There were few more enthusiastic participants during the 2019 winter breeding stock sales than Leopoldo Fernández Pujals. The Spanish-based entrepreneur had turned heads at Goffs the  previous November with the sale- topping purchase of a Kingman filly foal, who was to become Group 3 winner Reina Madre, for €350,000 through Outsider Bloodstock, and one year on further underlined the extent of his ambition by making an array of breeding stock purchases in both Kentucky and Europe.

At the 2019 Keeneland November Sale, Pujals paid $3.3 million for 16 mares. From there, he went to Goffs, where he spent close to €600,000 on nine mares, and then on to Tattersalls, where he spent 1.12 million guineas on another four.

A native of Cuba who fled when Fidel Castro took power, self-made Pujals was the mastermind behind the home delivery pizza business TelePizza, which grew into the largest of its kind in Spain.  Other successful and lucrative business ventures later followed and judging by the results now coming the way of the breeder – who operates as Yeguada Centurion – on the track, that same instinct and ambition that served him so well in business is now doing the same in the world of racing and bloodstock.

Pujals’ buying spree encompassed a mix of older and young mares. Hardiyna, a Sea The Stars relation to Harzand, was plucked out of the Aga Khan Studs’ draft at Goffs in foal to Rock Of Gibraltar for €72,000; the resulting foal is Big Rock, who followed up his wins in the Prix de Guiche and Prix la Force with a brave second to Ace Impact in the Prix du Jockey Club. Among the older mares, minor stakes winner Needmore Flattery was purchased for $195,000 in foal to Uncle Mo. At the time, the Flatter mare had a Gun Runner weanling colt, now known as triple Grade 1 winner Taiba.

An exclamation point on Yeguada Centurion’s investment, however, arrived last month on Prix de Diane day at Chantilly when the fledgling operation was responsible for two of the day’s stars in Blue Rose Cen and Ramatuelle, produced out of Queen Blossom and Raven’s Lady respectively.

Blue Rose Cen, pictured winning last year’s Prix Marcel Boussac, is the headline act of a memorable season for Yeguada Centurion. Photo – Bill Selwyn

This year’s Prix de Diane was one of the deepest editions of recent years and by storming four lengths clear of Never Ending Story, Blue Rose Cen laid down a strong claim to being Europe’s leading three-year-old filly. Indeed, she is only the fourth filly to sweep the Prix Marcel Boussac – Poule d’Essai des Pouliches – Prix de Diane treble, joining a list of such luminaries as Allez France, Divine Proportions and Zarkava.

Her win followed on the heels of that of the two-year-old filly Ramatuelle over colts in the Prix de Bois earlier on the card. The daughter of Justify was bred by Yeguada Centurion out of German Group 2 winner Raven’s Lady, a $300,000 Keeneland purchase, and sold for €100,000 as an Arqana August yearling. Nevertheless, as with Blue Rose Cen and Big Rock, she has wound up in the care of fledgling Chantilly trainer Christopher Head, for whom she appeals as another Group 1 winner in the making [since this article was published, Ramatuelle has won the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin].

That is all in the future, however. For now, the attention rightly focusses on Blue Rose Cen as a filly of exceptional ability.

Churchill, a top miler himself, has thrown two French Classic winners in as many crops

Her exploits mean that her young sire Churchill, a top miler himself, has thrown two French Classic winners in as many crops. The Aga Khan’s Prix du Jockey Club hero Vadeni, who later followed up in the Eclipse Stakes, was the highlight of his first group of runners while Derby trial winners The Foxes (Dante Stakes) and Sprewell (Leopardstown Derby Trial) have joined Blue Rose Cen as other high-class runners out of his second crop.

When Galileo’s ability to click with fast mares is recalled, Churchill is invariably a horse who springs to mind. His dam, the Storm Cat mare Meow, was a daughter of the top sprinter Airwave, herself a half-sister to the Nunthorpe Stakes winner Jwala, and was as fast and precocious as her pedigree suggested she might be, winning a 5f Listed race and running a neck second in the Queen Mary Stakes during a brief career for David Wachman.

Galileo’s influence has taken the family to greater heights altogether. A strapping colt, Churchill was forward enough to win the Chesham Stakes for Aidan O’Brien prior to rattling off victories in the Tyros, Futurity, National and Dewhurst Stakes en route to championship two-year-old honours. He returned to capture both the Newmarket and Irish 2,000 Guineas the following year but surprisingly failed to add to his record beyond that, with a second to Ulysses in the Juddmonte International on his first try over 1m2f the best to show in five subsequent starts.

A good-looking and well-bred Galileo with the pace to be a champion two-year- old was always going to be attractive to breeders and in his first season at €35,000 at Coolmore, Churchill was indeed one of the busiest stallions of his generation. Nor has he lacked for quality among his mates – The Foxes is one such example, being a half-brother to the Group winners Matterhorn, Bangkok and Tactic. Thus, opportunities have been plentiful and in return he has to date supplied 11 stakes winners out of two crops comprising a total of 295 foals.

Churchill: top miler also responsible for Vadeni. Photo – George Selwyn

While those figures don’t place him within the elite of stallions, the presence of two stars such as Vadeni, who hopefully will be back for Jean-Claude Rouget during the second half of the season after failing to fire in two starts this year, and Blue Rose Cen underlines that the ability is there to throw a top-notcher. First-crop daughter Ladies Church is also a high-class sprinter on her day, as she proved last summer when successful in the Sapphire Stakes, while it’s not hard to envisage more improvement coming from either The Foxes or Sprewell.

Blue Rose Cen is yet another high-class product of the tried and tested Galileo – Danehill cross

Blue Rose Cen is yet another high-class product of the tried and tested Galileo – Danehill cross as a daughter of Queen Blossom, one of the five Group/Graded stakes winners sired by the Danehill Dancer stallion Jeremy during his time at the Irish National Stud. Originally trained in Ireland by Paddy Prendergast, who paid just €15,000 for her as a yearling, she won the Park Express Stakes over a mile at the Curragh before heading to the US, where she went on to score at Grade 3 level over 12 furlongs in California.

At the end of her racing career in December 2018, Queen Blossom returned to Europe to sell for 110,000gns to Ted Durcan on behalf of Peter Magnier. Sadly only weeks later, Magnier passed away, leading to the dispersal of much of his stock. Queen Blossom, then carrying Blue Rose Cen, was to form part of that draft at Goffs in November 2019 but she ultimately changed hands to Yeguada Centurion in a private transaction. Blue Rose Cen is the mare’s first and only foal to date, although she was covered by Frankel last year.

Yeguada Centurion has continued to add to its bloodstock holdings, most notably when investing close to $4 million at Keeneland in November 2020. But it says a lot for the way the operation has been launched and is currently managed that the likes of Blue Rose Cen, Big Rock and Ramatuelle have emerged out of a group of mares bought within the span of a month in 2019. And no doubt there will other big-race victories coming the way of Pujals before the year is out.


Loss of Arrogate further emphasised

The outcome to the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the American Triple Crown run last month at Belmont Park, was rightly celebrated across the industry for varying reasons, not least due to the achievement of Jena Antonucci, who became the first female trainer to win an American Classic.

And what of the colt she so deftly handled to win the Belmont on only his fifth start? The three-year-old in question, Arcangelo, was sourced by his owner Jon Ebbert of Blue Rose Farm for just $35,000 as a Keeneland September Book 3 yearling despite owning a top-drawer pedigree.

Reportedly, Arcangelo was an immature young horse who headed to the sales with a veterinary report that highlighted signs of sesamoiditis, all of which would have required patience. Added to that, while his sire Arrogate had been one of the finest horses to grace an American racetrack for Juddmonte, his first runners had yet to set the world alight; in fact, a first stakes winner wouldn’t come Arrogate’s way until January the following year.

A raw youngster by a commercially cold sire with a questionable vet report goes some way to explaining how a colt from a thriving branch of the famous Best In Show family slipped the net. Bred by the Solari family’s Don Alberto Corporation, for whom Arcangelo is a first American-bred Grade 1 winner, the colt is out of Modeling, a $2.85 million purchase by the breeder who is a half-sister to the Grade 1-winning two-year-old Streaming. In turn, they are out of Teeming, a Storm Cat half-sister to the Belmont Stakes winners Rags To Riches and Jazil.

Thus there is abundant class and staying power within the immediate reaches of this family even before the fifth dam, Best In Show, is considered. Foaled in 1965, the daughter of Traffic Judge won the Comely Stakes during a busy career for Clearview Stables before forging an almighty legacy at stud that has come to include El Gran Senor, Try My Best, Almond Eye, Spinning World, Redoute’s Choice, Xaar, Bated Breath, Cityscape, Logician, Siskin and Peeping Fawn. That’s in addition to Rags To Riches and Jazil, whose Grade 2-winning dam Better Than Honour was knocked down for $14 million – a world record auction value for a broodmare – at Fasig-Tipton in November 2008.

Arrogate didn’t break his maiden until early June of his three-year-old season

There is also the influence of Arcangelo’s sire Arrogate to consider. The son of Unbridled’s Song didn’t break his maiden until early June of his three-year-old season, yet by the end of the year was the country’s champion three-year-old colt following brilliant wins in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic. A lucrative early part to his four-year-old campaign also consisted of successes in the Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup, victories that contributed to his overall prize-money haul of $17.4 million.

The sadness, of course, is that by the time his first crop hit the track in 2021, Arrogate was dead having succumbed to an illness that had left him immobile.

Hindsight has since told us that Arrogate is a loss. That first crop came to include the Kentucky Oaks heroine Secret Oath and Grade 1 La Brea and Santa Monica Stakes winner Fun To Dream, co-bred by Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert. And while a number of his progeny have followed his example by thriving with time, Arrogate’s second crop contains two Grade 1-winning juveniles in Cave Rock and And Tell Me Nolies. Arcangelo is his fifth Grade 1 winner and eighth stakes winner overall.

One horse whose presence in Arcangelo’s background should not be underestimated is his damsire Tapit. The son of Pulpit has been the flagship stallion for Gainesway Farm in Kentucky for many years, rising from a $12,500 name to multiple champion sire. In 16 crops, he has thrown 31 Grade 1 winners and is the damsire of another 13. They include this year’s Kentucky Oaks heroine Pretty Mischievous as well as Cody’s Wish, an impressive winner of the Metropolitan Mile on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

All the while, Tapit has become something of a Belmont Stakes king. He’s sired four winners of the race, namely Tonalist, Creator, Tapwrit and Essential Quality, while his successful sire son Constitution threw the 2020 winner Tiz The Law. Tapit was also responsible for this year’s third in Tapit Trice; like Arcangelo, this Grade 1 winner is inbred to Unbridled.

Now aged 22, Tapit remains deservedly popular at $185,000, allowing for the highly probable opportunity of him playing a leading role in Belmont Stakes of the future.

The late Arrogate was a brilliant performer on the track and now a Classic-producing sire at stud – Photo: George Selwyn