The Balance of Power
(Photo : Pontus Edenberrg/Jean Scheijen/Chapman Arts)
Perhaps at last, there exists a mythbuster
in the ranks of American Sires…
At a time when Great Britain and most of Europe were embroiled in world and other internecene wars, across the Atlantic another game was playing itself out. The American dollar was on the rampage, as the economy of the land of the brave raged like a bushfire, heralding an era in which the custodianship of the best genetics in the world passed from the British aristocracy to American stud farms, funded largely by the enterprise of successful entrepreneurs. Wave after wave of Europe’s best racehorses found their way into the holds of the big ocean liners, and the likes of Herbager, Sir Gallahad III and Bull Dog among the earlier ones, Nasrullah, Royal Charger and Princequillo in the intermediate brigade, and at its zenith, Blushing Groom, Vaguely Noble, Lyphard and Riverman, joined the throng. There were many more, and once it became apparent through the exploits of superstars such as Sir Ivor and Nijinsky, that the best horses in the world were to be found in the United States, any owner with aspirations of winning the best races in Europe, made it his business to dabble in the American market.
Remarkably, though all these stallions had earned their reputations through their exploits on turf, a bias soon developed among European horsemen for what became commonly known as “turf” sires, as opposed to those that were regarded as distinctly “dirt” horses. It wasn’t long before the same people developed an antipathy towards the progeny of Seattle Slew, and perhaps slightly less so, for the Mr. Prospector tribe, believing that these horses were primarily sires of dirt horses. While there is possibly some basis for such an argument, it soon manifested itself in an apathy for the progeny of the sons and the grandsons as well, a case of once the label was on, it stuck. And so it was quickly assumed that, for example, a horse of the stature of the A.P. Indy, (a son of Seattle Slew) was bound, like his sire to fall into the same category. While there are many instances of Graded stakes turf winners emanating from the A.P. Indy male line (more than 80 Graded stakes winners to date) as well as what we’ve seen in South Africa in the achievements of Jay Peg and Consensual (two Group One winning champions from the relatively modestly performed Camden Park), there remains a doubt in the minds of many Europeans about the suitability of this male line for their turf.
We forget of course that Northern Dancer and Danzig, arguably two of the best stallions the world has known, were strictly dirt performers, yet in their era, they stood head and shoulders above the world with their turf runners.
Domestically, our own history of top stallions is replete with horses whose greatest racecourse moments were recorded on the dirt, beginning with Jungle Cove, Plum Bold, Western Winter and Muhtafal. This past weekend witnessed a Graded Stakes winner in the UK and several other promising performances from the first crop of the quality racehorse, Bernardini (a son of A.P. Indy), afforded the opportunity to race in Europe largely because of the influence of Bernadine’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed. Perhaps at last, there exists a mythbuster in the ranks of American sires, a myth buster which could upset the bias against the A.P. Indy’s forever.
What is apparent though, is that in the matter of stallion power, the pendulum has swung eastwards again, and the momentum now rests firmly with Europe and Great Britain. As much as anything, this has probably been a result of the sustained purchase of the best American bloodstock over the years by the Ballydoyle and Maktoum empires. The loss of Storm Cat and Kingmambo in America leaves only A.P. Indy, Giant’s Causeway and Street Cry as legitimate breed shapers, while Europe’s loss of Sadler’s Wells and Danehill has been compensated for through the emergence of his sons Galileo and Montjeu, as well as Pivotal, Oasis Dream, Dansili and Danehill Dancer.