One key aspect of Frankel’s stud career has been the ease of his success in Japan.
It was the scene of his first Group 1 winner in Soul Stirring, who landed the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in December 2016 just weeks after another high-flying first-crop daughter, Mi Suerte, had broken through in the Group 3 Kyoto Sho Fantasy Stakes at Kyoto.
With quality, quite rightly, so high on the agenda of leading Japanese breeders, in particular the Yoshida brothers, Frankel was always going to be one of those horses that captured their imagination. Six juveniles within his first crop carried the JPN suffix. Five of them were out of Group or Grade 1 winners. It was undoubtedly an expensive exercise for breeders but in the case of Teruya Yoshida, there was real justification in the emergence of champion juvenile Soul Stirring, who was the second foal out of the Prix de Diane heroine Stacelita. Likewise, Katsumi Yoshida’s homebred Mi Suerte was out of American Grade 1 winner Mi Sueno, a $1.9 million purchase out of Fasig-Tipton.
Japanese owners were also determined in their pursuit of Frankel’s first foals at public auction, with Teruo Ono going to $800,000 for one colt at the 2015 Keeneland September Sale. Not so expensive was the colt out of Grade 2 winner India, who changed hands to owner Capital System Co. Ltd after failing to sell for $275,000 in the ring. That proved money well spent when he turned out to be dual Group 1 winner Mozu Ascot, a hardy miler whose retirement as a stallion at Arrow Stud was confirmed earlier this month.
Any fears that the retirement of that Frankel stalwart would leave a void within the stallion’s Japanese representation were allayed on Sunday in the confirmation that Grenadier Guards is one of the nation’s best two-year-olds with a track record-setting victory in the Group 1 Asahi Hai Futurity at Hanshin. Trained by Mitsu Nakauchida, the colt broke his maiden only last month over 7f at Hanshin, having run placed on his previous two outings. Forwardly placed on this occasion, he made his winning move when running down the leader Mondreise and after kicking clear, had enough in reserve to repel the challenges of Stella Veloce and favourite Red Belle Aube.
Grenadier Guards becomes the 12th Group 1 winner for Frankel and the third to score this year after Mozu Ascot, who struck in the February Stakes at Tokyo, and Mirage Dancer, who broke through in the Metropolitan Handicap at Randwick following his sale to Australia.
Crucially, he provides a flag-bearer for Frankel’s current crop of two-year-olds, which are headlined in Europe by the French Group 3 winner Kalahara. That filly assisted Frankel’s arrival into the record books when becoming his 40th Group winner in the Prix d’Arenberg in September to seal his place as the fastest stallion to hit that figure in history. Other juveniles Zabeel Queen, Seventh Kingdom, Fivethousandtoone and Dhababi have also been Group-placed while various novice and maiden winners such as Beheld, Hurricane Lane, Knock On Wood (another lightly raced but smart-looking Japanese two-year-old), Mehnah, Petricor, Rumi, Taipan and Vesela each look to have bright futures. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that a Group 1 colt of the calibre of Grenadier Guards within that fifth crop – bred off £125,000 – is of great value to Frankel’s reputation.
His emergence is also good news for the JBBA Shizunai Stallion Station, which has secured the services of Frankel’s brother Noble Mission for the 2021 season.
There are shades of Soul Stirring to Grenadier Guards in that he is the product of a top-class racemare sourced by the Yoshida behemoth who was then sent to Frankel at Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket before foaling in Japan. The main difference is that while Soul Stirring’s dam Stacelita was brilliant on turf, Grenadier Guards is out of a top dirt sprinter.
Bred by Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Racing, Grenadier Guards is the first foal out of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint heroine Wavell Avenue. The mare was guided by Chad Brown through a progression out of the New York claiming ranks to the status of Grade 1-winning sprinter. While the 2015 Filly and Mare Sprint was her only Grade 1 victory, the hard-knocking campaigner also counted the Shine Again Stakes among her seven wins and ran a narrow second to Finest City in the 2016 Filly & Mare Sprint.
Canadian-born Wavell Avenue was Eugene Melnyk-bred top to bottom as a daughter of his regally-bred Grade 2 winner Harlington, an Unbridled son of the legendary racemare Serena’s Song purchased for $2.8 million as a yearling, and member of his Ruby Park family.
Melnyk, however, never got to enjoy the rewards of Wavell Avenue. In the summer of 2014, when the filly was still an unraced three-year-old, he announced his retirement from racing and duly dispersed his stock, among them Wavell Avenue who was sold at Fasig-Tipton to agent Steve Young for $70,000 on behalf of the high-flying partnership of Michael Dubb, Head Of Plains Partners and Bethlehem Stables. It was quite a hefty price for a daughter of Harlington, by then regarded as a limited stallion, but money well worth it as it turned out.
Indeed, Wavell Avenue is by far the best of eight stakes winners sired within nine crops of racing age by her sire. The son of Unbridled was initially afforded a chance at Hill ’n’ Dale Farm in Kentucky but he failed to cut much ice and now stands in Saudi Arabia having changed hands at public auction for $90,000.
Such is the black and white nature of the commercial market, particularly in North America, that the presence of Harlington in Wavell Avenue’s background would not have appealed to various the nation’s leading breeders. The Yoshida brothers, however, have long buoyed their broodmare band with high-performing daughters of unfashionable sires; think Grade 1 winners such as Hilda’s Passion, the Canadian Frontier mare who foaled top American runner Yoshida to Heart’s Cry, and Dubai Majesty, the Essence Of Dubai mare who foaled Japanese Classic winner Al Ain to Deep Impact.
Similarly, several of the best runners by Deep Impact and Heart’s Cry have been produced out of mares by American Post, Bertolini and Librettist (the latter pair within the former Gordon Thom family of Donna Blini that now sits behind champion Gentildonna and Japanese Derby winner Roger Barows).
“Canadian-born Wavell Avenue was Eugene Melnyk-bred top to bottom as a daughter of his regally-bred Grade 2 winner Harlington”
Now add Wavell Avenue to the list.
Although the daughter of a stallion who never stood for more than $10,000, Wavell Avenue does, however, boast some smart connections.
Melnyk bought into the family with the purchase of her granddam, the Bold Ruckus mare Ruby Park, in 1998 as a yearling for $105,000 from her breeder, Michael Byrne’s Park Stud. A member of a hard-knocking Canadian family, she was another smart representative, winning the Shady Well Stakes at Woodbine and running second in the Grade 3 George C. Hendrie Handicap.
To date, she has foaled six winners, the best of whom is Wavell Avenue’s dam Lucas Street, who was campaigned by Melnyk to win four sprint races in Louisiana and Canada. Large black-type eluded the daughter of Silver Deputy but she did come close when second in a trio of minor Woodbine stakes.
The fact that both Harlington and Lucas Street both came under the ownership of Melnyk probably lies behind the mating that resulted in Wavell Avenue. By the time Wavell Avenue had hit Grade 1 heights, Lucas Street had moved on into the ownership of Park Stud in Canada – and therefore back to the same land that had raised her dam Ruby Park and granddam Katebyrne. Today, the mare is owned by the Kentucky-based Bonne Chance Farm and in contrary to her early years, which also features winners by the low-level Marchfield and Court Vision, has a yearling filly from the first crop of Arrogate to run for her.
It is Wavell Avenue, however, who is driving this family forward and given that she has a yearling filly from the last crop of Deep Impact and a filly foal by Lord Kanaloa waiting in the wings, the story of this particular family is far from over.