The first Saturday in May is a red-letter day on the American racing calendar – Derby Day. But it is also an important day in European racing as the European Classic season kicks off with the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket. This year’s Guineas, sponsored by Stanjames.com, was won by Christopher Tsui’s Sea The Stars (IRE) and was quite as memorable for the connections of the winner as for the winner himself.
Bred in Ireland by Sunderland Holdings, Sea The Stars is a son of Cape Cross (IRE). Best known in the United States as the sire of the remarkable mare Ouija Board (GB), a multiple champion in Europe and the United States, Cape Cross has so far sired 51 stakes winners from the 919 foals of his first six crops of racing age.
A top-class miler during his own racing days, Cape Cross has been able both to transmit speed and to blend successfully with more stamina-oriented mates. This reflects his own pedigree, as his dam, 1984 English and Irish champion juvenile filly Park Appeal (IRE), is an Ahonoora (GB) half-sister to 1989 Irish champion 3-year-old filly Alydaress (by Alydar), winner of the Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks (Ire-I). Both fillies were produced from Balidaress (IRE), a mare whose own modest racing career tended more towards stamina than speed.
Cape Cross is a son of Green Desert, probably the most important son of Danzig after Danehill. A high-class sprinter by Danzig out of Foreign Courier, by Sir Ivor, he generally threw progeny reflecting his own proclivities. Nonetheless, like his son, he has sired offspring capable of stretching out to longer distances, among them Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) winner Heat Haze (GB) and Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT) winner White Heart (GB). To date, The Jockey Club records credit Green Desert (who at the age of 26 is still active at Nunnery Stud in England) with having sired 87 stakes winners, including at least 17 champions or highweights, from 1,105 foals of racing age.
While the sire’s half of his pedigree is inclined towards speed, Sea The Stars has a proven source of stamina in his dam, 1993 CIGA Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Urban Sea. A daughter of the good Mr. Prospector stallion Miswaki, Urban Sea died March 2, but not before having proved herself even better as a broodmare than as a racemare.
Urban Sea kicked off her broodmare career with the 1996 Bering (GB) colt Urban Ocean (FR), a group III winner and highweight at 3 in Ireland. Her second foal, Melikah (IRE) (by Lammtarra) was of comparable merit, winning the listed R.L. Davison Pretty Polly Stakes in England and placing in both the Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks and the Vodafone Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) as a 3-year-old in 2000.
But it was Urban Sea’s third foal, Galileo (IRE) (by Sadler’s Wells), that stamped her as a truly exceptional broodmare. The European champion 3-year-old male of 2001, Galileo won the Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I), the Budweiser Irish Derby (Ire-I), and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) on his way to the title. His achievements lifted his dam to the title of 2001 Broodmare of the Year in both England and Ireland. Since his retirement, Galileo has established himself as one of the leading young sires in Europe, furthering his dam’s prestige.
But Urban Sea wasn’t resting on her laurels following Galileo. Her next foal, Galileo’s full brother Black Sam Bellamy (IRE), won the 2002 Gran Premio del Jockey Club (Ity-I) and the 2003 Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) and was an Italian highweight at 3. Another full brother, Atticus (IRE), never raced, but Urban Sea got back on track with her 2001 foal, All Too Beautiful (IRE). A full sister to Galileo and Black Sam Bellamy, All Too Beautiful won the 2005 Totepool Middleton Stakes (Eng-III) after having run second in the previous year’s Oaks.
Urban Sea’s best representative in the United States has been her 2002 filly by Giant's Causeway , My Typhoon (IRE). A grade II winner at 3 and 4, My Typhoon crowned her career by winning the 2007 Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at 5.
Sea The Stars is the fourth grade or group I winner for Urban Sea, who joins Dahlia, Fall Aspen, Toussaud, and Hasili (IRE) as the only Northern Hemisphere matrons to produce four or more winners at racing’s highest level. Hasili has five such winners, and Urban Sea still has a chance of reaching that level through her 2009 Invincible Spirit (IRE) colt, which was placed on a nurse mare following her death.
A half sister to 2000 Sagitta Two Thousand Guineas winner King’s Best (by Kingmambo), Urban Sea is out of Allegretta (GB). Though English-bred, Allegretta has a stout German pedigree as she is by two-time German Horse of the Year Lombard (GER) and from the family of Asterblute, a triple Classic winner in Germany in 1949. Urban Sea’s background thus repeats the pattern of speedy sire over more stamina-oriented female family seen in Sea The Stars and, to a lesser extent, in Cape Cross.
Sea The Stars has now been installed as the favorite for the Epsom Derby, and no wonder. Aside from his regal pedigree, which promises him every chance of staying out the 12 furlongs, he does not seem to require any particular type of ground to act, having won the Guineas on firm going and last year’s Juddmonte Beresford Stakes (Ire-II) on yielding turf. Such versatility, combined with the ability he has already shown, should stand him in good stead in England’s most demanding test for 3-year-olds.