by Avalyn Hunter
By steering to a game victory in the Stanjamesuk.com Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), Mrs. John Magnier’s Henrythenavigator (named for a 50th Century Portuguese prince who established a school of navigation and sponsored several important exploratory voyages) has established a claim to a ranking among the top milers in Europe. It’s a familiar position for many of the horses in his pedigree, which reads like a formula for miler speed.
Bred in Kentucky by Western Bloodstock, Henrythenavigator is by Kingmambo, a three-time group I winner at a mile or its closest metric equivalent, 1600 meters. Among those victories were the classic Dubai Poule d’ Essai des Poulains against his own division and the Emirates Prix du Moulin de Longchamp against his elders. He retired having won five of his 13 starts, with four additional places and two shows.
Sent to Lane’s End, where he made his first season in 1994, Kingmambo rapidly developed a reputation as a top sire. His first crop contained Japanese Horse of the Year El Condor Pasa; his second featured 1999 Belmont Stakes winner and 2000 champion older male Lemon Drop Kid; and his third featured the European classic winners King’s Best (2000 Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I)) and Bluemamba (2000 Dubai Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (Fr-I)). Since then, he has continued in the same vein. To date, he has been credited with nine champions or divisional highweights, and he has sired 76 stakes winners worldwide from 799 foals of racing age (9.5%).
Somewhat surprisingly, Kingmambo has sired quite a few horses that stayed better than he himself did. As a son of the brilliantly fast Mr. Prospector out of the magnificent multiple champion Miesque (by Nureyev), herself winner of the 1987 General Accident One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and Dubai Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Kingmambo was certainly entitled to be a fleet miler and sire of milers. Yet the average winning distance for his progeny is 8.79 furlongs — longer than those of A.P. Indy (8.24 furlongs) and Dynaformer (8.56 furlongs), generally considered the best stamina sires in the American market. Not only has Kingmambo gotten several horses that could stay a mile and a half quite convincingly — the aforementioned El Condor Pasa and Lemon Drop Kid among them — but he has even gotten a winner of England’s longest Classic, the Betfair.com St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I), in Rule of Law. Thus, Kingmambo has had the versatility to get horses successful at the highest level of competition from a mile all the way up to about 14.5 furlongs.
Most of Kingmambo’s best progeny have raced in Europe, and average distances contested there are longer than in North America, partly accounting for the winning distances of the stallion’s progeny. But Kingmambo has also shown the happy ability to take advantage of stamina in his mates’ pedigrees, a prerequisite for milers that aspire to join the ranks of the world’s leading sires.
Henrythenavigator is the sixth group winner and third classic winner to be produced from the cross of Kingmambo to daughters of Sadler’s Wells (the others are Divine Proportions, winner of both France’s filly classics in 2005, and Virginia Waters, winner of the 2005 Ultimatepoker.com One Thousand Guineas). This is a cross that appears to play on the close genetic relationship between Nureyev (Northern Dancer–Special) and Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer–Fairy Bridge, by Bold Reason–Special). Crossing Nureyev over Sadler’s Wells has produced at least 21 graded/group stakes winners (including 10 grade/group I winners) worldwide and has been much superior to the reverse cross of Sadler’s Wells over Nureyev. Kingmambo and his sons have accounted for 10 of the graded/group stakes winners and six of the group I winners resulting from crossing Nureyev on the sire’s side over Sadler’s Wells mares.
Nureyev and Sadler’s Wells were both high-class milers in their own rights. The former, although disqualified from a win in the 1980 Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), was named that year’s French champion miler; the latter won the 1984 Airlie Coolmore Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) and won group I events at up to 20 furlongs.
Although best known as a sire of staying stock, Sadler’s Wells has been able to get runners that could win over shorter distances, and Henrythenavigator’s dam Sequoyah (IRE) is among them. Winner of the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-I) over seven furlongs, she is a full sister to Listen (IRE), winner of the 2007 Meon Valley Stud Fillies’ Mile Stakes (Eng-I). Previous to Henrythenavigator, she had already produced the colt’s group III-winning full sister Queen Cleopatra (IRE), third in the 2006 Boylesports Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I).
Generally speaking, the family of Sequoyah has been inclined towards producing speed. Sequoyah is out of the Irish River (FR) mare Brigid, whose stakes-winning full sister Or Vision is the dam of the high-class sprinter Dolphin Street (FR) (by Bluebird) and 1999 Entenmanns Irish Two Thousand Guineas winner Saffron Walden (FR) (by Sadler’s Wells), as well as 1999 E. P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) winner Insight (FR) (a full sister to Saffron Walden). The dam of Brigid and Or Vision, Luv Luvin’, is a stakes-placed daughter of Raise a Native out of the Bold Lad mare Ringing Bells, a half-sister to 1969 champion juvenile Silent Screen.
Not only does the pedigree of Henrythenavigator play off the Nureyev/Sadler’s Wells cross, but it contains another pairing of similarly-bred horses in Mr. Prospector and Luv Luvin’, both by Raise a Native out of Nasrullah-line mares with strains of Black Toney and Teddy in their backgrounds. Overall, Henrythenavigator has a rather high eight-generation coefficient of inbreeding at 5.4%. Statistically, higher than average levels of inbreeding tend to depress racing performance somewhat, but when a highly-inbred superior racehorse does emerge, such an animal is often more prepotent than usual in the breeding shed. Whether Henrythenavigator is a success at stud is, of course, a question for the future, but he is certainly a racing success in the here and now, and that is as much as can be asked at this point in his career.