By Alan Porter
The most thrilling finish to a major stakes in the U.S. during the July 16 weekend came in the American Oaks (gr. IT). Little more than a length separated five of the six-horse field as Cambina dead-heated with Nereid, the duo crossing the line just a pair of heads in front of third and fourth (VIDEO).
The two principals arrived at the wire from opposite ends of the field, the late-charging Cambina overcoming interference in the stretch to join long-time leader Nereid in the final stride. The fillies also have rather different backgrounds: Cambina, a battle-hardened graded stakes winner, started her career in Europe, and Nereid was running for just the fourth time and making her stakes debut.
Racing in Ireland last year, Cambina didn’t appear any better than useful. She started five times, winning a maiden and a nursery (a 2-year-old handicap) over a mile at Killarney and ending her European career with a second in the Flame of Tara Stakes at the Curragh. In the U.S. she made her debut January 22 in the Sweet Life Stakes over 6½ furlongs at Santa Anita, finishing unplaced. However, just a month later and over the same course and distance, in the La Habra Stakes (gr. IIIT), a dramatic late surge saw Cambina gain her first stakes triumph. She followed up by adding the one-mile China Doll Stakes and the nine-furlong Providencia Stakes (gr. IIT), and on her only other starts this year she added thirds in the Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT) and Honemoon Handicap (gr. IIT).
Cambina is a daughter of the Woodman stallion Hawk Wing, a horse who at times appeared as if he might be a superstar, but ultimately proved something of an enigma. Racing in Ireland at 2, Hawk Wing captured three of four starts, including the King of Kings Futurity Stakes (Ire-II) and Aga Khan Studs National Stakes (Ire-I), his only defeat coming when second to stable companion Rock of Gibralter in the Anheuser-Busch Railway Stakes (Ire-III). First time out at 3, Hawk Wing was beaten a neck in the Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I)—a 22-runner cavalry charge over a straight mile at—most commentators feeling that Hawk Wing, forced to race on the unfavorable side of the course, was an unfortunate loser. In the Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I), Hawk Wing started favorite but again found another Ballydoyle stable companion too good on the day, going down by two lengths to High Chaparral, with subsequent Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) victor Moon Ballad a dozen lengths back in third. Brought back two furlongs to the 1¼ miles of the Coral Eurobet Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I), Hawk Wing scored comfortably from yet another stablemate, the Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I) second Sholokhov. Hawk Wing made three more starts at 3, missing by a short-head in the Ireland the Food Island Champion Stakes (Ire-I), taking second in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes II (Eng-I), and finishing unplaced in Volponi’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). First time out at 4, Hawk Wing produced a Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) performance that on paper was off the charts, scoring by 11 lengths from Where Or When with group I winner Olden Times 19 lengths away in third and other group I scorers Domedriver and Reel Buddy ever further behind. A month later, Hawk Wing started as odds-on favourite for the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot but finished unplaced, pulling up lame, and subsequently was retired to stud.
A good-looking individual who was a group I winner at 2, 3, and 4, and with a top-class pedigree that carried just one distant strain of Northern Dancer, Hawk Wing looked to have great prospects as a sire. Unfortunately, this potential was not realized, and having sired only 20 stakes winners from 709 foals in his first five crops, Hawk Wing is now standing at stud in Korea. Cambina would probably qualify as his best runner, although an Irish-bred son, Stand To Gain, did capture the Schweppes Sydney Cup (Aus-I) in April.
Cambina is out of Await, an unraced daughter of the brilliant Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (both Fr-I) winner Peintre Celebre. Await is half-sister to another Irish-bred U.S. black type winner, Lightning Hit, who took the Oceanside Stakes, and to Prix Daphnis (Fr-III) third Blasket Island. The second dam, Starring Roll (by the Northern Dancer horse Glenstal) was also unraced, but was a half sister to English group-winning sprinter Title Roll and Irish listed scorer Northern Express (both also by sons of Northern Dancer, Tate Gallery and Northern Express, respectively). Another Northern Dancer-line half sister to Starring Role, Juno Madonna (by Tate Gallery’s brother, Sadler’s Wells), is dam of group winner Regime and of stakes-winning and group-placed Salut d’Amour, and granddam of Jacqueline Quest (by Hawk Wing’s old foe, Rock of Gibraltar), who was disqualified to second after being first past the post in last year’s Stanjames.com One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I).
Cambina is TrueNicks-rated A+ on the basis of the cross of Hawk Wing with mares by Nureyev and his sons. This nick has produced three stakes winners from 37 starters (8.1%), as opposed to the 1.5% stakes winners sired by Hawk Wing out of all other mares. The mating also combines Hawk Wing’s grandsire, Mr. Prospector, with the similarly-bred Raise a Native son Alydar (broodmare sire of Peintre Celebre), and this pair now appear together in more than 45 group or grade I winners.
Nereid comes from the second crop of her sire, Rock Hard Ten, and is the first grade I winner for that horse. An imposing son of Kris S., Rock Hard Ten has some career parallels with Hawk Wing: He was a classic-placed grade I winner at 3 and had a potentially brilliant season terminated by injury at 4. Unraced at 2, Rock Hard Ten took the Swaps Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) and Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at 3, and also finished second in Smarty Jones’ Preakness and third in the Santa Anita Derby (both gr. I). At 4, Rock Hard Ten started only three times, but captured the Strub Stakes (gr. II), Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I)—over a field that included Saint Liam, Island Fashion, Borrego, Congrats , and Grand Reward—and the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II).
Nereid is the first stakes winner from Rock Hard Ten’s second crop, but the first crop, now 4, has already been represented by five stakes winners, including grade II scorer Doubles Partner and group/grade III winners Long Lashes, Krypton, and The Mailet. Another current Rock Hard Ten 3-year-old, Alienation, was third in the Prioress Stakes (gr. I) earlier this month and was runner-up in the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at 2.
Nereid is out of the Belong to Me mare Dowry, a winner of four races at 4 and 5 for $105,385 lifetime earnings. Out of the Dixieland Band daughter Sea Jamie Win, Dowry is a half sister to stakes winners Malibu Win and The Herc. Windansea, the dam of Sea Jamie Win, captured the Davona Dale Stakes and earned graded black type with a second in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. III). To Belong to Me, Windansea produce Dowry’s close relative, the Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III) victress Belong to Sea, and she is also dam of stakes winners Truman C. and Power Train. Windansea is herself a half sister to Sing and Swing (by Dixieland Band, sire of Nereid’s second dam), a multiple stakes winner and dam of graded scorer S. S. Stone, and is out of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. II) heroine Sun and Snow.
Nereid (TrueNicks A++) follows English group III scorer Long Lashes as the second stakes winner from eight starters by Rock Hard Ten out mares by Danzig and his sons and grandsons. Both Nereid and Long Lashes also have a double of Rock Hard Ten’s broodmare sire, Mr. Prospector, something found in four of his six stakes winners. The pedigree is also interesting for carrying both Roberto and Dixieland Band, who have some pedigree similarities in the distaff side of the pedigree, and combine in at least 23 stakes winners, including grade I scorers Sharp Lisa, Brass Hat, and First Samurai .