Saoirse Abu: A Message in the Wind

Saoirse Abu: A Message in the Wind
Photo: Caroline Norris
Saoirse Abu

In the spring of 1976, Mr. Prospector’s first foals began to arrive. Among them was a pretty bay filly out of A Wind Is Rising, by Francis S. Two years later, the filly – now named It’s in the Air – sped off with the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr. II) and Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II) to claim a share of the U.S. juvenile filly championship. In 1979, It’s in the Air added four grade I races to her resume, including a defeat of champion sophomore filly Davona Dale in the Alabama Stakes, and eventually retired having won 16 of 43 starts for earnings of $892,339.

Last year, Finsceal Beo earned the crown of Europe’s champion juvenile filly with a win in the Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-I). This year, she narrowly missed a history-making Classic triple by winning the English and Irish editions of the One Thousand Guineas and missing by a head in the French equivalent, the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches – all group I events.

What do these two champion fillies have in common? Well, both share pedigree similarities with Saoirse Abu, who has become a legitimate contender for a Cartier Award as European champion juvenile filly with victories in the Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Ire-I) and the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-I). Like Finsceal Beo, Saoirse Abu is a daughter of Mr. Greeley out of a Northern Dancer-line mare. And Saoirse Abu shares sire and dam lines with It’s in the Air, for she is by a grandson of Mr. Prospector out of a granddaughter of A Wind Is Rising.

Mr. Greeley (Gone West–Long Legend, by Reviewer) may not be the most consistent of stallions – his 37 Northern Hemisphere stakes winners represent just a shade under 5% of his foals of racing age – but he has been able to come up with the “big horse” often enough to keep him a solid commodity in the commercial market. Besides Finsceal Beo and Saoirse Abu, he has sired grade/group I winners El Corredor  , Miss Kournikova (AUS), Reel Buddy, Celtic Melody, Nonsuch Bay, and Whywhywhy. The last-named horse, a freshman sire of 2007, got his first stakes winner August 31 when Nownownow came home first in the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga.

Mr. Greeley is certainly one of the best living sire sons of Gone West, himself one of Mr. Prospector’s best sire sons. A beautifully bred horse out of Secrettame, by Secretariat, Gone West is from the same family as 1980 Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) winner Known Fact. He has been a success throughout his career and is expected to remain in service at the age of 24 in 2008. Besides Mr. Greeley, he is the sire of 1992 English and French champion juvenile and 1993 French champion miler Zafonic, sire of 59 stakes winners prior to his death in 2002; world record-setting miler Elusive Quality  , sire of 29 Northern Hemisphere stakes winners including the brilliant Smarty Jones   and this year’s Ballerina Stakes (gr. I) winner, Maryfield; Zamindar, a group III-winning full brother to Zafonic, whose daughter Darjina (FR) defeated Finsceal Beo in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches; and Grand Slam, sire of 38 stakes winners including 2003 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Cajun Beat.

Given the successes already enjoyed by his sons, Gone West appears to be in the process of establishing his own branch of the Mr. Prospector male line. Further sons are just getting started: Proud Citizen  , a freshman sire of 2007, had his first stakes winner Aug. 25 when his daughter Proud Spell took the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park, while 2003 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I) winner Johar will have his first foals come to the races in 2008. Grandson Smarty Jones will also be a freshman sire of 2008.

Even before Saoirse Abu, the family of A Wind Is Rising had enjoyed success in Europe. Among the three stakes winners produced from It’s in the Air were the listed English stakes winner Monaassabaat (by Zilzal) and the Seattle Slew filly Bitooh (GB), winner of the 1987 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte (Fr-II). Morning Has Broken, a half-sister by Prince John to It’s in the Air, was not so successful, but her group stakes-placed daughter Morning Devotion (by Affirmed) proved a first-rate broodmare. Her progeny included Red Slippers, winner of the 1992 Cheveley Park Stud Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-II); champion Balanchine, winner of the 1994 Energizer Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) and Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I); and Romanov (IRE), winner of the 1997 Petros Rose of Lancaster Stakes (Eng-III) and 1998 Sagitta Jockey Club Stakes (Eng-II).

Out too Late, a half-sister to Morning Devotion by Future Storm, never raced and has produced no other runners of note; Saorise Abu is her third named foal, following foals by Unbridled's Song and Tiznow  , and she has a 2006 colt by Indian Charlie. Given the quality of her daughter, there is little doubt that Out too Late will continue to receive opportunities that will give her every chance of continuing a rising female family.

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