First printed in the October edition of Owner Breeder

Speak to anyone ahead of this season and the perception of those young sires with first runners was generally the same; that it was the deepest group of first-crop stallions seen for several years, some perhaps even with the potential to become important sires of the future.

As with any generation, there are those right now whose results need to improve if they are not to be left behind by the commercial market, which rightly or wrongly has become so influential in dictating a sire’s future. Yet as anticipated there are also a handful who have the industry excited, in particular Blue Point and Too Darn Hot.

In fact, judging by their early results, it could well be that another major era is on the cusp of opening at Darley, perhaps not too dissimilar to that of their sires Shamardal and Dubawi before them.

It goes without saying that the Dubawi – Shamardal era was an extremely important one for Darley. Dubawi has commanded six figures since 2014 and aged 21, covered 137 mares this season at a career high of £350,000, making him the most expensive stallion in the world. A sire of immense versatility whose stock are renowned for their durability, he is now in the twilight of his stud career but on the track he remains as potent as ever, with the runaway National Stakes hero Henry Longfellow one of the most recent of his 56 Group or Grade 1 winners.

Henry Longfellow, who was bred by Coolmore out of its multiple Group 1 winner Minding, landed the National Stakes on the same card that another son of Dubawi, Eldar Eldarov, won his second Group 1 in the Irish St Leger. Thereby is a brief snapshot of the versatility of Dubawi, with Henry Longfellow one of seven two-year-old Group 1 scorers by the stallion and Eldar Eldarov, last year’s St Leger winner, confirming his place as one of Europe’s leading stayers. Currently in between is a miler of the ilk of Modern Games, who won the Lockinge Stakes on his penultimate start before retirement, Nassau Stakes heroine Al Husn and the top American mare In Italian.

Dubawi: exerting a lasting legacy. Photo – Amy Lanigan

Darley have naturally maintained a heavy investment in his sons to the extent that its roster today encompasses Night Of Thunder, Too Darn Hot, Ghaiyyath, Space Blues, Naval Crown and Postponed. Modern Games will also join the group next season.

Night Of Thunder is among those to have done plenty to ensure that Dubawi’s legacy, and thus that of his short-lived sire Dubai Millennium, is already assured for some years to come. Other sons New Bay and Zarak, both of whom are out of Zamindar mares, also sit among Europe’s most popular stallions. And now it looks as if Too Darn Hot, the latest high-profile son with runners, is following suit.

Prior to Dubawi’s Group 1 Curragh sweep courtesy of Henry Longfellow and Eldar Eldarov, the day had already showcased a bit of Dubawi magic in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, which was fought out by two granddaughters in Fallen Angel, by Too Darn Hot, and Vespertilio, a member of Night Of Thunder’s final €25,000 crop before he jumped to €75,000 and beyond.

The Karl Burke-trained Fallen Angel had already entered the record books as Too Darn Hot’s first winner back in late May when successful at Haydock and then as his first stakes winner in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket in mid-August. She took another step forward at the Curragh, quickening off a prominent position to burst clear of the pack alongside Vespertilio before outbattling that rival to win. Another Night Of Thunder filly, Ornellaia (one of five black-type performers by the sire inbred to Urban Sea), dead-heated for third.

Now the 8-1 favourite for next year’s 1,000 Guineas, Fallen Angel is the type of first-crop flag-bearer that every stallion master dreams about. But it doesn’t end there for Too Darn Hot. Less than a week later at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting, another Karl Burke-trained filly, Darnation, ran away with the May Hill Stakes having previously taken the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood.

Given that Agnes Stewart was out of a Dalakhani mare, Fallen Angel is inbred 4×5 to Darshaan’s dam Delsy, a pattern she shares with other Group 1 performers such as Best Of Days, Western Hymn and Shankardeh

Then there is Carolina Reaper, winner of the Baden-Baden Zukunfts Rennen in Germany and Son, who ran third in the Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury. The two-time winner Zenjabeel, who was a late withdrawal from the May Hill Stakes, Alyanaabi, who ran fourth in the Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot after winning at Salisbury, and the Godolphin maiden winners Bauhinia and Race The Wind, also look potentially smart prospects.

Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s easy to say now that Too Darn Hot possesses all the attributes to succeed. For starters, he was an excellent racehorse who was a three-time Group 1 winner and champion two-year-old for his owner Watership Down Stud, who bred him out of its champion mare Dar Re Mi and therefore from their lynchpin Darara family. In turn, Darara was a half-sister to leading sire Darshaan. The presence of Singspiel as his damsire also adds another line of Sunbittern, also the fourth dam of Dubawi.

Too Darn Hot: made an impressive start to his stud career. Photo – George Selwyn

It was a package that supported an opening fee of £50,000 with the end result that Too Darn Hot boasts a first crop of 121 foals, many of them extremely well-bred youngsters in the hands of leading connections.

Fallen Angel, the first homebred Group 1 winner for her owner Steve Parkin’s Clipper Logistics, is one such animal. Bred at Parkin’s Branton Court Stud in Yorkshire, she is the fourth and sadly final foal out of his May Hill Stakes heroine Agnes Stewart, a daughter of Lawman from the family of Definite Article. Given that Agnes Stewart was out of a Dalakhani mare, Fallen Angel is inbred 4×5 to Darshaan’s dam Delsy, a pattern she shares with other Group 1 performers such as Best Of Days, Western Hymn and Shankardeh.

As for Darnation and Zenjabeel, they represent a variation of the increasingly prominent Dubawi – Galileo cross that has been showcased to such good effect by Night Of Thunder, Ghaiyyath, Modern Games and now Henry Longfellow. Too Darn Hot’s pedigree contains just one strain of Sadler’s Wells in the fourth generation, so his background was always going to lend itself to the attraction of Sadler’s Wells-line mares, including those by Galileo. With that in mind, Darnation may well mark the start of a fruitful relationship between the pair.

Shamardal to the point

Shamardal sadly didn’t make very old bones, succumbing to a range of health issues at the age of 18 at Kildangan Stud in early 2020. The son of Giant’s Causeway is today credited with close to 170 stakes winners worldwide and 27 Group or Grade 1 winners, among them champions such as Pinatubo, Able Friend, Tarnawa and Blue Point.

Crucially, he was quick to sire a stallion son of note in Lope De Vega, himself a first-crop son of Shamardal who defied bad draws to sweep the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and Prix du Jockey Club for Andre Fabre.

A flashy resolute galloper with plenty of pace, Lope De Vega has developed into a stalwart of the Ballylinch Stud roster thanks to a regular supply of top-class horses, starting with the Dewhurst Stakes winner Belardo and later encompassing an Irish 2,000 Guineas winner in Phoenix Of Spain, Group 1-winning sprinters such as The Right Man and Santa Ana Lane, last year’s Prix du Moulin heroine Dreamloper and top American performers Newspaperofrecord, Aunt Pearl and recent Saratoga Derby Invitational winner Program Trading.

At the same time, Lope De Vega’s early sons to stud are holding their own; Belardo threw five stakes winner in his first crop, including the current North American Grade 1 winner Gold Phoenix, while Phoenix Of Spain’s first runners are headed by the Vintage Stakes scorer Haatem and highly regarded dual winner Spanish Phoenix in a start that bodes well for a horse who tends to throw scopey stock in his sizeable mould.

Doncaster’s St Leger meeting also provided further evidence of Lope De Vega’s growing status as a broodmare sire in the Park Hill Stakes winner Sumo Sam, a genuine and progressive daughter of the Newsells Park Stud stalwart Nathaniel. There are nine stakes winners in total out of mares by Lope De Vega, whose oldest daughters are 11 years old. Others include the recent Group 3 winners Self Belief and Statement, both of whom are out of Ballylinch Stud’s productive mare Fact Or Folklore.

The sire of the moment, however, is Shamardal’s son Blue Point. Barely did a day go by in August and September when he wasn’t represented by a winner or top three finisher, and at Doncaster he was back in the news again, this time thanks to the highly impressive Flying Childers Stakes scorer Big Evs.

The Mick Appleby-trained colt burst on to the scene when breaking his maiden in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot to become his sire’s first stakes winner. From there, he went to Goodwood, where he won the Molecomb Stakes in bad ground. While an assault against older horses in the Nunthorpe Stakes subsequently backfired, he was certainly back on song in the Flying Childers, where a flying start gifted him an early wide-margin lead that never looked like being pegged back.

Blue Point: top sprinter has been quick off the mark at stud. Photo – George Selwyn

Were Big Evs his only high-profile runner, then Blue Point would still be popular. However, that is far from being the case.

Rosallion looked a potential top-notcher when running away with the Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot. The Richard Hannon-trained colt later ran a slightly underwhelming third in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster but remains exciting nevertheless [he subsequently became Blue Point’s first Group 1 winner in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere]. Another son, Action Point, also landed the Rose Bowl Stakes at Newbury while Shady Lady is a Listed winner in France and Godolphin’s Dazzling Star is Grade 1-placed in Canada.

At the time of writing, his 159-strong first crop had thrown 37 winners in Europe and eight stakes performers overall. There were also a number of promising novice winners waiting in the wings, including the Shadwell-owned pair Elmonjed, who is unbeaten in two starts, and Raqiya, an impressive winner at Salisbury and Haydock.

Again, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Blue Point was not only an exceptional sprinter but he was extremely tough, as illustrated by his wins in the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee Stakes five days apart at Royal Ascot in 2019. He’s a strong, good-looking horse and tends to throw that strength in abundance.

His first yearlings, bred off a €45,000 fee, were popular at the sales last autumn and come the spring, the word was good from the breeze-up community, something which was further supported when he threw two early winners, Action Point and Valour And Swagger, before Tattersalls had hosted its Craven Breeze-Up Sale in mid-April.

At this stage, it is unlikely that Blue Point will be denied champion first-crop sire honours. He leads in every metric in Europe bar winners to runners, in which his highly creditable figure of 41 per cent falls only narrowly behind Phoenix Of Spain on 43 per cent (at the time of writing for stallions with more than five runners).

Blue Point was a Group 2-winning two-year-old who progressed with age and it will be surprising if a number of his progeny don’t do the same, for all that several were plying their trade early on.

We may look back in several years and regard 2023 as the turning point in the Shamardal legacy at Darley. The operation is in the enviable position of having three young sons with first runners next year, all with serious Group 1 credentials. The Dalham Hall-based Pinatubo was a champion two-year-old and with several of the early yearling sales in the bag, already boasts an average close to 160,000gns. Kildangan Stud is home to French champion two-year-old Earthlight, while Haras du Logis offers the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Victor Ludorum, whose interesting pedigree offers two lines of the influential mare Helen Street.

No one can dispute the effort made by Darley to cultivate sons of Dubawi and Shamardal, and it is something for which they are now being well rewarded. The future of each sire line looks to be in safe keeping.

Earthlight: stock have been popular at the sales