Anne M. Eberhardt

Bernardini Making Headway Down Under

Multiple group I winner Boban is from his first Australian crop.

Given that all of Australia's major racing takes place on turf, and that its most prized assets are speed and precocity, Bernardini —for all his merits—seemed a somewhat idiosyncratic choice of stallion to shuttle to Australia. Raced solely on dirt, Bernardini didn't start at age 2, and he scored his most prestigious victories in the Preakness Stakes, Travers Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup (all gr. I), which are respectively contested at 9 1/2, 10, and 10 furlongs. We can also add the previously negligible impact of the A.P. Indy/Seattle Slew sire line in that part of the world (we can trace just three Australian-sired group I winners from the Seattle Slew male line: two by Air de France, a turf-raced son of Seattle Slew and the great mare Allez France, and one by Nine Carat, a son of Slew O'Gold who had done his best work on grass in France).

It seems, however, that Australian mares are revealing a different aspect of Bernardini, and his first crop has produced not only multiple group I winner Boban, but also four-time group scorer Toydini and stakes winners Meidung and Solemn. His second crop, which only turned 3 a couple of months ago, has already produced Ruud Awakening, who took the six-furlong Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes (NZ-I) in New Zealand at 2, stakes winner Forever Discreet, and VRC Crown Oaks (Aus-I) runner-up Zanbagh.

Zanbagh's Oaks defeat was by just a head, and it was that scant margin that separated Bernardini from a headline-making double over the extended weekend, as only two days later Boban emerged on top in the Emirates Cantala Stakes (Aus-I). Boban was sharp enough to capture a minor black-type race at 2, but appeared not to make much progress at 3. However, since turning 4, being gelded, and transferring to trainer Chris Waller, Boban has been a revelation. Successful in a 6 1/2-furlong handicap at Rosehill on Aug. 31, Boban gained his first group triumph three weeks later in the Bill Ritchie Handicap (Aus-III). Just over two weeks later, Boban had his paternal half brother Toydini back in third when landing the one-mile Star Epsom Handicap (Aus-I). Back off another two-week break, the gelding landed the Sportingbet Moonga Stakes (Aus-III), and on Nov. 9 the Emirates Stakes became Boban's fifth straight victory. In doing so, Boban (who is named for a Croatian soccer great) became the first horse to complete the Epsom-Emirates double since Chanteclair in 1986, and he's now being mentioned by some local judges as perhaps the best horse in Australia.

Having already established his credentials as a sprinter/miler, his connections have suggested that Boban may eventually attempt to stretch out to 10 furlongs, and from a look at his pedigree he would appear to have a realistic expectation of getting that trip. We've already mentioned that his sire, Bernardini, was a classic winner who recorded two major victories at 10 furlongs, but Boban's dam, Kenbelle, was also a classic winner and was effective over even further than Bernardini. A daughter of the excellent French miler and very successful shuttle sire Kenmare, Kenbelle enjoyed her finest hour when taking the 12 1/2-furlong AJC Australian Oaks (Aus-I). She had also taken second in the Ansett Australia Stakes (Aus-I) over 10 furlongs on her previous outing and would subsequently demonstrate her versatility by dropping back to 7 1/2 furlongs to capture the Queen of the Turf Stakes (Aus-II). Prior to the appearance of Boban, Kenbelle had disappointed as a producer, and of 10 named foals—including sons and daughters of Danehill, Elusive Quality, and Grand Lodge—Boban is her only black-type winner.

A half sister to Todman Slipper Trial Stakes (Aus-II) captor Auranch, Kenbelle is out of Gilt Kingdom, a daughter of Tattenham (a son of seminal Australian influence Star Kingdom and a brother to outstanding sire Biscay). Neither Boban's third dam, Fair Profit, nor her fourth dam, Gilt Rose, produced a stakes winner, but Gilt Rose is a sister to the prolific black-type-winning sprinter/miler Cambridge Fair.

In direct female line, Boban goes back to White Folly, an English-bred daughter of Swynford who was very closely related to the great sire Blandford. Boban descends from White Folly's daughter Joy-Ride, and this branch of the family has had an earlier and highly-significant impact on racing and breeding in Australia and New Zealand through the great mare Eight Carat. She is a daughter of the English Eclipse and Champion Stakes winner Pieces of Eight, whose third dam, Grande Corniche, is sister to Point View, the seventh dam of Boban.

Boban is the first stakes winner bred on the cross of Seattle Slew line stallions with Kalamoun line mares, although the chances for the two strains to combine through top-class representatives have been very limited. The pedigree is an outcross at five generations, and although one could speculate regarding deeper connections, it's equally tempting to attribute Boban's success to the merit of his immediate parents.