Pedigree Analysis - The King of Royal Ascot

(Originally from the June 29, 2013 issue of The Blood-Horse)

by John P. Sparkman

The late, great Danzig led the American sire list for three consecutive years from 1991-93, the longest sequence any other American sire has managed since Bold Ruler’s modern record seven-year-streak in the 1960s. During that three-year run Danzig’s son Pine Bluff won a Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Lure won two runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), and Danzig’s daughter Dance Smartly set a record for earnings by a female Thoroughbred.

Before Danzig ascended to the head of the American sire list, though, his sons Green Desert and Danehill had each won group I sprints in England and placed in the General Accident Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) before retiring to prestigious stud farms. And during his American reign Danzig’s brilliant son Dayjur earned sprint champion and Horse of the Year honors in England, Polish Patriot and Hamas won editions of the July Cup (Eng-I), and Zieten captured a Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I). As a result, most of the top runners from Danzig’s last 10 years or so at stud raced in Europe instead of America as deep-pocketed European-based buyers bought up all the best prospects by Danzig that appeared in American yearling auctions.

Danzig also proved himself a sire of sires, and his greatest influence has been abroad instead of in the country of his birth, and that influence has rarely been more evident than at the 2013 Royal Ascot meeting. Danzig’s male line descendants won 14 of the 30 races at Royal Ascot, led by the victory of his grandson Declaration of War   in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I).

Declaration of War’s opening salvo in the meeting’s first race was the first of two group race victories for one of the last great sire sons of Danzig, War Front  . Bred and raced by American financier Joe Allen out of grade II winner Starry Dreamer, by Rubiano, War Front was one of the best members of Danzig’s 21st crop of foals, born in 2002. War Front scored his most important victory at six furlongs, the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) and is widely viewed as a sprinter, but he certainly stayed at least a mile since he won the 11⁄16-mile Princelet Stakes at Belmont by eight lengths.

Not that much was expected of War Front when he retired to his birthplace Claiborne Farm in 2007, but his first few crops have created such a sensation that his stud fee has soared from $10,000 to $80,000 in only three years. War Front’s first three crops have included grade I winners The Factor  , Data Link  , and Summer Soiree, in addition to Declaration of War. War Front’s promising 2-year-old son War Command also ran away with Royal Ascot’s most prestigious 2-year-old event, the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II), later on opening day.

Danehill and Green Desert both claimed winning descendants at Royal Ascot. Nine of Danzig’s 14 winners descend in male line through his greatest sire son Danehill, including three apiece sired by the meet’s leading sires Dansili and Danehill Dancer. Two of Dansili’s three winners, Tercentenary Stakes (Eng-III) winner Remote and Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) winner Riposte were bred and owned by the breeder/owner of both Danehill and Dansili, Khalid Abdullah. Dansili’s third winner, Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) winner Thomas Chippendale, tragically collapsed and died of a heart attack shortly after crossing the finish line. Danehill Dancer scored a group II double with Duke of Cambridge Stakes winner Duntle and King Edward VII Stakes winner Hillstar and an additional listed winner Forgotten Voice.

Danehill’s short-lived son Mozart’s best sonDandy Man scored a first-crop victory in the listed Windsor Castle Stakes with Extortionist. Danehill’s champion son Rock of Gibraltar also had a listed-winning grandson at the meeting in Mount Nelson’s son Berkshire in the Chesham Stakes. Danehill’s Australian-bred son Exceed And Excel sired Royal Hunt Cup (not a black-type race) winner Belgian Bill.

Danzig’s son Green Desert’s best son Oasis Dream scored a Royal Ascot double with Jersey Stakes (Eng-III) winner Gale Force Ten and handicap winner Opinion, while Green Desert’s Cape Cross sired handicap winner Elidor.

For all of Danzig’s success at Royal Ascot, his male line accounted for only one of the seven group I winners, Declaration of War. Three other group I winners were also from the dominant Northern Dancer male line, however. Nureyev’s great-grandson Kyllachy provided opening day King’s Stand Stakes (Eng-I) winner Sole Power. Diamond Jubilee (Eng-I) winner Lethal Force is the first group I winner sired by Dark Angel, a good 2-year-old by the outstanding sprint sire Acclamation. Dark Angel is a fifth-generation male line descendant of Northern Dancer through El Gran Senor’s champion full brother Try My Best.

The Northern Dancer line’s most important Royal Ascot winner Dawn Approach descends from a far more conventional source. Dawn Approach, desperately narrow winner of the St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I), is from the sensational first crop of Galileo’s champion son New Approach. Galileo, of course, has led the English sire list four of the past five years and his sire, Northern Dancer’s son Sadler’s Wells led the same list a record 14 times. In fact, it was notable that Galileo himself failed to sire a winner at Royal Ascot.

The Mr. Prospector male line has been gradually expanding its influence in Europe, and his great-grandson Dubawi sired Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) winner Al Kazeem. The best son of Seeking the Gold’s short-lived best son Dubai Millennium, Dubawi has quickly established himself as perhaps the second-best sire to Galileo in Europe, with 62 stakes winners, including 13 group/grade I winners in his first four crops.

The Roberto branch of the Hail to Reason male line has never been well-established in Europe, but his late grandson Red Clubs has a genuinely top-class filly in Sky Lantern, who added the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) to her QIPCO One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) triumph. Rated Europe’s champion sprinter in 2007 when he won the Betfred Sprint Cup (Eng-I), Red Clubs was the best sprinter by Roberto’s son Red Ransom but died after only two seasons at stud.

Finally, the Ascot Gold Cup (Eng-I) was a triumph not only for Queen Elizabeth, but for the late, great German sire Monsun, whose daughter Estimate outstayed the colts to win Europe’s top long-distance marathon. Bred by the Aga Khan and presented to the Queen as an 80th birthday gift, Estimate is the 18th group I winner for Monsun, who is also sire of 2013 group I winners Silasol, Maxios, and Novellist.

Not surprisingly, there was no dominant female line at Royal Ascot this year. According to Bruce Lowe family numbers, 16 different female lines contributed winners at Royal Ascot, with the families numbered four providing four winners and 21 three winners. Bruce Lowe numbers refer to females too far removed from modern Thoroughbreds to have any real relevance, however, and the nearest common tail-female ancestress of more than one 2013 Royal Ascot winner was Ole Liz, the fifth dam of both Dawn Approach and Ascot Stakes winner Well Sharp, by Selkirk. A fast, precocious 1960s stakes winner by Double Jay, Ole Liz is tail-female ancestress of 2012 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) winner Aruna and dual Pattison Canadian International Stakes (Can-I) winner Joshua Tree.

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