Mathea Kelley

Excelebration Exceeds and Excels Sans Frankel

Irish-bred colt hasn't lost a race that didn't involve Frankel since his first start.

Sham might have been a champion if it hadn't been for Secretariat. Alydar was equally unfortunate, catching Affirmed as his nemesis. And now Excelebration can be added to the list of championship-caliber horses who had the misfortune to be foaled in the same crop as a still better runner.

Zero-and-5 against European superstar Frankel, Excelebration is now 8-and-1 in all his other starts; in fact, he hasn't lost a race that didn't involve Frankel since his first start as a green youngster. Winner of the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard—Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) at the expense of eight other group I winners in his most recent outing, Excelebration confirmed his place as the best European miler other than Frankel by sailing home three lengths to the good in the Qipco Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) after a less than ideal trip. He now has the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) in his sights, which, if not the same as a visit by Frankel himself, will at least give American racegoers a view of the kind of horse that Frankel has been making look ordinary.

Bred in Ireland by Owenstown Stud, Excelebration is the best horse sired to date by Exceed And Excel, a son of nine-time Australian champion sire Danehill who lived up to his name by capturing honors as Australia's champion sprinter in 2004. A shuttle stallion who has been dividing his time between Darley Kelvinside in Australia and Dalham Hall Stud in England, Exceed And Excel to date has sired 55 stakes winners from 990 foals of racing age. His best other than Excelebration is Helmet, a three-time group I winner in Australia in 2011.

Exceed And Excel is not the best of Danehill's sons at stud, but given the less than exceptional quality of his distaff pedigree, he has done well. A half brother to Australian stakes winner Enemy Of Average (by Fusaichi Pegasus ), Exceed And Excel is out of the American mare Patrona, a winning half sister to English group III winner Stylish Senor and two other stakes winners. Sired by 1983 Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) winner Lomond (a Northern Dancer half brother to Seattle Slew), Patrona was produced from 1979 Interborough Handicap (gr. III) winner Gladiolus, by the stakes-winning Citation horse Watch Your Step. Gladiolus, in turn, was produced from Back Britches, a winning daughter of 1961 dual classic winner and champion 3-year-old male Carry Back and a half sister to 1969 Vagrancy Handicap winner Grey Slacks (by Native Dancer). Tracing its descent to Mannie Himyar, a full sister to the brilliant racehorse and sire Domino, the line has continued to transmit speed. But the last important sire produced by a mare in Exceed And Excel's direct female line was Ariel, a good sire of juveniles and speedsters who was produced from Exceed And Excel's ninth dam Adana.

Excelebration himself was produced from Sun Shower, a mare bred for miler speed. Not only is she a daughter of Indian Ridge, a multiple group-winning sprinter in his own right and a notable sire of sprinters and milers, but she is out of Miss Kemble, a daughter of the English and French champion miler and good sire Warning. While unable to live up to her heritage on the course (she was twice placed in France), Sun Shower is also the dam of the group III-winning gelding Mull of Killough (by Mull of Kintyre).

Miss Kemble was unplaced in her lone start but was very well bred, being out of 1976 Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) and Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) winner Sarah Siddons (by the high-class miler Le Levanstell) and, thus, a half sister to 1984 Gilltown Stud Irish Oaks (Ire-I) winner Princess Pati (by Top Ville) and 1983 Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II) winner Seymour Hicks (by Ballymore). Sarah Siddons, in turn, was produced from 1971 Pretty Polly Stakes winner Mariel (by Relko), whose dam Ela Marita was a stakes-winning half sister to 1963 Irish champion 3-year-old male Ragusa.

As the property of Coolmore associates Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor, and Susan Magnier, Excelebration is sure to have a place in a Coolmore stallion barn at the end of his racing career; the only question is which one. On pedigree, he seems quite a solid prospect. While Exceed And Excel, is inbred 3x3 to Northern Dancer, he himself is an outcross and should be in a good position to benefit from the plethora of Sadler's Wells daughters and granddaughters in Europe if he is stationed there. (For what it is worth, Helmet is out of a Sadler's Wells-line mare.) He also has enough staying horses in his immediate family to suggest the ability to combine effectively with more stamina-oriented mates, always a plus for a miler. But in the meantime, he has at least one more dance on his dance card, and one more chance to shine away from the shadow of Frankel.