published: 15 Jul 2014 in Pedigree analysis

Federico Tesio, who many would regard as the greatest thoroughbred breeder of all time, once famously stated that 'the thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby. If you base your criteria on anything else, you will get something else, not the thoroughbred.'

IF one follows the logic of this statement, then surely the ultimate classic mating should be between a winner of the English Derby and the female equivalent, the English Oaks. The existence of such a horse has been a possibility since the early 1780s, but in more than 230 runnings, prior to 2014, a horse by the first home in the English Derby and out of a mare who was first home in the English Oaks had never won a Derby at Epsom (although we can note that Lammtarra, the 1995 Derby hero was by Nijinsky II out of Snow Bride, who was second home in the 1989 Oaks, but who was subsequently awarded the race when the first home Aliysa, was disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance).

A 525,000 guineas yearling, the history making horse Australia didn’t look overly expensive at the time, on the basis of his Derby winner/Oaks winner pedigree. He’s had the reputation of being a coming star for some time, and even potentially the best to come out of Ballydoyle in the Aidan O’Brien era. He’s not only by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, but his parents are actually two of the most distinguished winners of those races. 

A son of Galileo, the Sadler’s Wells stallion who most would acknowledge as the world’s leading sire, and an English Derby winner who has sired two previous English Derby winners, Australia is out of the globe-trotting Ouija Board. Heroine of the English Oaks in 2004, Ouija Board was the European Horse of the Year in 2004 and 2006, and Champion US Turf Mare in both of those years. She captured seven Gr.1 events, including the English and Irish Oaks, two renewals of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase. Prior to Australia, she produced the MRC Easter Cup-Gr.3 (Our) Voodoo Prince to Kingmambo who has been in fine form since being sold to race in Australia.

Ouija Board is by the Green Desert son and former shuttler Cape Cross. Her dam, Selection Board (by Welsh Pageant), is a sister to another horse with form in several different countries in the shape of gelded Teleprompter, whose credits included the Arlington Million-Gr.1 and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes-Gr.2. Selection Board is also half-sister to Rosia Bay, dam of Ibn Bey (a Group winner in five different countries, include the Irish St Leger-Gr.1, Gran Premio d’Italia-Gr.1, Europa Preis-Gr.1 and Grosser Preis der Berliner Bank-Gr.1 and Roseate Tern, winner of the Yorkshire Oaks-Gr.1, runner-up in the English Oaks and third in the St Leger-Gr.1.

There are a number of other major winners under the third dam, Ouija (by Lunchtime’s sire, Silly Season), including Gr.1 winner Red Bloom, and Group winners Chatoyant, Moiquen and Mabadi. Ouija Board’s fourth dam Gradisca (Goya), is also dam of the French Oaks heroine Tahiti, and third dam of the great Australian runner Kingston Town. We should also note that Australia is bred by the Stanley Estate and Stud Co, Stanley being the family name of the Earls of Derby, the 12th of whom gave the Epsom classic its name.

The Earls of Derby have a long history on the turf, but the family has not been represented as the breeder of a winner of the eponymous classic at Epsom since Hyperion scored in 1933 (although Watling Street took a wartime Derby in 1942), both being bred by the 17th Earl, the grandfather of the current Earl, the 19th holder of the title.

The day before Australia’s triumph, another Aidan O’Brien-trained Galileo offspring Marvellous had started favorite for the Oaks. She could do no better than sixth as the lightly raced Taghrooda took her record to three wins in three starts with an impressive 3.75 length triumph.

Taghrooda is a member of the first crop of her sire Sea The Stars, a half-brother to Galileo, both out of Urban Sea (by Miswaki), an upset Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-Gr.1 heroine, who subsequently proved to be a remarkable producer. An exceptional runner, he reigned briefly as European “Horse of the Century” until Frankel came along two crops later. Sea The Stars finished fourth on his debut at two, but was undefeated in eight subsequent starts, his victories including the 2000 Guineas-Gr.1, English Derby-Gr.1, Eclipse Stakes-Gr.1, Juddmonte International Stakes-Gr.1, Irish Champion Stakes-Gr.1 and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-Gr.1.

Sea The Stars, who is by Cape Cross the broodmare sire of Australia, made a relatively quiet start with his first two year-olds in 2013, although the “vibes” remained plenty positive. In this case the rumours proved well founded and Sea The Stars is now represented by six stakes winners, Taghrooda, being joined as a Group scorer by Vazira, My Titania and Afternoon Sunlight.

The classic victories by half-brothers made another piece of history. As one might imagine, it’s rather rare for a mare in a major racing jurisdiction to throw Derby-winning brother or half-brothers. It’s probably even more rare for both siblings to go on to sire classic winners themselves, and given that, it must be unusual indeed for the pair to get classic winners in the same season. As far as the English Derby and Oaks are concerned, it appears that prior to this weekend, one has to go back to 1866, when Lord Lyon, by “The Emperor of Stallions” Stockwell, took the Derby on his way to the becoming the third winner of the English Triple Crown, and Tormentor, by Stockwell’s half-brother King Tom, captured the Oaks, to find the offspring of siblings completing the Derby/Oaks double in the same year.

Taghrooda’s dam Ezima is the product of an oft-tried and highly successful cross, as she’s by Sadler’s Wells out of a mare by Darshaan. Ezima did her bit for the nick’s statistics winning three Irish Listed races at up to 14f. Ezima is very closely related to an even better product of the Sadler’s Wells/Darshaan cross, in the Irish Oaks-Gr.1 and Grand Prix de Paris-Gr.1 heroine Ebadiyla, who is out of Ebaziya, a sister to Ezima’s dam Ezilla.

Ebaziya is dam of two other very good performers in Enzeli and Estimate, who both recorded success in England’s premier stamina contest, the 20f Ascot Gold Cup-Gr.1. Ezilla was bred by Park Place International, but she has a strong Aga Khan/Marcel Boussac background, as not only was her sire Darshaan, bred by His Highness from a Boussac family, but Ezilla’s dam Ezana, was also bred by the Aga Khan out of Evisa, a half-sister to Darshaan’s third dam Marilla. This is a branch of Boussac’s most famous family, that of Frizette, also eventually ancestress of Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew.

Given that Sea The Stars is a half-brother to Galileo, it is no surprise that he’s been tried quite frequently with mares by Galileo’s sire Sadler’s Wells. In fact there are 19 foals of racing age on the cross, seven have started with Taghrooda, being the only black type performer to date.

Observant readers will have noted by now the remarkable similarity in the pedigrees of Taghrooda and Australia, one by Sea The Stars, a Cape Cross half-brother to Galileo, out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, and the other by Galileo, a Sadler’s Wells half-brother to Sea The Stars, out of a daughter of Cape Cross.

French classics IN recent years, there have been a number of French stallions who, either on the basis of pedigree or racetrack performance, didn’t exactly shape as top commercial prospects when they retired to stud, but have proved to be smart or better stallions. Now, to examples such as Linamix, Chichicastenango, Muhtathir and Kendargent, we might soon be adding the name of Le Havre, who is represented by the French 1000 Guineas-Gr.1 and Oaks-Gr.1 winner Avenir Certain with his first crop of three year-olds.

There was nothing too much to knock about Le Havre’s race record. He won four of six starts, and on his last two outings finished second in the French 2000 Guineas and the scored a decisive victory in the French Derby. Le Havre’s pedigree is less imposing. His sire Noverre, a Rahy three-quarter brother to the brilliant juvenile Arazi, was a good two year-old and miler, winning the Sussex Stakes-Gr.1 and Champagne Stakes-Gr.2, but made a generally disappointing start, and was exported from Ireland to India, where he died young.

Le Havre’s dam Marie Rheinberg is by the relatively rarely seen Surako, a Gr.3 winner who also finished second in the German Derby-Gr.1 and who is by one great German sire Konigsstuhl and out of a half-sister to another in Surumu. On a brighter tack, we can note that Marie Rheinberg is half-sister to Polar Falcon, the sire of Pivotal.

Avenir Certain’s dam, Puggy (by Mark of Esteem), was Group placed in England and Scandinavia. She is out of Jakarta, a Machiavellian mare who is half-sister to Blue Monday (by Mark of Esteem’s sire Darshaan), a talented middle distance runner who won four Gr.3 events in England and France, and was also three time Gr.1 placed at around a 10f. Blue Monday’s brother Lundy’s Lane never won a black type event, but was third in the Italian Derby-Gr.1. Third dam Lunda is half-sister to several smart runners, including Warrsan, who took two renewals of the Coronation Cup-Gr.1; Italian Derby-Gr.1 winner Luso; Needle Gun, a multiple Group winner who was second in the Italian Derby-Gr.1; and Cloud Castle, who won the Nell Gwyn Stakes-Gr.3 and who was second in the Prix Vermeille-Gr.1.

Le Havre’s connections supported him extensively, and it appears their confidence is being repaid, as the young sire already has three stakes winners in his first crop, as well as two other stakes placed horses. Le Havre’s own pedigree is very much an outcross one, as far as Avenir Certain’s pedigree is concerned he may have benefitted from a mare who gives some closer inbreeding as we find the three-quarter sister and brother Danseur Fabuleux (dam of Noverre) and Ajdal (broodmare sire of Mark of Esteem) 3x4 in the pedigree, and in both cases combined with line breeding to Halo. This doesn’t appear to be an accident, as one of his stakes placed runners, Suedois, is out of a mare by Rahy’s half-brother Singspiel, with a second dam by Mark of Esteem (and he also has a stakes winner out of a mare by Singspiel’s sire, In the Wings).

The French Derby-Gr.1 also went to the offspring of a stallion with first crop three year-olds. This was The Grey Gatsby, by Mastercraftsman. A son of Danehill Dancer, Mastercraftsman earned a title as European Champion Two Year-Old following victories in the National Stakes-Gr.1, Phoenix Stakes-Gr.1 and Railway Stakes-Gr.1. If he wasn’t as dominant at three, he can be excused on the grounds of being a member of the same crop as Sea The Stars, and he proved he’d more than trained on by taking the Irish 2000 Guineas-Gr.1, St. James’s Palace Stakes-Gr.1 and Diamond Stakes-Gr.1, bustling up Sea The Stars in the Juddmonte International-Gr.1 and taking third to the same horse in the Irish Champion Stakes-Gr.1.

The Leading European Freshman Sire of 2013, Mastercraftsman (ex Starlight Dreams by Black Tie Affair), who shuttles to NZ, already has seven first crop stakes winners to his credit, and in addition to The Grey Gatsby, they also include Kingston Hill, who took last year’s Racing Post Trophy-Gr.1 and this term ran a very strong second to Australia in the English Derby, and other Group scorers Vague Nouvelle, successful in the Italian 1000 Guineas-Gr.3, Amazing Maria and Craftsman.

Useful at two, when he won a maiden and took second in the Acomb Stakes-Gr.3 and Champagne Stakes-Gr.2, The Grey Gatsby took second in the Craven Stakes-Gr.3 first time up at three, but found the mile of the 2000 Guineas-Gr.1 too sharp and was 10th of 14, although only six lengths back of the winner Night of Thunder. He performed much better when moved up to 10f, to capture the Dante Stakes-Gr.2, and in the 10.5f French Derby, he confirmed his progress, quickening clear to score by three lengths.

In so doing, he also gave his sire a measure of compensation for ills suffered at the hooves of Sea The Stars, whose son Shamkiyr, filled the runner-up spot, and who otherwise would have had an English Oaks/French Derby double with his first crop. The Grey Gatsby is out of French stakes placed Marie Vision, a daughter of Entrepreneur, a Sadler’s Wells son who took the 2000 Guineas-Gr.1, but turned out to be a very disappointing sire. The second dam Metisse is by Kingmambo out of the Prix de la Salamandre-Gr.1 winner Maximova, and is a three-quarters sister to Macoumba, heroine of the Prix Marcel Boussac-Gr.1, but now more relevant as the dam of the very successful US sire, Malibu Moon. Metisse is also half-sister to Septieme Ciel, whose successes included the Prix de la Foret-Gr.1, to Group winner Maxigroom and to stakes winner Balchaia, and Manureva (dam of the Atto Mile-Gr.1 captor Riviera).

The Grey Gatsby’s fourth dam is a half-sister to Nonoalco, winner of the 2000 Guineas-Gr.1, and probably best remembered in Australia as sire of the successful stallion Noalcoholic. The Grey Gatsby is one of at least 25 stakes winners by Danehill Dancer line stallions out of Sadler’s Wells line mares (the latest addition being the Coventry Stakes-Gr.2-winning two year-old The Wow Signal, a son of Starspangledbanner). The sire and dam are both Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector (by Raise a Native) crosses and the broodmare sire Entrepreneur, who is out of a mare by Exclusive Native is also a Northern Dancer/Raise a Native cross.