With the pensioning of Green Desert, England's Nunnery Stud has come to the end of an era. Now 28, the venerable sire not only helped to establish the reputation of Danzig as a sire of sires but has founded a flourishing branch of Danzig’s line in Europe.
Foaled in 1983, Green Desert was from Danzig's second crop and was produced from the unraced Sir Ivor mare Foreign Courier, whose dam Courtly Dee was one of the best broodmares of the 20th century. A daughter of Never Bend from the War Admiral mare Tulle, Courtly Dee produced eight stakes winners from 18 foals. The best of them was 1983 champion juvenile filly Althea (by Alydar), who became an important broodmare in her own right. The dam of four stakes winners from five foals, including 1994 Japanese champion juvenile filly Yamanin Paradise, Althea is also the granddam of grade I winners Arch (a good sire at Claiborne Farm), Acoma, and Balletto.
Purchased by Darley Stud Management for $650,000 at the 1984 Keeneland September yearling sale, Green Desert proved quite useful as a juvenile, winning the Anglia Television July Stakes (Eng-III) and the Brian Smith Flying Childers Stakes (Eng-II). At 3, he matured into one of the best sprinters of 1986, winning the Norcros July Cup (Eng-I) and the Vernons Sprint Cup (Eng-II). He also ran second in the General Accident Two Thousand Guineas (Eng- I) and St. James's Palace Stakes (Eng- II) but was clearly a better horse at sprint distances than a mile.
Retired to stud in England, Green Desert wasted no time in establishing himself as a sire of speed. His first crop, foals of 1988, was headed by 1991 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Sheikh Albadou. A two-time group I winner in England and a divisional highweight over sprint distances in both England and France, Sheikh Albadou was not a stud success, but another member of Green Desert's first crop, group-placed Volksraad, became a champion sire in New Zealand. Group stakes-placed Desert Sun, also sent to New Zealand, was not nearly as consistent but deserves mention as sire of the magnificent Australasian champion Sunline, one of the greatest race mares of all time.
Owington, a member of Green Desert's fourth crop, was the 1993 German highweighted colt and a divisional highweight over sprint distances in England at 3 thanks to a win in the July Cup (Eng-I). Like Sheikh Albadou, he did not particularly distinguish himself at stud, and it was left to Cape Cross to become Green Desert's next important son at stud. A high-class miler who earned divisional highweight honors in the seven- to 9.5-furlong category as a 5-year-old in 1999, Cape Cross was Europe's champion sire of 2009. His leadership that year was due in no small part to the efforts of his son Sea the Stars, European Horse of the Year in 2009 and one of the few horses to earn a rating of 140 pounds from Timeform. Now at Gilltown Stud in Ireland, Sea the Stars will be a freshman sire of 2013. Cape Cross is also the sire of Ouija Board, a multiple champion in both Europe and the United States, and at least 69 other stakes winners as credited by The Jockey Club.
Like Sheikh Albadou and Owington, 1998 Hibernia Foods Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) winner Desert Prince has not lived up to expectations at stud, but Invincible Spirit has exceeded his. A divisional highweight in Ireland at 4 and the winner of the Stanley Leisure Sprint Cup (Eng-I) at 5, Invincible Spirit led the European freshman sire list of 2006 with 37 individual juvenile winners to his credit. The following year, his son Lawman won the Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-I), while 2009 saw his daughter Fleeting Spirit take honors as Europe's champion sprinter off a win in the Darley July Cup (Eng-I) and seconds in three other group I sprint events, and son Vale of York scored an upset Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) win. The following year, Invincible Spirit's daughter Hooray won the Adnams Cheveley Park Stakes (Eng-I) and was named Europe's champion juvenile filly.
Oasis Dream, the last of Green Desert's important sire sons, was foaled in 2000. The English champion juvenile male of 2002 and the European champion sprinter of 2003, he retired to stud with high expectations. His first crop, foals of 2005, contained German group I winner Lady Jane Digby, a divisional highweight in that country, and Tuscan Evening, a grade I winner in North America. Oddly, both waited until age 5 to reach their best form, and this later-maturing tendency appears to have continued with the stallion's other top runners. The best of all so far has been Midday, the English highweighted older mare of 2010 and a six-time grade/group I winner. To date, The Jockey Club credits Oasis Dream with 44 stakes winners.
Generally speaking, the Green Deserts have been sprinters and milers, though Cape Cross and Oasis Dream have both proven capable of siring 12-furlong runners at the top level in Europe. Whether classic-winning grandsons such as Sea The Stars and Lawman prove the dominant influences of the next generation or whether the line continues in the sprinter-miler mold represented by other group I-winning grandsons such as Aqlaam, Arcano, and Naaqoos remains to be seen, but it looks very likely that Green Desert's legacy will continue well into the 21st century.