Early season whispers aren’t always the most reliable when it comes to upcoming stallions. By that stage, marketing machines are often at full tilt while in reality few buttons have been pressed by trainers on the animals in question at home.
But those surrounding Night Of Thunder back in the spring were spot on.
As breeze-up sales season approached, it was striking how many positive noises Night Of Thunder’s progeny were eliciting from that community, many of whom were impressed with their inmates’ speed and attitude. Several major prices followed – colts by the stallion made 375,000gns, 300,000gns and 260,000gns at the Tattersalls Craven Sale – and then when the winners started to follow, Night Of Thunder was off and running.
“A significant rise fee deserves to be on the cards for 2020”
Darley’s son of Dubawi has gone on to maintain a ferocious pace throughout the season. A first stakes winner arrived in July when Under The Stars won the Princess Margaret Stakes on King George day at Ascot. Since then, another four have followed, meaning that Night Of Thunder sits out on his own among his peers in terms of stakes winners. Gleneagles, Due Diligence and Make Believe follow with three apiece.
A prize-money haul over £830,000 across Europe has pushed him to the top of that table while a total of 25 winners places him only one adrift of the leader Gutaifan.
However, what has been remarkable regarding Night Of Thunder’s start has been his winning strike-rate. In a sphere where percentages of around 40 per cent represents doing well, Night Of Thunder’s figure has rarely dipped below 50 per cent since the spring and indeed has strengthened to 60 per cent and beyond as the season has gone on; it currently sits at 64 per cent. By contrast, there are others among his generation who are languishing below the 25 per cent mark despite standing for greater fees.
Recent weeks have been particularly productive for the stallion with Night Colours and Pocket Square landing a pair of Group 3 events, the Premio Dormello and Prix des Reservoirs, within three days of each other.
Their stakes breakthrough came in the same week that Hugo Palmer’s promising Acquitted also defied a penalty to win at Newbury and complemented a stud record that is already shining courtesy of the aforementioned Under The Stars, who also secured a big payday for her connections earlier in the month when successful in the £150,000 Tattersalls October Auction Stakes at Newmarket, and Listed winners Thunderous (won Denford Stakes in August) and Molatham (won Flying Scotsman Stakes in September).
“Darley’s son of Dubawi has gone on to maintain a ferocious pace throughout the season”
Night Of Thunder was after all an excellent performer who defeated Kingman and Australia when winning a deep 2,000 Guineas. A tough colt for Richard Hannon, he was also a Listed winner at two and successful in the Lockinge Stakes at four, thereby making a mockery of his 32,000gns yearling value (as a young horse, he wasn’t the best in front).
And although the first Group or Graded stakes winner within the first three generations of his family, he was still a Dubawi colt out of a Galileo mare who traced back to champion Forest Flower. With that in mind, a first year fee of €30,000 at Kildangan Stud didn’t look excessive.
That fee has since dropped to £15,000, the figure he commanded at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket this season. However, a significant rise deserves to be on the cards for 2020, when he is set to return to Kildangan.
Last Wednesday’s Prix des Reservoirs heroine Pocket Square is reflective of some of the support that Night Of Thunder received in his first season, given she is a Juddmonte homebred from one of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s most successful families.
The Roger Charlton-trained filly, who was winning for the second time in three starts at Deauville on Wednesday, descends from Peace, who entered the Juddmonte fold during the early 1980s as part of a purchased package of mares belonging to John ‘Jock’ Hay Whitney.
Whitney had paid 16,000gns for Peace through trainer Jeremy Tree at the 1967 Tattersalls Houghton Sale. Just over a year later, the Klairon filly was one of the ante-post favourites for the 1969 Classics, having made an impressive winning debut in the Blue Seal Stakes at Ascot.
Unfortunately, Peace never built on that performance, running second to subsequent 1,000 Guineas winner Full Dress in a Guineas trial back at Ascot before failing to trouble the judge in the Lingfield Oaks Trial and Coronation Stakes.
Yet she went on to become an exceptional producer, initially for Whitney as the dam of his 1976 Coronation Cup winner Quiet Fling.
Congratulations to @JuddmonteFarms, owner/breeders of #NightOfThunder‘s newest Group winner Pocket Square. Read more on her impressive victory @fgdeauville at https://t.co/N6dhX3394l 👏🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/3HUj4LAF9F
— Darley (@DarleyStallions) October 23, 2019
Today, this family is more readily associated with Juddmonte with a number of daughters going on to make their own mark on the breeder.
For instance, the Group 2-placed Balabina, Peace’s 1984 filly by Nijinsky, is the ancestress of Provido, Byword and Finche. Another, the winning Nijinsky filly De Stael, foaled Grade 1 winner Wandesta and has featured this year as the ancestress of Rockfel Stakes winner Daahyeh and National Stakes runner-up Armory.
Pocket Square becomes the 26th stakes winner to belong to the branch descending from Intermission, the first filly foaled by Peace.
The daughter of Stage Door Johnny carried Whitney’s colours to victory as a three-year-old in the 1977 Cambridgeshire Handicap and later foaled six winners for Whitney and Juddmonte, notably the Grade 3 winner scorer Interim, later the dam of Juddmonte’s Grade 1 Californian winner Midships and Group 1-placed Principal Role.
The best, however, was probably Interval, her 1984-foaled daughter of Habitat who was saddled by Tree to land the 1987 Prix Maurice de Gheest. In turn, she went on to produce Group 3 winner Short Pause in addition to the winning Krisia, herself the dam of July Cup winner Continent.
Interval was chosen as one of the Juddmonte mares to visit their brilliant 2,000 Guineas winner Zafonic in his first season at Banstead Manor Stud. The resulting filly, Imbabala, showed ability when winning over a mile at Fontainebleau for Pascal Bary but it is in the paddocks where she has become particularly valuable, notably as the dam of Grand Prix de Paris winner Zambezi Sun, an early flag-bearer for Dansili, Prix Guillaume d’Ornano winner Kalabar and the Listed-winning Zero Gravity.
“Pocket Square is reflective of the support that Night Of Thunder received in his first season”
Imbabala is also granddam of Cleonte, who provided King Power Racing with a poignant Royal Ascot success in the Queen Alexandra Stakes earlier this year prior to running second behind Stradivarius in the Doncaster Cup.
With the success of Zambezi Sun in the books, Imbabala returned to Dansili in 2009 and foaled Shared Account, a filly talented enough to run Listed-placed on two occasions at up to 1m4f in France. And now she is proving to be a real gem for Juddmonte at stud, since Pocket Square is only her second foal after Sand Share, a winner and third in the May Hill Stakes for Ralph Beckett last season.
As the likes of Zambezi Sun and Cleonte show, this family is not short of middle-distance or staying talent. Sand Share also stayed 1m2f well enough to run Listed-placed twice over the distance this year, despite being a daughter of Oasis Dream, so the omens would appear to be promising for Pocket Square’s ability to stay 1m2f and beyond next year if connections choose.