All good things, as they say, must come to an end.
And on Saturday at Ascot, an end of sorts will be on full and magnificent view as the horse regarded by many as the last champion son of Danehill goes around in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Duke Of Marmalade, a brilliant winner for Coolmore at the Royal meeting, is an odds-on favourite in the King George.
While the race is not necessarily going to be Duke Of Marmalade’s last, his presence in it is cause enough to recall Danehill’s impact and his legacy. And to rue his untimely passing. Duke Of Marmalade is from Danehill’s last crop, the European class of 2004. Along with another member of the same crop, and his Ballydoyle stablemate, the filly Peeping Fawn, they are the last truly notable racehorses by Danehill still in training.
Danehill was bred in Kentucky by Prince Khalid Abdullah who owned him throughout a nine-race career that produced four wins and three placings. The victories included the Cork And Orrery Stakes at the 1989 Royal Ascot meeting and the Haydock Sprint Cup the same year. The son of Danzig also finished third to Nashwan in the English 2000 Guineas.
While it was in England that he made his name as a racehorse, as a sire he earned his initial fame in Australia before eventually sitting on top of the world. Arrowfield Stud’s John Messara is responsible for two incredible pieces of foresight concerning Danehill - recognising the potential of the stallion and turning him into the world’s first successful shuttle sire.
John Messara and Ireland’s Coolmore Stud co-owned the horse when he began his stud career, with the Irish operation ultimately becoming sole owners. Danehill topped the Australian sires’ list 9 times, the first in the 1994-95 season, but had to wait until 2005 before achieving the same status in Britain and Ireland, although he won the first of his two French sire’s championships in 2001.
He became the first horse to be the leading sire of both the northern and southern hemispheres. At the height of his career, Danehill stood at a privately negotiated fee, estimated at around $600,000. He died in a paddock accident in 2003. In his 14 seasons at stud, Danehill sired 2298 named foals; 2007 of them made it to the races and 1539 have, so far, been winners.
Danehill has sired 87 individual Group One winners of almost 150 Group One races. On Saturday, Duke Of Marmalade is highly likely to improve most of those statistics. Already the winner of three Group One races this season, the latest a four length romp in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal meeting in June, Duke Of Marmalade is one of only three Danehill horses to have won Group One races this year.
On Saturday he steps up to the 2400m for the first time, but no-one seems to regard that as a problem. Should he win England’s best race, Duke of Marmalade may not be the last of Danehill’s Group One winners - Peeping Fawn and Promising Lead in Britain and Ireland and the American Artiste Royal remain capable of keeping up their sire’s good work. But none of them has so far revealed themselves to be in the same class as Duke of Marmalade who shapes as a fitting final hero for the first stallion in the world to be the world’s No.1.