exceeding 200 mares during his first 11 seasons, with his biggest test coming with a book of 273 in 2009. He began to shuttle to Ireland in 2010 and in 2013 he covered 190 mares in Ireland, followed by 212 in Australia. He hasn’t had to cope with such large numbers in recent years, His Irish book amounted to 57 mares in 2019, 38 in 2020 and around 55 in 2021.
It’s hardly surprising that his 38 mates in 2020 included as many as 13 daughters of Galileo, headed by the Classic-placed Group 1 winner Ballydoyle. They also included the dams of Group 1 winner Rivet and Listed winner Star Devine, as well as a sister to dual Classic winner Capri and a half-sister to Giant’s Causeway, so it seems that the Fastnet Rock-Galileo nick is set to succeed for several more years.