It has been well documented how Juddmonte Farms’ strong foundations, laid in a comparatively short space of time during the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s, ensured that it became so self sufficient that the need for further outside investment was swiftly rendered unnecessary. It was only around ten years ago that the operation began to consistently bolster its holdings with a smattering of auction purchases, and for that there was an early flagship in Arrogate ahead of the more recent rewards garnered by Chaldean. 

However, there are some families that require attention from even the most self-sufficient of owner-breeders should they ever come on the market. That much was certainly true when stock belonging to the Niarchos family were offered at last year’s Goffs November Sale, where the horses in question turned over approximately €27 million and attracted investment from such major entities as Coolmore, the Aga Khan Studs, Yulong Investments and Juddmonte itself.

Prince Khalid Abdullah dipped into the Keeneland September Sale to come away with a Touch Gold filly out of Glia worth $550,000

This wasn’t the first time that Juddmonte had demonstrated its regard for Niarchos stock, however. Almost 20 years before during a different era, Prince Khalid Abdullah dipped into the Keeneland September Sale to come away with a Touch Gold filly out of Glia worth $550,000. As far as families goes, it was racing royalty, with her Listed-winning dam descending directly from Natalma, the dam of Northern Dancer, via the Niarchos’ blue hen Coup De Folie. Her sire, the Deputy Minister horse Touch Gold, had famously denied Silver Charm his sweep of the American Triple Crown in the 1997 Belmont Stakes and was by then in possession of a burgeoning reputation having sired the Grade 1 winners Mass Media and Composure out of his first two crops.

Soothing Touch, as she became known, didn’t distinguish herself in six starts for Bobby Frankel, with a trio of placings in Californian turf sprints yielding prize-money of $24,000. But in keeping with her family, she has since become a valuable broodmare for Juddmonte, notably as the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Emollient and granddam of Laurel River, Saturday’s brilliant front-running winner of the Dubai World Cup for Bhupat Seemar.

Laurel River, a grandson of Soothing Touch, is never challenged to win the Dubai World Cup. Photo – Bill Selwyn

Both Emollient and Calm Water, the dam of Laurel River, are daughters of Empire Maker, Juddmonte’s homebred Belmont Stakes winner whose varied stud career took in high-profile stints at its Kentucky arm, Japan and then finally Gainesway Farm when back in the US. To Empire Maker’s son Pioneerof The Nile, Soothing Touch has also foaled the Listed winner and Grade 2-placed Courtier. A diversion away from that line to Tapit yielded the Grade 1 Florida Derby runner-up and Belmont Stakes third Hofburg.

Juddmonte has thus successfully placed its stamp on this branch of the family, making Soothing Touch look well bought in the process. Even so, the Coup De Folie family remains very much Niarchos territory, for all that its influence today is truly international.

The mare’s arrival into to Niarchos fold came at a time of major investment by Stavros Niarchos in well-bred fillies. Aided by trainer Francois Boutin and the BBA’s Sir Philip Payne-Gallwey, Niarchos acquired an array of influential producers, ranging from Pasadoble, a mere $45,000 purchase who went on to produce Miesque, to Northern Trick, a $530,000 yearling who won the Prix de Diane before becoming the backbone to a family that would yield Light Shift and Ulysses.

Coup De Folie cost rather more at $825,000 when offered by her breeder E. P. Taylor at the 1983 Keeneland July Sale. But then she was a Halo granddaughter of Natalma with the additional intrigue of being inbred 3×3 to blue hen Almahmoud. 

“I remember when Coup De Folie was sold as a yearling,” recalled the Niarchos family’s racing manager Alan Cooper in a feature with Owner Breeder late last year. “I think my father [Tom Cooper of the BBA Ireland] thought he had a chance to be able to buy her. But Philip had more for her [for Niarchos]. I think she was named Coup De Folie because it was rather a crazy price at the time. But what an amazing legacy she left. There’s lot of stallion power running through her family.”

At stud, she produced no fewer than five Group 1 performers

Coup De Folie’s name translates as ‘stroke of folly’, yet as it turned out, that couldn’t be much further from the truth. Boutin sent her out as a two-year-old to win the Prix d’Aumale at Longchamp and run third behind Triptych in the Prix Marcel Boussac. Then at stud, she produced no fewer than five Group 1 performers.

Machiavellian, by Mr Prospector, was the European champion two-year-old of 1989 by virtue of his wins in the Prix de la Salamandre and Prix Morny. He ran second to Tirol in the 2,000 Guineas the following year and later had a hugely successful stallion career at Dalham Hall Stud, where he continues to exert a powerful influence through his sons and daughters. Another son, the Irish River colt Exit To Nowhere, won the Prix Jacques le Marois while the Nureyev filly Hydro Calido won the Prix d’Astarte and ran second in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. Repeat visits to Mr Prospector also produced the Group 1-placed Ocean Of Wisdom and Coup De Genie, who emulated Machiavellian by winning Prix de la Salamandre and Prix Morny en route to championship honours before running placed in a Newmarket Guineas – the 1,000 – the following year.

Of those out of Coup De Folie that didn’t excel on the track, several made up for it at stud including Salchow, whose son Way Of Light won the Grand Criterium, and Rafina, the dam of Royal Lodge Stakes winner Admiralofthefleet.

By the time Soothing Touch came on the market in 2005, the branch belonging to her granddam Coup De Genie was travelling through a major purple patch. For instance from 2002 to 2003, the mare’s offspring won the Prix Marcel Boussac (Denebola), Prix de Cabourg (Loving Kindness) and Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap, Queens County Handicap and Stuyvesant Handicap (Snake Mountain). Around the same time, her grandson Bago won the Criterium International ahead of a championship season in 2004 capped by a win in the Arc. In later years, his half-brother Maxios won the Prix d’Ispahan and Prix du Moulin.

Stavros Niarchos (centre) with Alan Cooper (right) and Freddie Head at
Longchamp in 1980.
Photo – George Selwyn

Glia, Coup De Genie’s third foal, was also talented, becoming a rare stakes winner for A.P. Indy on European turf when successful in the 2002 Prix Imprudence at Maisons-Laffitte. For a time, however, her contribution to the family stuttered; her stud record consists of four minor winners, none at black-type level, and if it wasn’t for Soothing Touch, the daughters in production would be headlined by the Japanese Group 3 producer Dream Of Genie.

One of the interesting aspects to this family has long been how effective it can be on different surfaces and therefore on both sides of the Atlantic. In that, Soothing Touch is no different; Hofburg found his niche on dirt but Emollient won Grade 1 races on turf and Polytrack and Courtier was a stakes winner on turf. Emollient, whose Grade 1 resume consisted of wins in the American Oaks, Rodeo Drive, Spinster and Ashland Stakes, has since spent most of her stud career in Europe where an accomplished partnership with Frankel comprises the Prix de Malleret winner Raclette, French Listed scorer Ardent and the Listed-placed Licence. Another foal, the War Front filly Peace Charter, was Group 2-placed in Ireland as a two-year-old.

In an illustration of the vagaries of breeding, Calm Water failed to win in eight starts for Bill Mott

Calm Water was foaled in 2011, the year after Emollient, and in an illustration of the vagaries of breeding, failed to win in eight starts for Bill Mott. She has remained in Kentucky throughout her stud career, with an unraced Malibu Moon filly named Turning Tide and a minor-winning Uncle Mo filly named Lagoon Falls preceding Laurel River, her third foal.

Laurel River, of course, is by a real North American force in Into Mischief. It’s well known how the son of Harlan’s Holiday made his name off early inexpensive crops that dropped as low as 31 foals (2011). Today, with five North American sires’ championships, all secured with eye-watering totals no lower than $18.881 million, 20 Grade 1 winners and 145 stakes winners to his credit, he is deservedly one of Kentucky’s most sought-after stallions at his career-high fee of $250,000 at Spendthrift Farm. 

Juddmonte, for their part, have fared well with the stallion, notably as the owner-breeder of Mandaloun, who was awarded the 2010 Kentucky Derby on the disqualification of Medina Spirit, and multiple Grade 3 winner Fulsome. Mandaloun covered 211 mares in his first season at Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky last year.

Like Laurel River, Mandaloun is out of a mare by Empire Maker, thereby following a variation of the Unbridled cross that has also supplied Into Mischief’s Grade 1- winning fillies Covfefe and Gina Romantic. Mares carrying Quiet American, another John Nerud-produced son of Fappiano with plenty of Aspidistra in his background, have also clicked with Into Mischief to produce Doppelganger and Atone, both Grade 1 winners from last year.

Into Mischief: Spendthrift Farm sire breaks records on a regular basis. Photo – Spendthrift Farm

Laurel River becomes the ninth Group/Grade 1 winner out of a mare by Empire Maker. Beautifully-bred as a son of outstanding producer Toussaud and a multiple Grade 1 winner to go with it, Empire Maker covered some of the cream of the Juddmonte broodmare band during his seven seasons under their banner in Kentucky. Considering those opportunities, Empire Maker didn’t do a lot to further the fortunes of Juddmonte – Emollient was the sole top-level winner he supplied for the operation – although in fairness, some of those turf-oriented mares originally sent to him probably didn’t play to his strengths.

By the time of his sale to Japan in 2011, he had had his share of success with dirt Grade 1 winners such as Pioneerof The Nile, Acoma, Country Star, Mushka and Icon Project headlining a group of 18 stakes winners in four crops. However, given they hadn’t exactly been inexpensively produced, having been bred off a fee of $100,000, there was a growing sense that he was becoming underwhelming. As it turned out, waiting in the wings was champion Royal Delta while Pioneerof The Nile went on have a successful stud career of his own, notably as the sire of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah. Another son, Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister, sired Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. 

In light of the opportunities that Empire Maker received early on in his stud career in Kentucky (and again when he returned to Gainesway Farm in 2016), there was always going to be a chance that he would make his mark as a broodmare sire. Laurel River, given the depth of his family, is a case in point. Several were also questioning Laurel River’s ability to stay the 1m2f of the Dubai World Cup, a fair suspicion for a pacy son of Into Mischief who was a Grade 3 winner over 7f in the US. Laurel River answered with that question emphatically, demonstrating in the process that the presence of Empire Maker and fellow Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold in his pedigree probably stood him in good stead. Similar sentiments apply to the power of his female family, which was also to the fore that same day in France as the source of impressive Chantilly maiden winner Teeran. The Kingman filly, who descends from Coup De Folie via Hydro Calido, holds several Classic entries for Andre Fabre.