[Published Bluebloods Nov/Dec 2020]
As one might expect there are relative few examples of horses bred in Denmark exerting an influence on international racing. There are, however, some notable exceptions.
One from the latter part of the last century, the mare Rossard, was not only bred in Denmark, but was by a Danish stallion (Glacial, a son of the good French-bred, English-raced stayer Pardal). Rossard was the dominant performer of her year in both Denmark and Sweden, taking the Mowerinalob-Danish 1,000 Guineas (G2), Danish Oaks (G1), Danish Derby (G1), Danish St. Leger (G2), Swedish Oaks (G1) and Swedish Derby (G1). At the end of her three-year-old career, Rossard was purchased privately to race in the U.S. She made eight starts here at four, winning three races, and pulling off a 12.7-1 upset victory in the Flower Bowl Handicap (G1).
Rossard went on to found a successful family in the U.S., and as recently as 2018 she appeared as third dam of the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) victor, Next Shares. Dot Dot Dash, the granddam of Next Shares was unraced, but was a sister to the best runner produced by Rossard, the Nureyev horse, Unusual Heat. Although he never attained the stature of his sire or dam, Unusual Heat was a useful miler in Ireland, where he won the Amethyst, Glencairn and Platinum Stakes and was also group placed. Transferred to the U.S. to race as six-year-old Unusual Heat took an allowance race at Santa Anita first time out. He didn’t score again until his fourth U.S. outing where he was claimed for $80,000 in a winning effort at Hollywood Park. He raced just twice more, adding a $125,000 claimer at Hollywood Park, from which he returned lame, having suffered a tendon injury.
With no offers as a stallion forthcoming, Unusual Heat’s connections decided to stand him themselves in California. Effectively a private stallion in his first few years at stud, Unusual Heat was represented by only 96 foals in his first four crops, but found immediate success, with black-type winners from each of those seasons, grade two winner Tucked Away among them. From there, Unusual Heat went on to become the dominant stallion in California for more than a decade (he died in retirement in 2017, at the age of 27, having still covered 30 mares the previous year). He has so far been represented by 49 stakes winners, 16 graded, including Acclamation Champion Older Male of 2011, and further grade one scorers The Usual Q. T., Unusual Suspect and Golden Doc A.
Impactful as Rossard and Love Song have been, they still fall someway short of another mare born in Denmark. Foaled there in 1876 (although the GSB indicates Norway) and bred by Otto Scavenius, Mowerina was by the Ascot Gold Cup winner Scottish Chief, and her dam was by ‘the Emperor of Stallions’ Stockwell out of a sister to the first ever Triple Crown winner, West Australian.
Sent to England and campaigned in the colours of Lord Rossmore, Mowerina proved both tough and talented as a sprint specialist, winning 16 of 37 starts, including several events that would now be considered black-type races. Sold to the Duke of Portland as a broodmare, Mowerina produced several outstanding performers headed by a genuinely great horse in Donovan (by Galopin), winner of 18 of 21 starts, including the Derby and St. Leger. Donovan’s older sister, Modwena, was a winner of nine races and was the best two-year-old filly of her crop, and when bred to Galopin’s mighty son, St. Simon, Mowerina continued her good work coming up with Semolina, successful in the 1,000 Guineas, and Raeburn, the only horse to defeat another 19th century superstar, Isinglass.
The branch of this family that has extended Mowerina’s importance to the current day stems from Modwena’s daughter, Mrs. O, who appears as sixth dam of Border Bounty the mare who began the process of the modern day revival of the female line. A daughter of the good middle-distance horse, but very modest sire, Bounteous, Border Bounty was foaled in 1965, by which time this branch of the family had rather retreated from the heights of the previous century.
Although not a stakes winner herself, Border Bounty did show herself a runner of considerable merit, taking second in the Yorkshire Oaks, Park Hill Stakes and Musidora Stakes. She produced a pair of group winners in the Petingo brothers, Valley Forge and Pitcairn (sire of a pair of top-class runners in Ela-Mana-Mou and Cairn Rouge), and also featured as second dam of Assesor, whose successes included the Prix Royal-Oak (G1) and Prix du Cadran (G1).
Border Bounty’s most important producing daughter Eljazzi (by Artaius), a foal of 1980, won once four starts, but in relatively short time has had an explosive impact as a producer. In fact she’s already tail-female ancestress of 34 stakes winners, 19 group or graded and eight group or grade one. They include her daughter, the Prix de Diane-French Oaks (G1) victress Rafha; Rafha’s son Invincible Spirit, and her great-grandson Mishriff, successful in this year’s Prix du Jockey-Club-French Derby (G1); as well as the brilliant U.S. turf mare, Uni (a daughter of More Than Ready); Pinatubo, the European Champion Two-Year-Old of 2019, and a group one winner again in 2020; and Pride of Dubai, successful in the ATC Sire’s Produce Stakes (G1) and MRC Blue Diamond Stakes (G1).
When we look at the pedigree of those 34 stakes winners descending from Eljazzi, we begin to get a clue as to why the family took off again with Border Bounty/Eljazzi. The pointer is the rather remarkable statistic that no less of 23 of the 34 stakes winners (68%), including 12 of the 19 (63%) group or graded winners that descend from Eljazzi have Danzig in their pedigree.
The interesting thing is that if we trace Danzig’s pedigree back in tail-female line we come to the name Mowerina. Now, this isn’t the Danish Mowerina that figures in the female line, but she is third dam of that mare. So Danzig, the Danish Mowerina, and her descendents Border Bounty and Eljazzi all go back to the original Mowerina.
A further part of the puzzle falls into place when we look at the pedigree of Border Bounty’s sire, Bounteous. He is a son of Rockefella, a Hyperion horse whose dam, Rockfel, won the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Champion Stakes in 1938. Eight years after Rockfel’s tour-de-force, the Oaks would fall to another daughter of Rockfel’s sire, Felstead, Steady Aim, whose pedigree is worth comparing with Rockfel.
Steady Aim just happens to be third dam of none other than Danzig. Rockfel and Steady Aim are from what is known as the Bruce Lowe #7 family, which anomalies, aside is the Achilli L3a1a mitochondrial haplotype (the same Bruce Lowe family/Achilli haplotype as Border Bounty/Ejazzi and their descendents).
As we recounted a few issues ago, the mitochondria are essential to the production of aerobic energy, and that for optimal mitochondrial function the right nuclear dna needs to be present, thus there is an important relationship between the female line and the rest of the pedigree. In the case of Danzig and the horses from the family of Border Bounty, it is a question not of inheriting the mitochondrial dna from Danzig, but that there is a high likelihood that Danzig owned nuclear dna that combines well with the L3a1a family, which is why he’s proved to be such a positive influence with mares descending from Border Bounty.
When we look at the pedigree of Border Bounty with the L3a1a mitochondrial haplotype in mind, the return to form of the family begins to make more sense. Border Bounty’s third dam, Peradventure, is by Bosworth. He was by Son-in-Law (a horse who carried Donovan), and his granddam was Hyperion’s third dam, Gondolette. The interesting thing about Gondolette is that she is supposed to belong to the Bruce Lowe #6 family (which here should be Achilli mtDNA haplotype M2), but testing of the mtDNA of her descendents indicates that an error was made somewhere between Gondolette and her third dam, Fenella, and reveal that Gondolette and her descendents are a very similar haplotype – L3a1a – to Border Bounty. That of course means that Rockefella has a sire (Hyperion) and dam (Rockfel) from very similar L mtDNA haplotypes, so Border Bounty was by the son of a stallion whose own sire and dam, were from her own L haplotype, considerably increasing the chances that shown nuclear dna that was effective with her mtDNA.
Eljazzi is inbred 4×4 to Hyperion, and when we get to her classic winning daughter, Rafha, she has Rockefella 4×4. So perhaps it’s not surprising that when Rafha was bred to Green Desert, a son of Danzig, she came up with a horse like Invincible Spirit. A top-class sprinter, although he didn’t get his group one until taking the Haydock Sprint Cup at five, Invincible Spirit overcame relative modest initial books to establish himself as one of Europe’s top sires. To date he is sire of nearly 130 stakes winners, 62 group/graded winners, and 19 group or grade one winners, among them Kingman – now arguably Europe’s most exciting young sire – Charm Spirit, Magna Grecia, National Defence, Lawman, Fleeting Spirit, Mayson, Shalaa, Vale of York and Yosei and I Am Invincible.
Perhaps because of his accumulation of similar strains, Invincible Spirit and sons have withstood close inbreeding to Danzig, in fact he and four of his sons have group or grade one winners with Danzig inbreeding, with seven group or grade one winners out of Danzig line mares (notable as immediate sire line/broodmare sire line crosses tend to have disappointing results).
Australia has it’s own unique twist on the relationship between the Rockefella and the female line of Danzig. Champion Sire, Bletchingly just happens to be by a Hyperion line stallion, going back to the mare Faustina, another close relative to Rockfel/Steady Aim (and all from the same L3a1a) haplotype as Border Bounty, so from the same sire line and female line as Rockefella.
The Danzig/Bletchingly cross was a tremendously successful one – most notably producing Redoute’s Choice – and it was the cross of Invincible Spirit with a mare by Bletchingly son, Canny Lad (whose dam is by Lunchtime, in turn out of a mare by a son of Hyperion and from the L3a1a haplotype), that came up with another outstanding sire in I Am Invincible. He has the trifecta of the related Steady Aim (through Danzig), Rockfel (through Rockefella, her twice) and Faustina (Bletchingly), along with Border Bounty, a Rockefella granddaughter from the same L3a1a.
I Am Invincible never won at a higher than a grade three level, a feat he achieved in the SACJ D C McKay Stakes, but did also take second to Takeover Target in the SAJC Goodwood Handicap (G1) but from a modest initial stud fee quickly proved himself an exceptional sire. Interestingly enough ‘more of the same’ has proved a very successful recipe for him. His best son, Brazen Beau, is out of a mare who is a parallel Danzig/Bletchingly cross to I Am Invincible. Loving Gaby is out of a mare by Mastercraftsman, whose sire Danehill Dancer is a Danzig/Sharpen Up cross (and is in three other I Am Invincible stakes winnres), and Hellbent is out of a mare by Volksraad, a son of Green Desert. Oddly enough, Danehill Dancer, who has done particularly well with Invincible Spirit and I Am Invincible, owns a very similar pedigree to Invincible Spirit in important areas as he’s by a son of Danzig out of a Sharpen Up mare, and his female line, Lowe #22 is the L3a1a haplotype.
Invincible Spirit is not the only notable stallion son of Rafha, either, nor the only sire of sires. Her Danehill colt, Kodiac – a three-quarters brother to Invincible Spirit – was a smart and durable sprinter, winning four of 20 starts, but never reached anywhere near the standard of Invincible Spirit as a runner, earning just one black-type place, when second in the Hackwood Stakes (G3) as a five-year-old.
An apparently marginal stallion prospect when he retired, Kodiac rapidly climbed the ladder, and the now 19-year-old is not only the world-record holder for individual two year-old winners, but is a repeat European Champion Sire of Two-Year-Olds. He’s sired 60 stakes winners, 28 group or graded, and five group or grade one, including Best Solution, who scored at the highest level in Australia and Europe, the Cheveley Park Stakes (G1) heroines Fairyland and Tiggy Wiggy (out of a mare by Green Desert son Kheleyf and inbred 3×4 to Danzig and 3×4 to Kris), and Hello Youmzain, a two-time group winning sprinter. Hello Youmzain will be at stud in 2021, and there are at least eight other sons of Kodiac in the early stages of their careers. Three of them, Prince of Lir, Coulsty and Kodi Bear have already sired stakes winners with their first crop of two-year-olds in 2020. Two of them were represented by Royal Ascot juvenile scorers.
Prince of Lir as sire of The Lir Jet, who took the Norfolk Stakes (G2) and Coulsty as sire of Santosha, successful in the Princess Margaret Stakes (G3). At this stage it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to find that The Lir Jet is out of a Green Desert mare, and has Danzig 4x3x5 and Kris 4×5, and Santosha is out of a mare by Danzig line sire, Zoffany.
To finish on a timely footnote, on the day which we completed this article, Kodiac’s undefeated daughter, Campanelle, stamped herself as Europe’s top juvenile filly defeating Kodiac’s Coventry Stakes (G2) winner Nando Parrado, to give their sire a 1-2 in the Prix Morny (G1), adding a second group win to that achieved in the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot on her previous start. Campanelle is out of a mare by Namid, but her second dam, Lady Dominatrix, is a group winning daughter of Danehill Dancer out of a mare by a son of Kris, meaning that Campanelle is 2×4 to Danehill, 3×5 to Kris, and 4x5x6 to Sharpen Up.