February is a month when many of racing’s aficionados plan their Cheltenham bets, but for a pedigree buff such as myself I spent a couple of happy days perusing the French Classic entries in search of pointers to how the 2016 season may develop.
Inevitably, these Classics will form part of the battle line between the European forces with the heaviest artillery – the Coolmore partnerships and the Maktoum family, led by Godolphin. It therefore comes as little surprise that the stallions with the most prolific representation among the Classic entries include Galileo and Dubawi. Incidentally, I need to explain that the figures relate to the four official French Classics – the two Poule d’Essai races, the Jockey-Club and the Diane – but I have also included the Grand Prix de Paris, on the basis that it levels the playing field a little for the stallions whose progeny prefer a stronger test of stamina.
I’m sure no-one will be too surprised that Galileo leads the way, but the scale of his dominance is remarkable, even for a stallion with seven sires’ championships in the last eight years. He has, of course, been responsible for winners of the four of the five Group 1 races under review, the exception being the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. There are 172 foals in Galileo’s 2013 crop and no fewer than 53 have been entered in one or other of these five races.
I’m sure no-one will be too surprised that Galileo leads the way, but the scale of his dominance is remarkable, even for a stallion with seven sires’ championships
Twenty-three of the colts and nine of the fillies are trained by Aidan O’Brien, but that still leaves 21 with other trainers. O’Brien’s most exposed Galileo colts include Johannes Vermeer, Port Douglas, Deauville and Beacon Rock, with Minding, Alice Springs, Ballydoyle and Coolmore adding up to a formidable team for the fillies’ Classics.
For good measure, Galileo’s champion sons Teofilo and New Approach have 11 and eight representatives respectively. Teofilo is well placed to build on his fine results in 2015 which saw him finish ninth among the Anglo-Irish two-year-old sires.
Last year saw Dubawi make a tremendous impact in France on the colts’ Group 1s, supplying the winners of the Jockey-Club and Grand Prix in the forms of New Bay and Erupt. These two completed a remarkable treble, of sorts, for Dubawi, as it was Dubawi’s son Makfi who sired the Poulains winner Make Believe.
This time Dubawi has ten sons and 12 daughters among the entries. Among the colts are the Aga Khan’s highly promising Zarak, out of the great Zarkava, and Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Mootaharer, a half-brother to Muhaarar who looked potentially smart when he won at Newmarket. The Dubawi fillies include Dar Re Mi’s daughter So Mi Dar, winner of her only juvenile start, plus the unbeaten Nezwaah and Dermot Weld’s Group 3 winner Tanaza.
Dubawi’s son Makfi has seven entrants, featuring the impressive German Listed winner Noor Al Hawa and Ralph Beckett’s winning debutante Little Avon. Another of Dubawi’s sons, Poet’s Voice, has four entries from his first crop, including the lightly-raced winners G K Chesterton and Chastushka.
Needless to say, many of Europe’s other high-priced stallions also figure among the stallions with the most candidates for the French Classics. Remarkably, the strongest numerical challenge to Galileo comes from his half-brother Sea The Stars. These Group 1 candidates were conceived in 2012, when Sea The Stars stood his third season at a fee of €85,000. Unlike in his second season, which resulted in only 67 foals, Sea The Stars was back in favour in 2012, following some spectacular prices for his first-crop foals, and the end result was 122 foals.
A grand total of 27 – many of them unknown quantities – have received entries in the five French Group 1s under review. Sea The Stars’ first two crops have demonstrated that his progeny generally improve considerably from two to three, so keep an eye on such as Tirmizi, a colt who won his only juvenile start for Dermot Weld, and Cloth Of Stars, who showed very useful form for Godolphin. There are also a few other dark horses, such as Zelzal, Melfit and Toumar, who made winning debuts on the all-weather over the winter.
Sea The Stars represents the Green Desert branch of the Danzig male line, together with Green Desert’s sons Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream. Invincible Spirit has already sired a Prix du Jockey-Club winner in Lawman and he has 13 nominees, even though his top 2015 juveniles Shalaa and Ajaya aren’t among them. Oasis Dream has ten, including the Dermot Weld pair True Solitaire and Emergent.
Dansili, who stood the 2012 season at £75,000, has six colts and 13 fillies among the entries. This mirrors Dansili’s record as a Group 1 sire, with fillies accounting for 12 of his 19 winners at the top level. Remember, though, that three of his sons have won the Grand Prix de Paris for Juddmonte, so it could be worth keeping an eye on the so-far-unraced Extinguish. Dansili’s brothers Cacique and Champs Elysees have seven entries between them but it is Dansili’s son Zoffany who has an eye-catching ten entries from his highly successful first crop.
Duke Of Marmalade, who was responsible for last year’s Prix de Diane winner Star Of Seville, plus other Group 1 Classic scorers in Britain and Germany. Now based in South Africa, he has six entries this time
It was another Danehill stallion, Duke Of Marmalade, who was responsible for last year’s Prix de Diane winner Star Of Seville, plus other Group 1 Classic scorers in Britain and Germany. Now based in South Africa, he has six entries this time, including the progressive Dwight D.
Exceed And Excel, another of Danehill’s sons, has eight entries, the most exposed being the Group winners Buratino and Aboulie. Then there’s Fastnet Rock, with such as Turret Rocks and Shogun among his ten entries.
When it comes to stallions with form in the French Classics, it is hard to better the father-and-son team of Shamardal and Lope de Vega. Both completed the Poule d’Essai des Poulains-Prix du Jockey-Club double and both are well placed to extend their influence. Shamardal has 18 representatives, including the impressive Champagne Stakes winner Emotionless, the tremendously speedy Lumiere and the Group 3 winner Sasparella. Lope de Vega has a team of 13. Nine of them are colts, including the exciting Blue de Vega, who is potentially his sire’s best effort so far.
Montjeu – a stallion who ranks as one of my favourites – died during the March of the 2012 season, so his 2013 crop numbers only around 25. Five of them have been entered and I would be delighted if they included a successor to the Grand Prix de Paris winners Scorpion, Montmartre and Gallante.
Of course Montjeu also sired four winners of the Derby. The first three – Motivator, Authorized and Pour Moi – are all represented among the entries. Authorized has the potentially smart Prize Money, while Motivator – already sire of the brilliant Diane winner Treve – has five. The Motivator quintet includes four fillies. Two of the fillies are in the care of Treve’s former handler, Criquette Head-Maarek, and Midweek looked potentially very useful when she scored at Saint-Cloud.
I am encouraged that Pour Moi has as many as nine entries from his first crop. He enjoyed a spate of winners late in the 2015 season and there is every reason to expect his progeny to make substantial progress from two to three. Among those winners were Marco Botti’s impressive Nottingham winner Mr Khalid, Ralph Beckett’s Kempton winner Diamonds Pour Moi and Jean-Claude Rouget’s unbeaten filly Elusive Million.
Another stallion who is no longer with us is the German superstar Monsun, sire of the 2009 Prix de Diane winner Stacelita. As he died in 2012, his 2013 foals are the last of the line. Seven have been entered, including five fillies. One of them, the Aga Khan’s Dariyba, has yet to race but she is a daughter of the Prix de Diane winner Daryaba.
Perhaps we should also watch Monsun’s son Manduro, who enjoyed something of a renaissance in 2015. Four of his seven nominees are owned by Godolphin, including the unbeaten Group 1 winner Ultra. Two others, Takadiyr and Mondieu, won their only juvenile starts.
The home guard
Manduro is now based in France. It comes as no surprise that the most-represented French-based stallions are Kendargent (14), Le Havre (11) and Siyouni (9). All three rank among the highest-priced proven stallions in France this year, their respective fees being €15,000, €35,000 and €30,000. Kendargent’s 14 come from a crop of 95, Le Havre’s 11 from a third crop of 114 and Siyouni’s nine from a second crop of 73. Of course the Prix du Jockey-Club winner Le Havre has already enjoyed Classic success with Avenir Certain and so has Siyouni, via his excellent daughter Ervedya.
Siyouni has been joined in recent years at Haras de Bonneval by Makfi and now Dalakhani. A Prix du Jockey-Club winner who has already sired a Jockey-Club winner, Dalakhani has eight entries this time.
To return to the Coolmore-Godolphin battle for supremacy, both groups have American branches, but they appear to be adopting different policies. There are no entries by Scat Daddy or Uncle Mo and only three by Giant’s Causeway. Instead Coolmore is relying heavily on the Claiborne-based War Front, whose ten-strong team is headed by Air Force Blue and Hit It A Bomb.
On the other hand, quite a few of Godolphin’s numerous entries are by stallions based at Darley America. Godolphin own all 12 of Medaglia d’Oro’s entries and eight of Street Cry’s nine. There are also Godolphin horses by Hard Spun (2), Street Sense and Elusive Quality.
I applaud Godolphin’s determination to prove that the dirt specialist Medaglia d’Oro has the potential to sire European Classic winners. We have already seen him sire Group 1 winners on turf in France and Australia, as well as the US, and he is, after all, a grandson of Sadler’s Wells. Of the 12 Medaglia d’Oros, no fewer than five are out of AP Indy mares, while another two have dams by AP Indy’s son Malibu Moon, so they certainly don’t have conventional turf pedigrees. Perhaps he will stand a better chance with his colts out of daughters of Dansili, Machiavellian and Rock Of Gibraltar.
I will also be keeping a close watch over the four Classic entries by American superstar Tapit, which are owned by the Wertheimer brothers, Hamdan Al Maktoum, Godolphin and Khalid Abdullah. The Abdullah filly Maquette – out of a European Group 1 winner – won her only juvenile start in a manner which suggests she could eventually persuade other owners that Tapit’s progeny are worth trying in Europe.