Prior to the start of the 2017 Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks, G1), the Niarchos family's Senga wasn't exactly sure she wanted any part of the starting gate.
Testing the riding skills of her jockey, Stephane Pasquier, and the patience of the gate crew, the filly put on quite a rodeo of her own before she was blindfolded and loaded with 15 other sophomore fillies.
With the loading antics behind her and 10 1/2 furlongs of Chantilly turf in front of her, Senga settled near the rear of the field. Haya of Fortune (Soldier Of Fortune) fired the opening salvo for the first two furlongs, before she engaged with Normandie (Redoute's Choice) in a frontrunning exchange.
Two furlongs from the finish, the earnestness of the moment set in, and as the leaders began to fade, the momentum shifted to those making their way from behind. Senga began her challenge from 10th place with three furlongs left. With the finish line in view, the Pascal Bary trainee made a strong move that put her quickly in front.
Also making her bid, Sistercharlie (Myboycharlie) had a backseat trip through most of the race and fended off traffic trouble caused when Onthemoonagain (Cape Cross) clipped heels, fell, and dropped her jockey.
None could muster enough to challenge Senga, however, as the bay, blaze-faced filly passed the finish a length ahead of Sistercharlie, who nosed out Terrakova. Juddmonte's Shutter Speed (Dansili), in contention late, faded to fourth.
Senga's Prix de Diane victory was the fourth for the Niarchos family, and all were accomplished by Kentucky-breds. Stavros Niarchos first won the French Oaks in 1984 with Northern Trick (Northern Dancer). East of the Moon (Storm Cat) added a second in 1994 and Divine Proportions (Kingmambo) took the 2005 running.
Senga is a fourth-generation Niarchos-family homebred. In 1983 Stavros Niarchos bought a daughter of Halo out of a Hoist the Flag half sister to Northern Dancer at the Keeneland July sale and laid quite a foundation for the Niarchos breeding program. Named Coup De Folie, she won some French stakes and was classic-placed, but her $67,570 in earnings was paltry compared to her $825,000 purchase price.
However, the generations issued from her have repaid her debt many times over. Coup de Folie produced five group winners, among them group 1 winners Machiavellian and Senga's third dam, Coup de Genie, whose four stakes winners contained classic winner Denebola, the granddam of the Prix de Diane winner.
Denebola's A.P. Indy daughter Beta Leo falls right in with the family tradition. Her first foal, Bolting (by War Front ) is a stakes winner. Her second, Senga, is a classic winner.
Senga's sire is Claiborne Farm's young stallion Blame . Senga is Blame's first classic winner and first grade/group 1 winner.