(Photo : Racehorse HK)


The dust has finally settled on Australia’s Magic Millions Premier Yearling sales marathon week, and once again it was a triumph for the greatest stallion in Southern Hemisphere history. If you did any advance work on the catalogue, you couldn’t help but notice the plethora of entries descended from Danehill in the first or second generation, to the point of virtual saturation. With the enormous books Australian stallions are serving these days, the catalogue is obviously dominated by his male descendants, and there’s no shortage of those who carry his influence on the distaff side, an amazing reflection of how quickly he has supplanted Star Kingdom as the principal source of quality racehorses Down Under.

Who would’ve thought that within little more than a decade, a stallion of the pervasive presence in their pedigrees such as Star Kingdom, would face the prospect of extinction as a male-line provider, given that for decades he carried that burden and shaped the Australian breed almost singlehandedly.

Students of the Danehill story would’ve been forgiven in the early years of his life as a “shuttler”, for believing that it was the suitability of his mates in Australasia that set him up for immortality, and especially those descending from Star Kingdom. In his initial years, Danehill’s mark as a stallion was undeniably Australian. The truth though, probably lies more in the fact that as a horse with obvious physical flaws and perhaps a little suspect on the performance side, he was considered surplus to requirements in Europe. His breeders, Juddmonte, do not lightly let a prospect go and it certainly wasn’t money that induced the sale. Juddmonte’s principal, Prince Khalid Abdullah, a first cousin to the King of Saudi Arabia, is not a man in need, but is one of the world’s foremost breeders of racehorses, and he was astute enough to retain a breeding interest in the horse he was parting with. In the end, Danehill was just as successful in the Northern Hemisphere, but only once European breeders came to appreciate his value, though in sheer numbers, his recognition there came much later in the day, and was therefore somewhat short-lived, as he died prematurely in 2003.

Anyone who knows Arrowfield’s John Messara as well as we do, would count him among the rare international visionaries of our sport, and when it comes to analysing and spotting a prospect, his record stands alone. This man bred Zabeel, he made Danehill and his three champion sons Redoute’s Choice, Flying Spur and Danzero, and his record as a “kingmaker” rivals that of Lord Derby, Federico Tesio and “Bull” Hancock. It didn’t take him long to identify the merits of this European champion sprinter of 1989, and it didn’t take Danehill long to sire the winner of the world’s richest two-year-old contest, Australia’s Golden Slipper. Indeed, it didn’t take him to long to sire his first three Golden Slipper winners; he did so in each of his first three crops, and while he did that in short time, his time at the top of Australia’s sire premiership was enduring.

No-one was surprised then, that the top lot at Aus $960,000 at last week’s Gold Coast sale, was a colt by Danehill’s son, Fastnet Rock, who in the same week, sired the winners of the New Zealand and Australian 1000 Guineas to boot. Neither was anyone surprised when the famous “split” between the original owners of Danehill, Messara’s Arrowfield and John Magnier’s Coolmore, made him the most valuable stallion in Australian history. The matter was settled in a Dutch auction before a former Chief Justice of Australia, and the horse was turned over at a reported $24million. That was a helluva lot of money in those days, but in retrospect, it was peanuts.

Read more about Danehill…