by Avalyn Hunter
The Juddmonte Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) victory of Look Here (GB) may have been a surprise to the bettors, but her staying ability should have been no surprise. In the male line, she is the fourth generation to prove able to win at 12 furlongs or better in group I-quality company.
Look Here’s paternal great-grandsire is Nijinsky II, the first truly great runner among the sons of Northern Dancer and the last horse to win the English Triple Crown (a feat he accomplished in 1970 by sweeping the Two Thousand Guineas, Derby Stakes, and St. Leger Stakes). A big, strong, somewhat sickle-hocked horse with a rather high-strung temperament, at his best he possessed a tremendous turn of foot combined with excellent action. Unbeaten through his Triple Crown sweep, he was void of his normal acceleration in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and was beaten a head by Prix du Jockey-Club winner Sassafras (FR). He was clearly over the top in his last start, the Champion Stakes, and was beaten a length and a half by Lorenzaccio.
Nijinsky II was retired to Claiborne Farm with a record of 11 wins and two seconds from 13 starts and quickly proved a stallion of the highest class. His first crop included 1975 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-I) winner Green Dancer, who himself became a good sire with 89 stakes winners to his credit. Nijinsky II’s later crops contained such standouts as Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winners Golden Fleece (1982) and Shahrastani (1986) (the latter also a winner of the Budweiser Irish Derby, Ire-I), 1986 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Ferdinand, Airlie Coolmore Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) winner Kings Lake (1981) and General Accident Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) victor Shadeed (1985), and 1983 Prix du Jockey-Club (Fr-I) winner Caerleon. Nijinsky II eventually sired 862 foals, of which 155 became stakes winners, and his sons Caerleon, Royal Academy, and Niniski have all been important international sires.
Of Nijinsky II’s top-class sons, Niniski might have been voted least likely to succeed as a stallion. Although a dual Classic winner (1979 Irish St. Leger Ire-I) and Prix Royal-Oak (Fr-I)), he was a determined sort but lacked brilliance and was generally considered a one-paced stayer — not the type of horse that usually draws good patronage at stud. Nonetheless, he eventually sired 48 stakes winners from 398 foals worldwide, and as might have been expected proved an influence for stamina. His best runners were 1988 Holsten Pils St. Leger (Eng-I) winner Minster Son (IRE), the 1985 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) winner Petoski (GB), multiple German group I winner Lomitas (GB), and 1993 Prix du Jockey Club winner Hernando (FR).
While not a great stallion, Hernando has a respectable record with 31 stakes winners to his credit so far from 512 foals of racing age. His best runner so far has been 2002 Prix du Jockey Club winner Sulamani (IRE), a grade/group I winner in France, England, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Canada. Hernando is also sire of 2000 Emirates Airline Prix du Jockey Club winner Holding Court (GB), and of this year’s Vodafone Epsom Derby third, Casual Conquest (IRE).
How much longer the male line of Nijinsky II will last is open to question. With Caerleon, Green Dancer, and the latter’s best sire son and Argentine leading sire Oak Dancer (GB) all dead, and Royal Academy approaching the twilight his career, the survival of this branch of Northern Dancer appears to rest with the sons of Hernando. The boost of having sired another Classic winner may also help to assure continued opportunities for Hernando himself, perhaps giving him another chance to beget an heir to his legacy.
As if being from a staying sire line were not enough, Look Here is also endowed with plenty of stamina from the distaff side of her pedigree. Her dam, Last Look (GB), is by 1985 Trusthouse Forte Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Rainbow Quest, who honorably carried on the sire line of Blushing Groom (FR) in England up until his death last year. To date, Rainbow Quest has been credited with 105 stakes winners from 1,058 foals of racing age, and he was the leading broodmare sire in England in 2003, the year that his maternal grandson Kris Kin won the English Derby. As a broodmare sire, he appears well suited to Hernando, who to date has four group winners from mares by sons of Blushing Groom.
Bred in England by Lawn Stud, Last Look was produced from Derniere Danse (GB), a half-sister to French group II winners Divine Danse (FR) (by Kris (GB)) and Pursuit of Love (GB) (by Groom Dancer). Derniere Danse was sired by 1979 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I) winner Gay Mecene (by Vaguely Noble), who had a modest stud record in France before being exported to Japan at the age of 11. His most important foals were probably the French champion juvenile Long Mick (FR) and the unraced Belle Mecene (FR), dam of 1989 Dubai Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Kendor (FR).
The dam of Derniere Danse, Dance Quest (FR) (by Green Dancer), is a stakes-placed half-sister to 1984 Prix de la Salamandre (Fr-I) winner Noblequest. Their dam, the Barbizon mare Polyponder, was a multiple French group III winner over sprint distances during her racing career. While she undoubtedly contributed a good dash of speed to her descendants, repeated crossing of her female line with stamina-oriented sires helped tip Look Here’s pedigree more towards stamina and resulted in a filly capable of delivering a strong finishing kick over a classic distance.