Over the years we've learned that predicting sire success is a very tricky business, in particular guessing at what perceived negatives in a pedigree might or might not impact a stud career.
One example of a young sire who had many credentials but also a shadow of doubt is Mastercraftsman. There was no doubt that he had the race record. At 2 he earned a title as European champion after winning four of five starts, including the One 51 Railway Stakes (Ire-II), Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Ire-I), and Bank of Scotland National Stakes (Ire-I). If not quite as dominant at 3, Mastercraftsman was still mighty effective, taking the Boylesports.com Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I), St. James's Palace Stakes (Eng-I), and, stretching out from a mile to 11 furlongs, the Diamond Stakes (Ire-III). He also ran with credit in defeat, giving the mighty Sea The Stars a scare in the Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-I), going down by just a length in a near track-record time; finishing third to the same horse in the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I); and running fourth, beaten only 1 3/4 lengths, when switching surfaces for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).
As far as his direct sire line and female family was concerned, there was also little to impugn his stud credentials. Mastercraftsman is by Danehill Dancer, who has not only been one of Danehill's most successful stallion sons, but who had already been represented by a pair of group I sires in Choisir and Monsieur Bond. Mastercraftsman's dam, Starlight Dreams, had produced graded stakes-winning Genuine Devotion and would subsequently be represented by Mastercraftsman's group I-placed full sister Famous. Starlight Dreams is a granddaughter of the group-placed Ribot mare Tobira Celese, also dam of European highweighted older horse Celestial Storm and Ribblesdale Stakes (Eng-II) victress Thawakib, and granddam of European champion Sakhee and two-time grade I scorer River Memories.
If Mastercraftsman ticked many of the boxes requisite for stallion success, there was one that was left blank, or at least contained a question mark. From the standpoint of more than one breeder that we talked to, there was concern over Mastercraftsman's broodmare sire, Black Tie Affair. A champion older horse and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) hero, Black Tie Affair was, with the shining exception of Formal Gold, an almost complete disaster as a stallion. However, while Mastercraftsman may have inherited Black Tie Affair's gray coat color—which probably served as an unfortunate reminder of his presence—on early evidence it appears that the presence of that horse in his pedigree is going to prove no barrier to Mastercraftsman's impact as a sire.
Mastercraftsman was already making a very useful-looking start this year, but on Oct. 26 he leapt to the top of the freshman sire list following the victories of Craftsman in the JRA Killavullan Stakes (Ire-III) and Kingston Hill in the Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I). Mastercraftsman now has four black-type winners to his credit, the others being the Whiteley Clinic Prestige Stakes (Eng-III) winner Amazing Maria and Pablosky, successful in the Premio Alberto Giubilo in Rome. Mastercraftsman has also been represented by a trio of group-placed horses. (As an aside, we'll note that at this juncture Dunkirk, who currently heads the U.S. freshman sires, was also a classic performer with a question mark, in his case as a son of Unbridled's Song, who until recently had been a considerable disappointment as a sire of sires.)
The Racing Post Trophy, which Kingston Hill took by 4 1/2 lengths, was the colt's third victory in three starts; he had gained an earlier triumph with a two-length tally in the Autumn Stakes (Eng-III). On the score of pedigree, Kingston Hill is the odd man out among Mastercraftsman's stakes winners as, remarkably, he is the only one not out of a mare by a son of Storm Cat. Amazing Maria and Pablosky are the sire's only starters out of daughters of Tale of the Cat , and Craftsman is out of a mare by Forest Wildcat, a horse bred on a similar cross to Tale of the Cat. Perhaps the success of the cross is not entirely surprising, as Danehill Dancer sired group I winners Miss Beatrix and Planteur out of mares by sons of Storm Cat, and the same nick has also supplied a multiple grade II winner by Choisir.
Kingston Hill's dam, Audacieuse, is a daughter of Rainbow Quest. She was an accomplished runner, taking the Prix de Liancourt and the Prix de Flore (Fr-III), capturing the latter event by three lengths on her final outing. She's hitherto been less successful as a broodmare, and Kingston Hill is only her second winner and first black-type scorer, although she does also appear as granddam of Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) third St Barths. Audacieuse is a half sister to another smart 2-year-old in the shape of Oasis Dream gelding Waiter's Dream, winner of the Sportingbet.com Acomb Stakes (Eng-III), as well as to Lord Jim, a listed winner in Ireland and group-placed in Germany. Kingston Hill's granddam, Sarah Georgina, is a half sister to Danseuse du Soir, who took the Dubai Poule d'Essai des Pouliches-French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) and produced multiple group winners Scintillo and Jumbajukiba. Sarah Georgina is also a half sister to black-type scorers Dana Springs and Don Corleone and to group II-placed Danseuse du Nord (granddam of Danzon, a group winner in Europe and graded winner in the U.S.).
Both Sarah Georgiana and her dam, Dance by Night, have some notable inbreeding: Sarah Georgiana is 3x4 to the excellent runner Relko, who took an unusual version of a Triple Crown, featuring the French Two Thousand Guineas, French St. Leger, and English Derby, while Dance by Night has the sisters Savage Beauty (granddam of her sire, Northfields) and Little Sphinx (granddam of her broodmare sire, Dancer's Image) 3x4.
Kingston Hill is more of an outcross with the nearest ancestor common to both parents being the ubiquitous Northern Dancer, who is 5x5x5. He is TrueNicks-rated A++ on the basis on the Danehill Dancer/Rainbow Quest cross, which has also produced group winner Beatrice Aurore, stakes winner Hippy Hippy Shake, and group I-placed Oracle. The average winning distance for colts bred on this cross is 9.07 furlongs, but Kingston Hill, who is quoted among the favorites for both the Two Thousand Guineas and Epsom Derby (both Eng-I), should have a good shot at staying the 12 furlongs of the longer classic.