German bloodlines have been around on the Anglo-Irish-French Classic scene ever since nine-time German leading sire Ticino (GER) and Rhea (GER) collaborated to produce 1958 Epsom Oaks heroine Bella Paola (FR). Bella Paola was followed by 1967 Oaks winner Pia, whose dam Peseta II (GER) was sired by six-time German leading sire Neckar (GER), and by 1985 Ever Ready Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Slip Anchor (GB), whose dam Sayonara (GER) came from a dam line that had distinguished itself in Germany since the days of Schwarzgold (GER), still regarded by many as the best racemare ever bred in Germany.
Such successes were too sporadic to cause widespread interest west of the Rhine in German horses as breeding stock. But several factors may be increasing interest in German Thoroughbreds in the twenty-first century. First is the ever-increasing saturation of Northern Dancer in the English-Irish-French Thoroughbred population, particularly via Sadler’s Wells and Danehill. Just as American breeders are considering South American stock as outcrosses to the dominant Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector bloodlines, European breeders are aware of the potential of German horses as outcrosses for their own stock. Generally having more in common with Italian and Eastern European breeding than with the Thoroughbred’s ancient cradles, German bloodlines are relatively free of the dominant Anglo-American lines but are rich with strains that are either fading or extinct elsewhere, such as the lines of Dark Ronald (GB) and Bahram.
Second, the heritage of the German Thoroughbred emphasizes staying power and soundness, both attractive qualities. Sprinters and juveniles draw relatively little attention in German racing, which is focused on middle-distance races for 3-year-olds and upwards, and the use of medication during his racing career will generally bar a stallion from standing in Germany, as will lack of a minimum level of racing performance. And the third factor bringing German Thoroughbreds to the attention of the rest of the world is sheer quality, which has become increasingly obvious in the last decade.
Consider: in 2001, Galileo (IRE), whose dam Urban Sea came from a female line prominent in German breeding since World War II, won the Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I). The following year, German-bred Kazzia (GER) won the Vodafone Epsom Oaks (Eng-I). The 2004 racing season saw Blue Canari (FR), a son of five-time German leading sire Acatenango (GER), victorious in the Prix du Jockey-Club (Fr-I). In 2005, Hurricane Run (IRE), out of the Surumu (GER) mare Hold On (GER), won the Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I) and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I). In 2007, Manduro (GER) topped Timeform’s ratings for Northern Hemisphere-based runners. And in 2009, no less than three horses with close German connections have come home first in major European Classics. One, of course, is Stanjames.com Two Thousand Guineas and Investec Epsom Derby (both Eng-I) hero Sea the Stars (IRE), a half-brother to Galileo. The others are Prix de Diane (Fr-I) victress Stacelita (FR) and Prix du Jockey Club winner Le Havre (IRE).
Like Bella Paola before her, Stacelita is the French-born produce of two German-bred parents. Her sire, Monsun (GER), was a two-time winner of Germany’s top all-aged race, the EMS Kurerpost Europa Preis (Ger-I), before beginning an equally distinguished career at stud. Four times the leading sire in Germany, he is also the sire of the aforementioned Manduro and is the sire of at least 78 stakes winners (15.5%) from his 502 foals of racing age according to The Jockey Club. As of this writing, 19-year-old Monsun remains active at Gestut Schlenderhan.
Stacelita also has a parallel to Slip Anchor in that she traces back to Schwarzgold in the direct female line. Her branch of Schwargold’s family has earned distinction in the United States and Ireland as well, for her fourth dam, the Jim French mare Southern Seas (GB), is the dam of 1989 U.S. champion turf male Steinlen (GB) and the granddam of 1996 Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I) winner Zagreb. Stacelita’s family has also earned previous distinction in France via Sagace (FR), French co-champion older male in 1985.
Irish-bred Le Havre gets his German connection through his dam, Marie Rheinberg (GER). Although she descends from a solid Anglo-French family, her sire Surako is a son of 1982 German Triple Crown winner Konigsstuhl (GER), the first horse ever to sweep the series. Three times the champion stallion in Germany, Konigsstuhl was sired by a similarly successful stallion in Dschingis Khan (GER), who led the German sire list in 1979 and 1981.
With the Irish Derby and Oaks (both Ire-I) yet to come, as well as the St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I) and its French and Irish counterparts, horses with German ancestry have already racked up an enviable record for the year. It seems safe to say that, in years to come, German bloodlines will continue to figure prominently in the Classic picture as European breeders continue to explore new sources of soundness and stamina.