There has always been an understandable tendency to confuse speed with precocity. The reality is that the two do not necessarily go hand in hand – at least not in today’s world. The QIPCO British Champions Sprint acted as a useful reminder of this, with the first three places going to horses aged six, eight and six. Some of the top 5f events have also highlighted this phenomenon.

For example, the last nine winners of the Nunthorpe Stakes have been aged between four and seven, with seven-year-olds winning three times. And it was the perceived disadvantage faced by three-year-olds against their elders in the King’s Stand Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes which led to the introduction in 2015 of the Commonwealth Cup. The King’s Stand had fallen to only one three-year-old, Equiano, in the previous 12 years.

Coincidentally, the King’s Stand and the Nunthorpe provided the career highlights of Pivotal, the stallion responsible for Glen Shiel and Brando, the veterans who fought out the British Champions Sprint. Pivotal was only three when he landed both of these important 5f events and his speed had also been evident to a lesser degree at two, when he landed end-of-season events at Newcastle and Folkestone.

In doing so, Pivotal displayed more precocity than either his sire Polar Falcon or broodmare sire Cozzene. A June 1 foal, Polar Falcon didn’t race at two and didn’t become a Group winner until he was four, the year he landed the Sprint Cup at Haydock. It was a similar story with Cozzene, who didn’t race at two and didn’t become a Graded stakes winner until he was five, when he numbered the Breeders’ Cup Mile among his victories.

“The King’s Stand and the Nunthorpe provided the career highlights of Pivotal”

When breeders select mates for their mares, they often try to compensate for any of their mares’ shortcomings. So, if the mare needed a bit of time and distance, a reasonably quick-maturing speed horse like Pivotal has obvious appeal. However, the pedigree of the Cheveley Park veteran isn’t typical of a 5f sprinter: his four great-grandsires were Northern Dancer, Jefferson, Caro and Bustino, all of whom won over at least a mile and a quarter.

We therefore shouldn’t have been surprised that Pivotal has proved remarkably versatile as a stallion, with his long list of 32 Group/Grade 1 winners featuring winners of such middle-distance races as the Oaks, Irish Oaks, Champion Stakes, Dubai World Cup, Deutsches Derby and two editions each of the Prix Saint-Alary and Pretty Polly Stakes.

And perhaps we shouldn’t have been too surprised that many of his progeny couldn’t be described as precocious. Partly because the first part of Glen Shiel’s career was spent racing at a mile and beyond, he didn’t become a Group winner until he was six. Then there’s Farhh, who, with his various setbacks, didn’t become a Group winner until he was five. African Story was seven when he won the Dubai World Cup, having first become a Group winner at five; Lightning Spear was also seven when he finally became a Group 1 winner; Maarek didn’t win until he was four and his first Group success came at five, with his victory in the Prix de l’Abbaye coming the following year; and Regal Parade gained his successes in the Sprint Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest at the ages of five and six. Plenty of others, such as the Nunthorpe winner Kyllachy and the Prix Maurice de Gheest winner Brando, didn’t become Group winners until they were four.

In fact, there is a distinct shortage of two-year-olds among Pivotal’s Group/Grade 1 winners. The Deutsches Derby winner Buzzword landed the Group 3 Prix La Rochette in his first season, whereas the St James’s Palace Stakes winner Excellent Art won the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes. The only daughter of Pivotal with a Group 1 success at two to her credit was the Australian-foaled Amanee, who achieved that status in the quieter waters of South Africa.

Glen Shiel and Hollie Doyle (left) hold on from Brando and Tom Eaves in the Sprint Stakes | Photo: Dan Abraham

That leaves Siyouni as the only son of Pivotal to have enjoyed Group 1 success as a juvenile, even though his dam Sichilla had been unraced at two. Siyouni was ready to race far earlier than most of his immediate ancestors, two exceptions being his broodmare sire Danehill, who went within a short head of making a winning debut on July 7, and Pivotal’s dam Fearless Revival, who scored in the August and September of her two-year-old days.

Siyouni’s winning debut came as early as May 4 and by the time he tackled the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin he had added two more victories over five furlongs, including the Listed Prix La Fleche. Although he found Special Duty too speedy in the Papin and Buzzword too good in the Prix La Rochette, Siyouni bounced back with a decisive win in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, against a field which included the future Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pounced, the future classic winners Buzzword and Lope De Vega, the Classic-placed Dick Turpin and Beethoven, who landed the Dewhurst Stakes at 33/1 on his next appearance.

Unfortunately, Siyouni was unable to beat some of these old rivals when they met again during his winless second season, but his Group 1 success, his good looks and his pedigree earned him a place at the Aga Khan’s Haras de Bonneval, albeit at a fee of only €7,000.

Other stallion sons of Pivotal, such as Kyllachy, Farhh, Falco, Captain Rio and Excellent Art, proved capable of siring Group winners at two years, with Kyllachy leading the way with the likes of Heartache, Kachy, Supplicant, Dragon Pulse and Altyn Orda. None of them, though, succeeded in siring a Group 1-winning two-year-old but Siyouni is hitting the commercial bullseye by proving himself capable of doing so. His celebrated daughter Laurens won the Fillies’ Mile before taking a further five Group 1 races, including the Prix de Diane. Now the 1,300,000-guinea St Mark’s Basilica has landed the Darley Dewhurst, raising the enticing possibility that he could follow in the 2,000 Guineas-winning footsteps of his half-brother Magna Grecia.

“We therefore shouldn’t have been surprised that Pivotal has proved remarkably versatile as a stallion”

Siyouni’s first Classic winner, the 2015 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Ervedya, had been good enough at two to win the Group 3 Prix de Cabourg, in addition to being second to the future Arc winner Found in the Prix Marcel Boussac. Siyouni’s latest winner of the Pouliches, Dream And Do, won the last three of her four starts as a two-year-old, including the Group 3 Prix Miesque, so a Group victory for a Siyouni juvenile seems to bode well for their second season. In addition to his two winners of the Pouliches and his victory with Laurens in the Diane, Siyouni has enjoyed French Classic success with Sottsass in the Prix du Jockey-Club. While Sottsass wasn’t tried at black-type level as a two-year-old, his victory in a 12-runner maiden over a mile at Clairefontaine was gained with the minimum of fuss by three lengths from the future Group 3 winner Flop Shot.

With Sottsass winning the Arc six days before St Mark’s Basilica’s Dewhurst success, Siyouni scored a major double with his progeny out of Galileo mares. A quick look at Siyouni’s pedigree highlights why he is blending so well with Galileo’s daughters. The broodmare daughters of his sire Pivotal have achieved an extraordinary 31% black-type winners with Galileo, with their 12 black-type winners being led by those terrific fillies Love, Magical, Hermosa, Hydrangea and Rhododendron. Siyouni’s broodmare sire Danehill has a similarly famous relationship with Galileo, with Danehill’s daughters producing no fewer than 16 Group/Grade 1 winners, led by Frankel, Teofilo, Intello, Highland Reel, Japan, Mogul, Noble Mission, Golden Lilac, Maybe and Search For A Song.

Without wishing to diminish Siyouni’s achievement in any way, it mustn’t be forgotten that the dams of Sottsass and St Mark’s Basilica had both produced a previous Group 1 winner to a different stallion. Sottsass’ dam Starlet’s Sister managed to do so with the inexpensive Myboycharlie, who is now based in Turkey. It’s a sobering thought that this excellent winner, the champion American turf mare Sistercharlie, was conceived at a fee of €6,500, while Siyouni was available for €20,000 at the time of Sottsass’ conception. That’s the winners of ten Group 1 races produced at a cost of €26,500.

With the help of St Mark’s Basilica, and of the likes of Ghaiyyath, Battleground, Dame Malliot, Pista, Certain Lad, Dubai Warrior and Military Style, Galileo has a good chance of finally getting the better of Pivotal in their prolonged tussle for the annual title of champion sire of broodmares. Pivotal had succeeded in 2017, with Galileo an honourable third, and again in 2018, when Galileo was second, and Pivotal made it three championships in a row in 2019, when Galileo again finished third. If Galileo clinches his first title, it will be at the age of 22 but all is not lost if he doesn’t, as his sire Sadler’s Wells was 24 before he recorded the first of his seven consecutive titles in this category. Get used to the idea that Galileo is going to prove equally indomitable in this secondary role.

Clodovil and Gregorian fly high with soft ground success

I, for one, do not greatly enjoy watching high-class horses struggle to cope with very soft ground towards the end of the season. But there are certain bloodlines which undoubtedly handle extreme conditions better than most, as QIPCO Champions Day underlined once again. Pivotal, whose stock are very much at home on soft ground, was responsible for Glen Shiel and Brando, first and second in the Sprint, as well as the winner, Addeybb, in the Champion Stakes, and the third, Fujaira Prince, in the Long Distance Cup. Pivotal was also the broodmare sire of those admirable mares One Master and Magical, who respectively finished third in the Sprint and the Champion Stakes. And in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, the winner The Revenant has a grand-daughter of Pivotal as his dam, while the close second, Roseman, is out of a Pivotal mare.

Someone else who no doubt relishes rain-softened ground is Maurice Burns, who stands Clodovil and his son Gregorian at Rathasker Stud. The diminutive Clodovil has spent his lengthy career at Rathasker after a racing career which began with five consecutive victories, all gained with at least some give in the ground. The ground was very soft when he scooted home by six lengths on his debut. Gregorian, who moved to Rathasker in 2018 after four years at England’s National Stud, also handled very testing conditions better than most. A winner on heavy ground at Hamilton, he later won the Criterion Stakes on soft and the Diomed Stakes on good to soft. He never won on ground firmer than good.

Jessica Marciallis crosses the line on Tiger Tanaka to win the Prix Marcel Boussac – Photo: George Selwyn

It is therefore surely more than just coincidence that this father-and-son team has been represented by two of the most successful two-year-old fillies in France, where the ground has been pretty soft in late-summer and early-autumn.

Clodovil’s contribution is the remarkable Tiger Tanaka, the former claimer who has thrived on heavy ground. After recording her first Group success in the Group 3 Prix Francois Boutin, she confounded the purists by coming out on top in the Prix Marcel Boussac. Bought for only €6,500 as a yearling in Ireland, Tiger Tanaka has been beaten only once in seven starts, amassing earnings of €195,136 – providing a huge profit on the €23,789 she cost to claim after her debut win on heavy ground at Lyon Parilly in June.

Arguably even more impressive has been Gregorian’s aptly-named daughter Plainchant. After running out of steam close home when a neck second to Fev Rover in the Group 2 Prix du Calvados over seven furlongs, Plainchant has dropped back to six with excellent results. A very easy five-length winner of the Group 3 Prix Eclipse on good to soft, she showed similarly impressive speed and class in landing the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte on heavy. Now a winner of four of her six starts, this €4,000 yearling has so far collected €152,000. Gregoria’s other smart daughter, Queen Jo Jo, is by no means a total mudlark but she also has a Listed win on soft ground.