One of the purposes of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, surely, is to highlight the world’s most effective bloodlines, and it did exactly that in the mid-1990s. Not only did it set the seal on Northern Dancer’s pre-eminence as a sire of sires but it also paid testament to the extraordinary legacy left by Nantallah’s daughter Thong. Of course Northern Dancer sired Nureyev from Special, Thong’s aptly-named Forli filly, and then he sired a handful of notable foals from Special’s Bold Reason filly Fairy Bridge, including Sadler’s Wells and Fairy King.
The 1994 Arc fell to Sadler’s Wells’s son Carnegie. Two years later it was the turn of Fairy King’s son Helissio and then the triumvirate rounded off a magnificent few years when Nureyev’s son Peintre Celebre took the 1997 prize. Although the Fairy King branch of the male line has virtually died out in Europe, Sadler’s Wells has continued to exert an influence on the Arc, via Montjeu, Montjeu’s son Hurricane Run and Montjeu’s grand-daughter Treve, as well as with Poliglote’s daughter Solemia.
Nureyev’s male line in Europe has become almost entirely dependent on his grandson Pivotal, a top sprinter who has passed on plenty of speed to such fast sons as Kyllachy and Siyouni. Nureyev’s son Arakan has also had his moments with the likes of Dick Turpin and Toormore. Unfortunately there generally isn’t enough stamina here for this line to come up with another Arc winner, though Pivotal was represented by Eagle Top in the latest edition.
However, Nureyev’s name has occasionally cropped up in the pedigrees of Arc winners since Peintre Celebre’s triumph. Bago, the 2004 winner, had Nureyev’s daughter Moonlight’s Box as his dam; Rail Link, the 2006 winner, had a dam by Nureyev’s son Theatrical; and Workforce, the 2010 hero, is a grandson of Kingmambo, who had Nureyev’s brilliant daughter Miesque as his dam.
And now the Arc has confirmed the champion status of Golden Horn, whose dam Fleche d’Or is inbred 4 x 2 to Nureyev via his daughters Miesque and Nuryana.
It’s time now for a fascinating fact. Golden Horn’s sire Cape Cross – also responsible for another Derby, Eclipse and Arc winner in Sea The Stars – has an unremarkable record with his five foals out of Nureyev mares. But it has been a very different story when Cape Cross has been mated with mares, like Fleche d’Or, which have dams by Nureyev. Including Golden Horn, Cape Cross has no fewer than nine stakes winners with second dams by Nureyev, plus a couple which have been second at Listed level. The nine also include Sea Lord, a miler who achieved a Timeform rating of 120 as a three-year-old, and Charlie Farnsbarns, who was also rated 120, but as a four-year-old.
It is also worth mentioning that Cape Cross’s dam, the champion two-year-old filly Park Appeal, visited Nureyev at the start of her broodmare career. The resultant filly, Pastorale, looked potentially smart when she made a winning debut at Newmarket as a three-year-old, to the extent that she started at 6-1 for the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Although she disappointed at the Curragh on what proved to be her final appearance, Pastorale made full amends by becoming the dam of three Group winners, headed by the successful stallion Iffraaj and the gelding Farraaj, who was rated as high as 125 by Timeform in 2014.
Pastorale produced Farraaj to Dubai Destination, so this gelding is bred on the same cross as Golden Horn’s dam Fleche d’Or, with the same 4 x 2 inbreeding to Nureyev. And, as I said, Pastorale was a half-sister to Cape Cross, so it is easy to see why Golden Horn has proved so effective.
Nureyev’s total of 806 named foals yielded the magnificent total of 135 black-type winners, which equates to nearly 17%
The inbreeding to Nureyev interests me. His fabulous success as a stallion, coupled with his exceptional bloodlines, made Nureyev a prime candidate for inbreeding. After all, his total of 806 named foals yielded the magnificent total of 135 black-type winners, which equates to nearly 17%. His strike-rate at Group level was even more stunning, with nearly one in every ten of his named foals developing into a Group or Graded winner. Not even Sadler’s Wells could match Nureyev in this respect.
Nureyev’s achievement was made all the more remarkable by the fact that his fertility was always somewhat problematic. The situation can’t have been made any easier when he broke his off-hind leg in the area of his hock in May 1987, when he was only ten years old. Consequently, whereas Danzig regularly sired more than 50 foals per crop, Nureyev rarely reached that sort of figure. This question over his fertility surely discouraged some breeders from committing their very best mares to him, but he was so brilliant that he was able to sire Group/Grade 1 winners from a wide range of bloodlines, both American and European.
On the negative side, it mustn’t be forgotten that Nureyev managed only three starts and there were mutterings that his progeny sometimes had breathing issues. Also, he wasn’t an imposing physical specimen as a horse in training. Tony Morris went so far as to say that “Nureyev is really nothing to look at – very small, long, with poor joints, and altogether a moderate individual.” Of course lack of size was no handicap to Nureyev or his sire Northern Dancer and, whatever physical flaws he may have had, they didn’t stop him selling for $1.3 million as a yearling.
So would Nureyev prove a good subject for relatively close inbreeding, within four generations? The Wildenstein family clearly had no qualms about it and they were rewarded with the very smart Peintre Celebre filly Vallee Enchantee (inbred 2 x 3). The smart American turf filly Somali Lemonade was by Kingmambo’s son Lemon Drop Kid out of a Nureyev mare, so she has similar 4 x 2 inbreeding to Golden Horn’s dam.
Pivotal’s German Oaks winner Silvester Lady was inbred 3 x 3 and there are a couple of notable Group 1 winners inbred 3 x 4, namely Ocean Park (a top-class Australasian horse) and Regal Parade (Sprint Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest). There are also a couple of northern hemisphere top-level winners inbred 4 x 3. One, Wizz Kid, won the Prix de l’Abbaye, while Texas Red took the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
This may not match up to Nureyev’s tremendous record as a sire, but I feel sure that the inbreeding in Fleche d’Or’s pedigree has helped her produce a son as outstanding as Golden Horn.