Amid all the success enjoyed at Royal Ascot by stallions Shamardal, Galileo, Sea The Stars and Bated Breath, all of whom fired in multiple winners during the five-day meeting, there was also cause to celebrate the achievements of a select handful of mares.
As you would expect, many of the blue-blooded families came to the fore. Hasili, for example, is the granddam of Sangarius, who surely has Group 1 races on his agenda following his breakthrough win in the Hampton Court Stakes. Meon Valley Stud’s fruitful One In A Million family was also again among the winners, this time via Dashing Willoughby, whose brave win in the Queen’s Vase came just weeks after that of his relative Anapurna in the Oaks. Nor can we forget Saganeca, the dam of Sagamix and Sagacity who featured last week as the granddam of both King Edward VII Stakes winner Japan and Ascot Stakes scorer The Grand Visir.
Ballydoyle’s Japan became the second Royal Ascot winner within three years for his dam Shastye after Sir Isaac Newton, who struck in the Wolferton Handicap for the same connections in 2016. However, she wasn’t the only mare to double up. Prince Of Wales’s Stakes winner Crystal Ocean is a half-brother to King Edward VII Stakes hero Hillstar while South Pacific, successful in the King George V Stakes, is a half-brother to 2010 St. James’s Palace Stakes winner Most Improved.
The real plaudits, however, deserve to head the way of Anthony Oppenheimer’s Lynnwood Chase. In Star Catcher, who formed part of Frankie Dettori’s four-timer on Thursday when successful for John Gosden in the Ribblesdale Stakes, Lynnwood Chase was represented by her third Royal Ascot winner within the past decade. Not only that, all three landed their respective races to sit within striking distance of the leaders of their generation; while Star Catcher lowered the colours of the Oaks third Fleeting on Thursday, her elder half-brothers Pisco Sour and Cannock Chase each won the Tercentenary Stakes en route to better things.
That is especially true of Cannock Chase, who subsequently won the Canadian International.
Unlike many of the families that have underpinned Oppenheimer’s Hascombe and Valiant Studs over the years, this particular line is a relatively recent addition to stud. Instead, it owes some of its earlier development to the cultivation of American breeders Marshall and Bettina Jenney of Derry Meeting Farm alongside Marvin Warner. Having said that, there is a nice symmetry to the Lynnwood Chase story in that she is a daughter of the former South African sensation Horse Chestnut, who was bred and raced by Oppenheimer’s couisn Harry and his wife Bridget.
By the Sadler’s Wells stallion Fort Wood, Horse Chestnut was a brilliant performer in his homeland, capturing the J&B Metropolitan Stakes by over eight lengths, South African Derby by ten lengths and South African Classic by four lengths. He was later sent to the US, where he won his only race, the Grade 3 Broward Handicap, before injury prompted his retirement to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. There he was a moderate success, notably as the sire of Grade 1 winner Lucifer’s Stone (and damsire of recent Man O’War Stakes winner Channel Maker), and was later sent back to South Africa, where he left behind another two Group 1 winners.
Bred by Derry Meeting Farm and James Wigan’s London Thoroughbred Services out of the Listed-placed Lady Ilsley, Lynnwood Chase was a member of that first crop of 58 Kentucky-sired foals for her sire alongside Lucifer’s Stone. She was among only a handful to come under the hammer in Europe, in her case at the 2003 Agence Francais Deauville Sale where she came into Oppenheimer’s hands on a bid of €140,000 to Hugo Lascelles.
At that stage, she was in possession of a good page, one that went back to the champion two-year-old filly Bitty Girl. Yet within a couple of years, it was enhanced greatly of the emergence of her elder half-brother Lord Admiral, a tough performer whose winning haul included the Jebel Hatta and a pair of Group 3 races. In addition, Lady Isley’s half-sister Najecam had also thrown a two-year-old of real significance in the US in Action This Day, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner of 2003 – in later years, this particular branch of the family would also come include another Breeders’ Cup winner in Drefong, the Sprint hero of 2016 who is now an exceptionally popular young sire in Japan.
Lynnwood Chase’s third dam is the 1973 champion two-year-old Bitty Girl, by Habitat. Trained by Michael Jarvis during the era of his major patron David Robinson, Bitty Girl was herself one of the highlights of the 1975 meeting when successful in the Queen Mary Stakes. The Molecomb and Lowther Stakes followed and although she was unable to add to her record the following year, she ran admirable placings in the King’s Stand and Nunthorpe Stakes after patently failing to stay in the 1,000 Guineas.
Bitty Girl was sold for 43,000gns to American interests at the end of her three-year-old campaign, not long after her year younger brother Hot Spark had struck in the Flying Childers Stakes, then a Group 1, for Dermot Weld. Hot Spark went into the record books as a Group 1 winner and may well have won more had he not consistently given his rivals too much rope early on in his races, as he did when flying home into second in the 1975 King’s Stand Stakes. However, Timeform held Bitty Girl in the higher regard, noting that she was certainly the most consistent of the two.
“It was a momentous Royal Ascot meeting for Star Catcher’s sire Sea The Stars”
Bitty Girl was certainly an inspired buy for Marvin Warner. She left behind three stakes horses for his Warnerton Farm, including the Prix Maurice de Gheest winner Beaudelaire and the Grade 2-placed Nijit, subequently the ancestress of Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes runner-up Bodemeister, now a successful sire in Kentucky. Sue Warner, the granddam of Lynnwood Chase, was bred by Derry Meeting Farm following the $370,000 sale of Bitty Girl to the Jenneys in 1985.
Lynnwood Chase never publicly demonstrated the talent associated with her family, with her best performance in two starts for Richard Gibson coming when fourth in a maiden at Longchamp. But thanks initally to an alliance with Kentucky veteran Lemon Drop Kid, she swiftly became an extremely important element within Hascombe and Valiant.
In a variation of the highly successful Kingmambo – Sadler’s Wells cross, Lynnwood Chase was sent five times to Lemon Drop Kid, matings which resulted in Pisco Sour and Cannock Chase in addition to the minor winners Ultravox (over jumps) and Bizzarria.
Star Catcher, by Sea The Stars, is her first foal by an European stallion and is followed by a two-year-old filly by Kingman named Maurimo. The mare also has a yearling filly by Frankel and a colt foal by Time Test. Sadly, Lynnwood Chase died earlier this year but leaves a legacy that is currently growing more important by the year.
Overall, it was a momentous Royal Ascot meeting for Star Catcher’s sire Sea The Stars, who was also on the scoresheet via the immensely popular Gold Cup hero Stradivarius and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes winner Crystal Ocean. This particular trio encapsulate what we have come to expect from the Gilltown Stud stallion; sound, durable and progressive horses with the mental toughness and aptitude to go with it.
Sea The Stars’ record now comprises 53 stakes winners and in the case of Star Catcher, there is another illustration of his successful partnership with Sadler’s Wells-line mares, also responsible in its time for Taghrooda, Storm The Stars and Knight To Behold.