duke of marmaladeDuke of Marmalade

Andrew Caulfield writes for the Thoroughbred Daily News that thanks to the omnipresence of his descendants on big race days, it seems hardly credible that it is now more than five years since the mighty Danehill died at the age of 17. By the time of his death, Danehill was the highest-priced stallion in Europe, with his status boosted to new heights by the 2002 Group 1 victories of Rock of Gibraltar, Landseer, Banks Hill, Aquarelliste, Fine Motion, Spartacus and Dress to Thrill. Needless to say, the book of mares he was covering at the time of his death was in very different league from those he’d attracted when his fee was as low as IR9,000gns in his fourth and fifth seasons. Even when his fee was low, Danehill was still capable of siring performers of the calibre of Desert King and Tiger Hill, so what might he achieve with many of the best mares in Europe?

The answer is that - from a crop of around 100 - he has so far sired nine group winners, five listed winners and another eight which have been group-placed. Altogether 25 have earned black type. Five of the group winners have collectively won 13 Group 1 events, with Duke of Marmalade’s epic King George IV & Queen Elizabeth Stakes victory making him the second to complete a sequence of four Group 1 triumphs, following Peeping Fawn.

The group winners from Danehill’s final crop encapsulate the full range of his extraordinary talents. At one end of the spectrum there is Holy Roman Emperor, a fast and precocious colt who was officially rated the second-best European juvenile of 2006 (when another of Danehill’s Group 1 winners, Simply Perfect, ranked third among the juvenile fillies). Peeping Fawn was far from precocious (it took her four starts to break her maiden at three), but she developed into Europe’s best middle-distance three-year-old filly, with two Group 1 victories over 13 miles, including the Pretty Polly Stakes, and another two over 12 miles. Unfortunately, she hasn’t raced this year, but the Pretty Polly Stakes fell to Promising Lead, another of Danehill’s daughters, and Duke of Marmalade has also excelled, with Group 1 victories in France, Ireland and England.

Duke of Marmalade’s magnificent sequence inevitably makes one wonder what he might have achieved but for fracturing a pastern when narrowly defeated at Goodwood two years ago. Although he was officially rated just 9lb below the best of his age group after a winless campaign at three, the subsequent removal of the screws from his old injury has helped transform him. He is now a worthy replacement for the year-older Dylan Thomas, the rock-hard colt who provided Danehill with his first King George success a year ago.

A day after the King George we saw another aspect of Danehill’s talents in the Phoenix Stakes, a Group 1 juvenile event which has fallen to four of Danehill’s sons. One of the four, Danehill Dancer, was responsible for Mastercraftsman, who won impressively to end the unbeaten record of Art Connoisseur, a colt out of a Danehill mare. Third place went to Bushranger, another grandson of Danehill.

Duke of Marmalade will eventually be a very welcome addition to the Coolmore roster, as he comes from a female line with a big reputation for producing stallions.

You can gauge the family’s reputation from the fact that Duke of Marmalade’s dam, Love Me True, cost $1.35 million as a yearling-and from the fact that she was bought on behalf of Susan Magnier. Aidan O’Brien, with his quaint belief that racehorses are for racing if they are fit and well, certainly didn’t let the filly’s price affect his handling of this daughter of Kingmambo.

It was only on her 11th start that Love Me True finally recorded her first victory, in a mile maiden at Naas, by which time she had been third in the G3 Killavullan Stakes at two and had acted as a pacemaker for her stablemate Imagine in the Irish 1000 Guineas. Incidentally, of the 16 contestants in that 2001 classic, as many as four have already produced a top-class son, namely Imagine (Horatio Nelson), Sequoyah (Henrythenavigator), Speirbhean (Teofilo) and Love Me True (Duke of Marmalade). Two of the others have 2008 stakes winners by Danehill Dancer, one being the Irish 1000 Guineas third Carribean Sunset. This suggests strongly that breeders with sufficient resources could do far worse than get themselves a speedy classic filly to breed from.

Love Me True was later third in a listed race over a mile and ran well enough in one of her starts over 13 miles to suggest she stayed that far. It is worth pointing out that Love Me True’s three parts brother Lemon Drop Kid stayed well enough to win the GI Belmont Stakes, so there is the degree of stamina here which Danehill normally needed to get a mile-and-a-half horse.

Love Me True also proved her toughness, racing 15 times in less than 14 months, even though she is inbred 3x3 to the famously fragile Raise A Native, and toughness is also one of the main assets of Duke of Marmalade (whose five-generation pedigree includes two lines apiece to Northern Dancer, Buckpasser and Natalma and four lines to Native Dancer).

Two of Love Me True’s half-brothers, Bite the Bullet and Shuailaan, were stakes winners, but the most important aspect of her pedigree is that she is a granddaughter of the blue hen Lassie Dear. Perhaps all I need to say about this family is that it has produced five stallions good enough to sire a winner on Breeders’ Cup Day, with A.P. Indy being responsible for Tempera, Summer Squall for Storm Song, Honor Grades for Adoration, Deerhound for Countess Diana and Kipling for Kip Deville.

This family has achieved so much in the USA that the Coolmore team should perhaps consider basing Duke of Marmalade at Ashford, where there are no sons of Danehill, rather than Coolmore, where he would become one of seven Group 1-winning sons of Danehill. After all, Love Me True was relocated to Kentucky, where she produced foals to Storm Cat in 2006 and 2007. However, the continued uncertainty about how many tracks will be converted to synthetic surfaces must make it more likely that Ireland will become Duke of Marmalade’s base.

The fact that he is by Danehill and has a Kingmambo mare as his dam will make him an automatic choice for many breeders with daughters of the champion broodmare sire Sadler’s Wells. It was Sadler’s Wells mares which produced Peeping Fawn and Horatio Nelson to Danehill, and Danehill’s daughters are currently doing very well with Sadler’s Wells son Galileo. Combining Sadler’s Wells with Kingmambo is also very much in vogue, Henrythenavigator and the Group 2 winner Campanologist being the latest advertisements for this.