If she is not the Zenyatta of South America, she’s the next best thing to it. Reigning Chilean Horse of the Year Belle Watling isn’t unbeaten, but she has staked a claim to the title of the best horse in South America with her determined victory in the Gran Premio Asociacion Latinoamericana de Jockey Clubes e Hipodromos (Chi-I), a race that brings the continent’s best horses together at weight-for-age as it rotates between the major tracks of South America’s racing nations.
While this year’s renewal was held on Belle Watling’s home ground, this should not diminish her dramatic victory, which saw the first four finishers separated by two heads and a half-length. The first racehorse of either sex to sweep Club Hipico de Santiago’s Quadruple Crown series, Belle Watling is also only the second filly or mare to win the Latinoamericano, following in the hoof prints of multiple Peruvian champion Madame Equis in 1999.
Racing in the colors of Stud Don Theo, Belle Watling was bred by Haras Matancilla and was sired by multiple English group II winner Dushyantor, a Sadler’s Wells half brother to English champion miler and successful sire Warning. Only modestly successful in Ireland, Dushyantor has fared much better in Chile, where he has led the general sire list for the last three years. He is one of several sons of Sadler’s Wells to have found success in the Southern Hemisphere, along with late-1990s South African leading sire Fort Wood; Crimson Tide; twice ranked among Brazil’s top 10 sires; and Scenic, who has ranked among the top 20 Australian sires for the past five years. The last-named stallion is closely related to Dushyantor as his dam, Idyllic (by Foolish Pleasure), is a half sister to Dushyantor’s dam, Slightly Dangerous (by Roberto).
A full sister to 2008 Chilean co-champion juvenile filly Scarlet, Belle Watling is out of Biala, a daughter of Kentucky-bred The Great Shark (by Storm Bird). Named Chile’s 2010 Broodmare of the Year on the strength of Belle Watling’s accomplishments (which also earned The Great Shark a title as Broodmare Sire of the Year), Biala is also the dam of Chilean group II winner Tigrita, a full sister to Belle Watling and Scarlet.
Biala was produced from Damasquera, whose sire Domineau was another Kentucky export. A son of Never Bend, Domineau led the Chilean sire list in 1988 and 1990. Damasquera, in turn, is out of Discografia, whose sire Damascus Silver, a graded-placed son of Damascus, was bred in Virginia.
Discografia’s dam Secuestrada is the first mare in the female lineage to be bred of purely South American lineage, as her sire Silver Moon III was an Argentine import who led the Chilean sire list in 1971 The female line is also Argentine in origin but was imported several generations further back, entering Chile via La Lune (Neapolis--Legere), a foal of 1894. A half sister to Picardia (by El Plata), whose Neapolis colt Pillito was a two-time winner of the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (Argentina’s top race for 3-year-olds and older), La Lune was sent to Chile in 1896.
Belle Watling represents a trend that has become notable over the last few decades: namely, the blending of Northern Hemisphere lines, and particularly those from North America, with female families that have been in South America for generations. Besides those already mentioned in Belle Watling’s family tree, other American-bred stallions to become champion sires south of the equator include Roy (Chile and Argentina), Roar (Argentina), Lode (Argentina), Roi Normand (Brazil), Mutakkdim (Argentina), Egg Toss (Argentina), Choctaw Ridge (Brazil), Hussonet (Chile), Stuka (Chile), and Southern Halo, who earned a record 10 sire championships in Argentina.
Belle Watling also represents the inescapable reach of Northern Dancer, who appears 3x4 in her pedigree. In addition, she bears the 5x5 cross to 1955 Kentucky Oaks winner Lalun through her sons Bold Reason (damsire of Sadler’s Wells) and Never Bend that has been seen in many of Sadler’s Wells’ best offspring. While the influence of a mare who contributed only a tiny portion of Belle Watling’s gene pool can certainly be questioned, it certainly hasn’t hurt; inbreeding to Lalun has accounted for 127 graded or group stakes winners to date, with the vast bulk of them coming from crossing the lines of Sadler’s Wells and Never Bend’s best son, Mill Reef. When inbreeding to a good ancestor comes through such high-quality sources, the results are pretty apt to be good.
Unfortunately, the queens of North and South American racing are unlikely to ever meet; even if Belle Watling should come to the United States for racing, Zenyatta will have retired to the paddocks before the Chilean filly could possibly acclimate. Nonetheless, Belle Watling has already carved out a unique place in Thoroughbred history for herself, and any further conquests can only add to her already impressive laurels.