Looking at the bloodlines of the 101 stallions who stood in commercial Flat roles in Britain and Ireland at fees of £5,000 or more this year, it quickly becomes apparent why breeders struggle to avoid repeating ancestors in matings many times over.

A remarkable 82 of those sires traced back in the paternal line to the diminutive Canadian breed-shaper Northern Dancer. Many, of course, will be descended from him more than once.

The most powerful agent of Northern Dancer’s influence is Green Desert at present, with 21 of those 82 sires belonging to his branch, thanks to sons Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream being farmed so heavily and paternal grandson Sea The Stars, by Cape Cross, slowly amassing a larger band of stallion sons.

Sadler’s Wells is responsible for 18 of the 82, with all bar three – Kitten’s Joy’s son Kameko and paternal grandson Dubai Mile, and Montjeu’s son Camelot – descending from Galileo. This line, associated with excellence over Classic distances, now even has an emergent sprinting offshoot with the rise of Havana Grey.

Storm Cat accounts for 16 of those 82 Northern Dancer male-line sires. His brilliant son Giant’s Causeway gave us Shamardal, whose stature as a sire of sires has grown again with Blue Point getting off to such a fine start, while grandson Scat Daddy, via Johannesburg, sits at the head of a dynasty of mainly pacey and precocious stallions.

Storm Cat has overtaken Danehill in the number of male-line descendants from Northern Dancer, which would have seemed unlikely when Danehill’s empire was expanding so rapidly in the early years of the millennium. Thirteen of Northern Dancer’s 82-strong tribe go back to Danehill, with Kodiac and his sons in the vanguard.

Acclamation, whose male line is a less obvious route back to Northern Dancer, going through Royal Applause, Waajib and Try My Best, accounts for nine of the 82 current sires in this category. His son Mehmas, still on the rise and already with three sons of his own in Britain and Ireland at £5,000 or more, looks the most obvious candidate for keeping this line alive.

Pivotal’s five male-line descendants make it 82 for Northern Dancer. His son Siyouni has been a game-changer, still covering elite books of mares at Haras de Bonneval in France and being represented by three high-profile sons of his own at Coolmore in Paddington, Sottsass and St Mark’s Basilica.

The Mr Prospector male line will also grow from Wootton Bassett

Mr Prospector is making a serious fightback against Northern Dancer in the British and Irish stallion ranks. Sixteen stallions trace back to him in the male line, 12 of those being Dubawi, his sons and grandsons – a line that has exploded in popularity since the bright starts made by New Bay, Night Of Thunder, Too Darn Hot and, in France, Zarak.

It seems a foregone conclusion that the Mr Prospector male line will also grow in Britain and Ireland from Wootton Bassett, who has covered large numbers of blue-chip mares at Coolmore in recent seasons. He already has French-conceived Champion Stakes hero King Of Steel and top two-year-olds Al Riffa, Bucanero Fuerte, River Tiber and Unquestionable lined up for stallion positions, you would think.

Wootton Bassett: another outlet into the Mr Prospector sire line. Photo – Coolmore

The only three stallions among the 101 standing in Britain and Ireland for at least £5,000 this year not to descend from either Northern Dancer or Mr Prospector are Saxon Warrior and Study Of Man, sons of Deep Impact, and Dream Ahead, by Diktat.

It’s important to point out that they are far from outcrosses to the above-named ubiquitous patriarchs – Deep Impact’s dam Wind In Her Hair is by the Northern Dancer-line sire Alzao, and Dream Ahead has Sadler’s Wells and Green Desert within his first three generations – but they do at least offer a refreshing change and offer the possibility of creative crosses.

Saxon Warrior – out of Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Maybe, who was bred on the Northern Dancer-heavy cross of Galileo over Danehill – has his third crop of northern-hemisphere two-year-olds race this year.

He has quickly notched up a long list of stakes horses, headed by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf hero Victoria Road, and has been immensely popular at Coolmore, covering 654 mares in the past three seasons.

Lanwades Stud-based Study Of Man, whose dam Second Happiness is by Storm Cat out of Nureyev’s sublime daughter Miesque, has been siring classy winners like shelling peas early in his sophomore season, including Prix Saint-Alary victress Birthe, German 2,000 Guineas third Ghorgan, Pretty Polly Stakes second Kalpana, Craven Stakes third Sons And Lovers and Musidora third Francophone (subsequently winner of the Height Of Fashion Stakes).

He looks like becoming an important part of the British breeding landscape, not just for offering precious access to the prolific Deep Impact line but also for supplying the sorts of horses who could excel in Classics or be in demand from overseas buyers if they come up just short of that standard.

Study Of Man: bright start suggests he could become an important sire son of Deep Impact – Photo: George Selwyn

Dream Ahead has been a useful servant to breeders at Ballylinch Stud, then Haras de Grandcamp and now Bearstone Stud, where he commanded a fee of just £6,500 this year. Not bad for a sire who has delivered 64 Flat performers including Al Wukair, Donjuan Triumphant, Dream Of Dreams and Glass Slippers, all of whom struck at the highest level.

He is also emerging as a promising broodmare sire, with his daughters having produced British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes winner Poptronic and class acts like Cold Case, Romantic Style and Texas. One mare by him even managed to get Coventry Stakes runner-up Army Ethos from the generally very disappointing Shalaa.

Where else do breeders who want to introduce a little genetic diversity into their matings go? Commercially credible options are thin on the ground but those who don’t need to sell have some outside-the-box choices.

Chief among them is Pearl Secret, by Indian Ridge’s son Compton Place and with only one incidence of Northern Dancer in his ancestry, way back in the fifth generation. He is one of the very few representatives of the Byerley Turk sire-line still in use, standing at Norton Grove Stud at a fee of just £2,000.

He was an accomplished sprinter himself in his pomp, and hit a bit of a purple patch last year when Doddie’s Impact won the Brocklesby Stakes, Rhythm N Hooves took the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes at Royal Ascot and Designer scored in a valuable York handicap for the second year running.

There would be many more options if breeders opened up their mares’ dating pool to National Hunt-orientated stallions, including some who might have been tried on the Flat in a different era.

Warning: brilliant miler, a direct descendant of Man O’War via In Reality, remains represented by Dream Ahead. Photo – George Selwyn

Jack Hobbs springs to mind. The outstanding Irish Derby and Dubai Sheema Classic winner, who stands at Overbury Stud at £5,000, is by Halling and so is a rare male-line descendant of Sharpen Up still in service. Northern Dancer also appears only once within five generations of his pedigree.

He has had only four runners on the Flat in Britain and Ireland but two have won, including Derek and Judith Newell’s highly rated homebred handicapper The Gadget Man, sold to race in Australia for 310,000gns at the end of his three-year-old season. It goes to show it can be done.

The Sharpen Up sire-line hangs by a thread, so it seems a shame that European breeders no longer have access to Selkirk’s son Cityscape at Overbury Stud as he hasn’t returned from covering in South America, where he is a sire of at least five Grade 1 winners, since 2022.

Cityscape, who also has Northern Dancer in his family tree only once within five generations, has supplied Oaks third Caernarfon, US Grade 2 winner Avenue De France, Hong Kong Grade 3 scorer Ka Ying Star, known as Urban Aspect when he raced in Britain for breeder Kingsclere Stud, and numerous other smart horses despite never covering big books.

He gave more cause to regret his absence in the northern hemisphere when daughter Chili Flag defeated hot favourite Coppice to win the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes in Kentucky in May.

Thankfully, France has incubated some neglected sire-lines

Returning to the jumps stallion ranks, they also contain many sons of Monsun, the German champion who had no repeated ancestors within four generations and no Northern Dancer at all. Sadly he never took hold as a Flat sire of sires, but top-class horses such as Gentlewave, Getaway, Maxios, Schiaparelli, Shirocco and Vadamos are available to Flat breeders even though they are marketed towards National Hunt.

The influx of French sires into jumps studs in Britain and Ireland has also brought some exotic bloodlines. For example Blue Bresil is by Smadoun (by Kaldoun, by Caro); Diamond Boy is by Mansonnien (by Tip Moss, by Luthier, by Klairon); and Kap Rock is by Video Rock (by No Lute, by Luthier).

Thankfully, France has incubated some neglected sire-lines, including that descending from the speedy Grey Sovereign, which includes Blue Bresil’s great-grandsire Caro. Kendargent and his son Goken, going great guns at Haras de Colleville, also go back to Grey Sovereign in the male line, via Kendor, Kenmare, Kalamoun and Zeddaan.

The Grey Sovereign line is thriving in the US too, thanks to Uncle Mo and his sons. He is by Indian Charlie, by In Excess, by Siberian Express, by Caro.

Adventurous breeders can also find in France a rare male-line descendant of Sea-Bird, in Robin Of Navan, and a couple of Indian Ridge grandsons in Captain Chop and Lucky Team.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Blushing Groom sire line was in rude health, notably through Rainbow Quest and Rahy. Today, the situation is unfortunately very different, with hard-to-come-by entry points into line coming via the late Le Havre’s sons Motamarris and Roman Candle.

However, Le Havre – by Rahy’s son Noverre – could have a shot at having a well supported Flat stallion son if the Nurlan Bizakov-owned and bred Ramadan wins more Group races to go with his score in the Prix de Fontainebleau. He was beaten less than two lengths in total when fifth in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains in May.

Rainbow Quest: sire line was once in rude health but now representatives are hard to find. Photo – George Selwyn

Breeders willing to use Kentucky-based stallions, or purchase mares by them, have a variety of ‘different’ lines to choose from, including that going back to Bold Ruler, which takes in multiple champion North American sire Tapit.

A priceless strand of the Roberto sire-line still exists on the other side of the Atlantic too, after the likes of Dynaformer and Lear Fan failed to lay down roots in the stallion ranks.

It hangs from Arch, by Roberto’s excellent sire son Kris S. Arch’s son Blame, who stands at Claiborne Farm at $25,000, is widely respected having sired Grade 1 winners Abscond, Fault, Marley’s Freedom, Nadal, Senga and Wet Paint. Arch also has Instilled Regard and Preservationist, sire of recent first-crop Peter Pan Stakes winner Antiquarian, in bargain roles.

Perhaps the rise of Japan as a power-broker in the bloodstock market will bring some less mined sire-lines to Europe too. Coolmore are reported to be using last year’s world champion Equinox and his sire Kitasan Black, by Deep Impact’s full-brother Black Tide, as well as Deep Impact’s Triple Crown-winning son Contrail this year.

Northern Dancer has no doubt won the Game of Thrones battle of sire-lines that has taken place over the last half-century or so; but his empire might shrink a little as breeders seek out alternatives at home and away.

Cityscape and James Doyle win the Dubai Duty Free. The flashy chestnut is now one of the few remaining descendants of Sharpen Up at stud. Photo – Bill Selwyn