What image does the mention of Miss France conjure up? For modern racegoers it would probably bring to mind the Dansili filly of that name, who held off Lightning Thunder to take the 2014 1,000 Guineas. For the more elderly, it might also revive memories of Bardot-esque young ladies in swimsuits at the Miss World contest, divulging in a beguiling accent their intention to work with children and their hopes for world peace.
The elderly might also remember another equine Miss France, this one a French-bred daughter of Jock II born in 1946. Unfortunately this article comes a couple of years too late for that renowned owner and breeder Gerry Oldham, who died at the age of 87 in 2013. Oldham must have had very fond memories of this particular Miss France. He was still in his twenties when he paid 1,350gns for Miss France’s Krakatoa colt, which he named Talgo. Talgo ended 1956 as the top weight on the Free Handicap for three-year-olds, this honour reflecting his six-length victory in the Irish Derby and his second to the brilliant Ribot in the Arc.
On the plus side, Miss France had a fascinating pedigree, the like of which is rarely seem nowadays
Oldham clearly believed that lightning could strike twice in the same place because he also acquired Miss France’s 1956 colt by Arctic Star. As Arctic Star shared the same sire, Nearco, as Krakatao, Fidalgo and Talgo were three-parts-brothers. Remarkably Fidalgo also ran out an easy winner of the Irish Derby, with his win sandwiched between seconds in the Derby and St Leger. Consequently Miss France earned comparisons with Pretty Polly’s daughter Molly Desmond, another who had produced two winners of the Irish Derby. But whereas Molly Desmond had emulated Pretty Polly’s victory in the Cheveley Park Stakes, Miss France had finished unplaced in each of her four starts as a juvenile.
On the plus side, Miss France had a fascinating pedigree, the like of which is rarely seem nowadays. She was inbred 2 x 3 to Asterus, winner of the French 2,000 Guineas, Royal Hunt Cup and Champion Stakes for Marcel Boussac. Although Asterus became champion sire in France, he did even better as a sire of broodmares, so Miss France’s close inbreeding to him helps explain why she excelled in that role. Her dam, the unraced Nafah, was also inbred 2 x 3, this time to the famous broodmare Zariba, and Miss France’s second dam, the unraced Flower, was inbred 3 x 3 to the multiple champion sire Polymelus.
The inbreeding to Zariba probably stood Miss France in good stead. Zariba had been a formidable racemare for Marcel Boussac, with the Prix Morny and Prix de la Foret among her many victories, and she was also a great success as a broodmare. Zariba’s best effort was to produce the Arc winner Corrida, who in turn became the dam of the Prix du Jockey-Club winner Coaraze.
Miss France produced only three daughters but one of them, Fidalgo’s winning sister Etoile de France, has ensured that her name lives on. Etoile de France justified her name, proving a bit of a star as a broodmare, and we were given a thorough reminder of her merits when Arabian Queen dealt Golden Horn his first defeat in the Juddmonte International.
Each of Arabian Queen’s parents has a female line which traces to Etoile de France (and then Miss France). Admittedly there are quite a lot of intervening generations separating Dubawi and Barshiba, but it may have given Jeff Smith and his team some of the inspiration behind the mating of these two Group winners (the main motivation was surely the promising results being achieved by Dubawi with mares by Barshiba’s sire Barathea, as detailed in the notes on Arabian Queen in Data Book).
For the record, Etoile de France is the sixth dam of Dubawi, via Zomaradah, Jahaher, High Tern, Sunbittern and Pantoufle, and she is the fifth dam of Barshiba, via Dashiba, Alsiba, Etoile Grise and Place d’Etoile.
The Pantoufle branch has been especially productive, with nearly 30 Group winners descending from this middle-distance winner by Panaslipper. To be more precise, each and every one of these Group winners descends from Pantoufle’s daughter Sunbittern. In addition to Dubawi’s Oaks d’Italia-winning dam Zomaradah, they include the Group 1 winners High-Rise (Derby), Virginia Water (1,000 Guineas), In The Wings (Breeders’ Cup Turf, etc), High Hawk, Infamy and Chachamaidee.
Arabian Queen and her dam Barshiba are by no means the first good fillies produced by the Place d’Etoile branch of the family. Place d’Etoile was also the second dam of Caerleon’s fine daughter Only Royale, winner of the Yorkshire Oaks and Jockey Club Stakes and a close second in the Coronation Cup. Caerleon was a son of Nijinsky and so was Royal Academy, who sired the dual Irish St Leger winner Oscar Schindler from Place d’Etoile’s grand-daughter Saraday.
Before leaving the topic of the phenomenally influential Sunbittern, who could have predicted such a future for this daughter of Sea Hawk II at the end of her three-year-old career?
On her second start of the year she dug in her toes and unseated her rider soon after the start. Then, on her final appearance, she simply refused to race. She earned a Timeform squiggle for her troubles. Fortunately, she had been much more co-operative as a juvenile, when she won her first three starts before finishing fourth in the Cheveley Park.
It is worth pointing out that Sunbittern was by Sea Hawk out of a daughter of Etoile de France, and so was Arabian Queen’s fourth dam Etoile Grise, so both halves of the International winner’s pedigree contains one of these close relatives. Etoile de France also visited Sea Hawk II (a powerful influence for stamina) to produce Irvine, a smart and versatile performer whose stamina earned him victory in the Jockey Club Cup, plus places in the Chester Cup and Gold Cup. No wonder Arabian Queen’s trainer David Elsworth tried her over a mile and a half in the Vermeille.