Thanks to rebellious members of France’s racing community, Europe’s two-year-old Group 1 programme unfortunately ended with a whimper rather than a bang. They forced the abandonment of the Saint-Cloud card on October 29, which had promised plenty of potentially significant action, starting with the Criterium de Saint-Cloud and then the Criterium International.
Admittedly the Criterium de Saint-Cloud no longer seems to be the first-rate showcase for potential Classic winners which it was in the 1980s, when this mile-and-a-quarter test fell to the Prix de Diane winner Escaline and the Prix du Jockey-Club winners Darshaan and Mouktar in the space of three years.
Even so, the 2016 winner Waldgeist was good enough to finish a short-head second in the Jockey-Club, while the 2015 winner Robin Of Navan failed by a neck to land the 2017 Prix d’Ispahan.
According to the Racing Post’s betting forecast, the 2017 renewal of the Criterium de Saint-Cloud was likely to be won by Frankel’s classically-bred son Nelson, whose neck defeat by Roaring Lion in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes had been advertised by Roaring Lion’s narrow defeat in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. Ryan Moore was scheduled to partner another classically-bred colt, Delano Roosevelt, even though this son of Galileo and the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Again had been beaten nearly four lengths by Nelson in a Group 3 at Leopardstown. With a Danehill Dancer mare as his dam, Delano Roosevelt represents the nick responsible for the multiple Group 1 winners Minding, The Gurkha and Alice Springs.
An extra dimension was added to the race by the presence of the unbeaten filly Luminate. This daughter of Lawman had shown that she was perfectly at home on very soft ground when she easily defeated five colts in the Group 3 Prix de Conde. This filly, who represents Lawman’s successful partnership with Rainbow Quest mares, is out of a half-sister to the top-class Kalanisi, so can be expected to do very well at three.
It was a pity that we were denied the chance of seeing which of these three might have come out on top, but the major disappointment was the cancellation of the Criterium International. Despite the presence of three contenders from Britain and another from Ireland, the betting forecast was headed by the French-trained Sacred Life, a Siyouni colt who boasted the proud record of three wins from as many starts.
His rise to the top is especially pleasing for me, as I nominated Siyouni as a value-for-money stallion in an article I wrote in 2013
It was all too easy to have missed Sacred Life’s latest win in the Group 3 Prix Thomas Bryon, run midweek at Saint-Cloud at a time when Book 1 of the Tattersalls yearling sales were in full swing. However, he had been impressive once he hit top gear, surging away to score by six lengths from the English-trained Alba Power. Sacred Life had been similarly impressive in a Deauville conditions race on his second start, winning by five lengths.
Unfortunately, the demonstration on Criterium International day meant that Sacred Life’s Group 1 ambitions have had to be put on hold until 2018. This must have been highly frustrating not only for his owner, Ecurie Jean-Louis Bouchard, and trainer, Stephane Wattel, but also for Siyouni’s connections. Had Sacred Life managed to win, he would have been the second Group 1 winner to emerge from Siyouni’s 2015 crop, following the imposing Fillies’ Mile winner Laurens, who also triumphed in the Group 2 May Hill. This crop also includes Altea, runner-up in the Group 3 Prix des Reservoirs.
At the start of December, Siyouni ranked fourth among the sires of two-year-olds in Europe, behind Galileo, Kodiac and Society Rock but ahead of Dark Angel, War Front and Exceed And Excel. You could say that this is no more than might be expected of a stallion who will be standing the 2018 season at a fee of €75,000 – the highest for any French-based stallion. Remember, though, that all four of Siyouni’s crops of racing age in 2017 were sired at only €7,000.
His rise to the top is especially pleasing for me, as I nominated Siyouni as a value-for-money stallion in an article I wrote in 2013, shortly before the start of his third season.
“Siyouni strikes me as an interesting prospect at his 2013 fee of €7,000,” I wrote.
“We have already seen several other sons of Pivotal sire Group winners, with Kyllachy carving out a place as a very reliable commercial sire, while Captain Rio did well at bargain-basement level. The first crop by Falco, another of Pivotal’s French-based sons, contains the Group-winning Snowday. Siyouni had four future Group 1 winners behind him on the day he landed the 2009 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, to improve his juvenile record to four wins from six starts. Although he failed to add to those victories at three, Timeform still rated him 122. A half-brother to the 2012 Group 1 winner Siyouma, Siyouni is out of a half-sister to the highly talented Slickly, so he is well qualified to make his mark.”
He has certainly done that. From 312 foals of racing age, he has been represented by 11 Group winners, seven Listed winners and seven Group-placed performers. In addition to Sacred Life and Laurens, his 2017 Group winners include Le Brivido, who won the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot after losing the Poule d’Essai des Poulains to Brametot in the very last stride.
Siyouni had fared better with his first-crop daughter Ervedya, winner of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in 2015 prior to adding the Coronation Stakes. Other smart daughters of Siyouni include Spectre, a good fourth in Ribchester’s Queen Anne Stakes, and Siyoushake, who ran very well to be placed in a pair of Deauville Group 1s in 2017. One of these had seen another smart daughter, Group 2 winner Volta, finish second in 2016.
It looks as though Siyouni, with his dam by Danehill, hasn’t inherited his sire Pivotal’s ability to occasionally inject stamina into some of his leading winners
Siyouni’s total of nine horses with Racing Post ratings of 110 or higher also include a pair of dual Group 3 winners, in the filly Bourree and the speedy gelding Finsbury Square.
It is enlightening to look at the racing records of the dams of these good winners. Although Ervedya’s dam Elva was Group-placed, she is the exception to the rule. Le Brivido’s dam La Bugatty was fourth in a 13-furlong maiden race at Lisieux on her only start; Siyoushake’s dam Shakeyourbody gained her only success in an 11-furlong maiden at Avignon; Finsbury Square’s dam won only once from 18 starts; and Laurens’ dam Recambe was just a minor winner at up to a mile and three-quarters.
Then there’s Spectre’s dam Inez, Volta’s dam Persian Belle and Bourree’s dam Bearlita, none of whom made it to the races. It is a similar story with Sacred Life. He too is out of an unraced mare and his dam, the tongue-twisting Knyaszhna, is another with plenty of stamina in her background. Knyaszhna is by the stamina-packed Montjeu, whose progeny had an average winning distance just short of a mile and a half, and her dam Katyusha was an unraced sister to Rule Of Law, winner of the 2004 St Leger after finishing second in the Derby. Katyusha is the dam of Migwar, a smart mile-and-a-half performer by Sea The Stars.
However, this family isn’t devoid of speed. Sacred Life’s third dam Crystal Crossing, won over six furlongs at two before being switched to the States, where she raced creditably over a mile or so. She was followed two years later by her sister Circle Of Gold, winner of the seven-furlong Group 3 Prestige Stakes before scoring over nine in the USA. These sisters were by the sprinter-miler Royal Academy, who gained his finest win in Europe in the July Cup, and their broodmare sire was Never So Bold, another July Cup winner.
Never So Bold was no doubt chosen as a mate for Sacred Life’s fifth dam, the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Favoletta, because he was a son of Bold Lad. Favoletta had visited Bold Lad earlier in her career to produce the spectacularly speedy Amaranda, winner of the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes.
It is going to be interesting to see whether Sacred Life has enough stamina to develop into a Prix du Jockey-Club contender. There has to be a doubt at present. Although several of Siyouni’s Group and Listed winners have stamina in their dam’s side, only one of Siyouni’s 18 black-type winners, the Group 3 Prix de Psyche winner Bourree, has won beyond a mile at stakes level.
It therefore looks as though Siyouni, with his dam by Danehill, hasn’t inherited his sire Pivotal’s ability to occasionally inject stamina into some of his leading winners, such as Sariska, Eagle Top, Chorist and Farhh. What he has inherited, though, is Pivotal’s invaluable ability to upgrade his mares.
Because of the cancellation of the Criterium International, we are still in the dark about Sacred Life’s merit, but he has already done enough to highlight Siyouni’s potential. The Haras de Bonneval resident must surely be heading for several highly successful years, as his 2018 two-year-olds were sired at an increased fee of €20,000. These sold for up to €420,000, with Godolphin buying two of his three highest-priced youngsters. There was also plenty of interest from overseas buyers, including the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Shadai Farm.
Siyouni’s fee then climbed to €30,000 in 2016 and €45,000 in 2017, before leaping to 2018’s €75,000. It isn’t just his fee which has been going up. Although none of his first four crops numbered more than 88 foals, Siyouni covered 190 mares in 2015 and was France’s busiest stallion in 2016, with 224 mares.
Plenty of those mares were sent from Britain and Ireland, so we can look forward to seeing many more runners by Siyouni on this side of the Channel.