danzig stallionDanzig
(Shaun Faust)

A few years ago, when discussing the concept of inbreeding to the great Danzig, I wrote: “The potential problem of inbreeding to Danzig, of course, was one of soundness, or the lack of it. Remember, Danzig’s exciting debut victory in the June of his two-year-old season was immediately followed by the discovery of bone chips. Away from the races for over 10 months, Danzig returned the following May to record two impressive allowance victories. Unfortunately, X-rays taken after his third success revealed that a slab fracture was developing in a knee and Danzig was forced into retirement before he had tackled stakes company.”

I was quick to point out that Danzig’s progeny have a reputation for being sounder than their sire - as you can see from Danzig’s up-to-date statistics, which show that 77 percent of his 1074 named foals made it to the races and around 62 percent made it into the winner’s circle. More to the point, more than 18 percent of Danzig’s foals became stakes winners, with this extraordinary percentage representing a huge incentive for trying to reinforce his influence by inbreeding.

Inbreeding to Danzig is likely to become quite widespread in Europe, where the Thoroughbred population is steeped in the blood of the Claiborne Farm superstar. The main European standard bearers of the Danzig male line have been Danehill and Green Desert, both of whom are developed thriving male lines. Fortunately, the racing records of both these stallions were reassuringly free of the soundness problems which beset their sire.

Despite being almost back at the knee, Danehill was sound enough to win the G1 Sprint Cup on his ninth and final appearance. Aidan O’Brien was asked to summarise the main virtues of Danehill’s stock after Duke of Marmalade had recorded his fifth consecutive Group 1 victory in the Juddmonte International three days ago.

“I suppose it’s their constitution - their toughness and their speed and their strength,” he said. “They’re three massive things - strength physically as well as mentally.”

When prompted by the interviewer to add soundness to the list, Aidan O’Brien agreed: “Obviously soundness. This horse (Duke of Marmalade) is a testimony to that, but that comes with strength.”

Green Desert was another individual whose career was comparatively problem free. Sufficiently forward to make his juvenile debut in May, he was racing for the 14th time when he failed to handle the dirt in the following year’s Breeder’s Cup Sprint. Oddly, there were some distinct parallels between his career and that of Danehill a few years later. Both won the Free Handicap over seven furlongs before reaching the first three in the 2000 Guineas. Subsequent efforts over a mile convinced both sets of connections to return their Danzig colts to sprint distances and both collected a pair of important victories, including one in the Sprint Cup at Haydock.

With unsoundness apparently not a serious concern, breeders have been quick to try combining Danehill and Green Desert, and last week’s results suggest that we will see much more of this inbreeding to Danzig in the future. Two of Europe’s important juvenile events fell to colts which have sons of Danehill as their sire and daughters of Green Desert as their second dam, creating 3x4 inbreeding to Danzig.

Firstly, we saw Dansili’s son Shaweel run over a clear-cut winner of the G2 Gimcrack Stakes, and then Bushranger  provided Danetime with his second successive victory in the G1 Prix Morny.

This type of cross had also hit the jackpot earlier this year when the G1 Coral-Eclipse was won narrowly by Mount Nelson. This four-year-old is by Rock of Gibraltar, another son of Danehill, and his third dam is by Green Desert.

In view of the concerns about soundness involved in inbreeding to Danzig, it is worth pointing out that the sires of these three group winners were all sound enough to undergo a thorough testing on the track, with Dansili, Danetime and Rock of Gibraltar respectively being veterans of 14, 15 and 13 races. The reverse cross - a Green Desert stallion on mares with Danehill blood - is also sure to become popular.

Cape Cross has already sired three stakes winners from his first five foals out of Danehill’s daughters, these stakes winners being inbred 3x3 to Danzig. Arguably the best of them is Able One, a New Zealand-bred who won the G1 Champions Mile in Hong Kong last year, but the English-trained Crosspeace was much better than his listed winner-status suggests, as he achieved annual Timeform ratings of 116 and 118.

Cape Cross’ talented miler Sentinelese is another inbred 3x3 to Danzig, but his second line comes via Polish Patriot rather than Danehill, and his Group 1- placed son Charlie Farnsbarns is inbred 3x4 to Danzig, his second line coming through Chief’s Crown.

While we are on the subject of Cape Cross, he added another group winner to his collection when Russian Cross took Saturday’s G2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano and he was a bit unlucky not to add another group success the following day, when Treat Gently as second after being hampered in the Prix de la Nonette. The Darley stallion’s fee jumped from Eur20,000 to Eur50,000 in 2005, so his current crop of juveniles is the subject of high expectations. It is encouraging that two of his sons - Sea The Stars and War Native - recently achieved “TDN Rising Star” status.

Another of Green Desert stallions, Kheleyf, is also likely to have his fee raised substantially after the success he has enjoyed with his first runners. He currently heads the British and Irish freshman sires’ table both by number of winners and prize money.

With Oasis Dream maintaining his position as one of the most successful second-crop sires, with five first-crop group winners, Green Desert has a powerful team of young stallion sons, which also includes Invincible Spirit. This Irish National Stud resident did so well with his early crops that his fee now stands at Eur75,000. Yet another son, the undervalued Desert Style, is again demonstrating his ability to come up with the occasional top performer, this time with the impressive seven-furlong specialist Paco Boy.

Perhaps these sons have taken some of the attention away from Green Desert, whose fee was as high as Eur85,000 in 2004 (when he was 21) and 2005. Whatever the reason, he appears to be another of those stallions whose results have declined in old age. His last Group 1 winners, Oasis Dream and Desert Lord, were born in 2000 and his last five crops of racing age have so far produced nothing more than a pair of Group 3 winners. But we can happily forgive him those recent failings in view of his growing impact as a sire of sires.