First appeared in the June 2019 issue of TOB

Last Saturday, Verry Elleegant lit up a bleak world racing scene by running away with the Group 1 Kia Tancred Stakes at Rosehill. Here Andrew Caulfield recounts the interesting background behind Chris Waller’s popular mare.

That very rare creature, the blue-hen broodmare, can come from unexpected sources, as we were reminded when Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Obligate decisively maintained her unbeaten record in the Prix des Lilas on May 6. This Listed victory at Chantilly made the daughter of Frankel the 12th black-type winner descending from that exceptional producer Hasili, her dam, the unraced Responsible, being Hasili’s final foal, produced when Hasili was 20.

It is easy to forget that Hasili wasn’t exactly fashionably bred, with both her sire Kahyasi and her broodmare sire High Line usually passing on an unfashionable amount of stamina.

Another excellent broodmare with some unfashionable names in her pedigree was the British-bred Cotehele House. Born in May 1980, she was sired by My Swanee, a horse who would almost certainly not be given a chance as a flat stallion in today’s industry, even though he won 17 times during five seasons as a racehorse.

For the first four of those seasons My Swanee was rated no higher than 106 by Timeform but a remarkable final year of action saw his rating soar to 122, thanks to six victories from 15 starts which stamped him as an outstanding handicapper. Versatile as to ground and distance, his versatility extended to showing good form over hurdles. Predictably, My Swanee was to sire nothing nearly as good as himself and ended up in Italy.

Another less-than-compelling aspect of Cotehele House’s pedigree was the presence of Pieces of Eight as her broodmare sire. Although he ranked among the comparatively few horses to win the Eclipse Stakes and Champion Stakes, and had a Cheveley Park Stakes winner as his second dam, Pieces of Eight proved to be a poor stallion, both in the USA and Britain, and he too was moved on to Italy.

“Cotehele House’s daughters have also helped extend her influence”

So why would an Australasian breeder want to import Cotehele House? The answer is that she was a daughter of Eight Carats and grand-daughter of Klairessa, from a highly distinguished female line which traced back through Sun Princess, Mumtaz Begum and Mumtaz Mahal to the celebrated Lady Josephine.

Klairessa found fame as the dam the top-class sprinting filly Habibti and Eight Carat qualified for the title of blue hen in New Zealand, where she produced the Australian Group 1 winners Octagonal, Mouawad, Kaapstad, Our Marquise and Our Diamond Lover.

While Cotehele House couldn’t match Eight Carats’ remarkable record, she did pretty well, producing the five-time Group 1 winner Danewin and his Group 3-winning brother Commands, who sired a dozen Group 1 winners, including the reverse shuttle stallion Epaulette.

Cotehele House’s daughters have also helped extend her influence, with her Sackford filly Theme Song playing the lead role. Theme Song is the second dam of the lightly-raced Zabeel horse Zed, as well as being the third dam of the Group 2 winner Deep Field and his Group 1-winning ¾-brother Shooting To Win.

Zed, Deep Field and Shooting To Win are all stallions and the first two feature in the latest phenomenon – Group winners inbred to Cotehele House. Verry Elleegant, Group 1 winner this year of the Vinery Stud Stakes and the Australian Oaks, is by Zed and her dam Opulence is a great-grand-daughter of Cotehele House, so she is inbred 4 x 4 to the daughter of My Swanee.

Then there’s Cosmic Force, a winner of the Group 3 Pago Pago Stakes as a two-year-old in 2019 who is one of the best performers from the first crop of Deep Field. With a dam by Commands, Cosmic Force has Cotehele House in his fifth and third generations. There are also Group winners inbred 2 x 3 and 3 x 3 to Cotehele House.

This promises to be another example of great oaks growing from little acorns.