Cirrus Des Aigles - Prix Ganay (Group 1)

Thus a saviour was born. Delivered in a stable one brightly lit night, he hailed from apparently humble stock, shunned by all. No fanfare greeted his arrival, apart from the praise of a few local shepherds. Yet, soon word passed of his exploits and mortals flocked from far and wide to pay homage, to wonder and delight in his glory, a splendour which filled their hearts and souls with joy and love, a love to last forever.
— Alastair Nicolson / ABI Thoroughbreds

Cirrus Des Aigles - QIPCO Champions Stakes (Group 1)

Cirrus Des Aigles - Dubai Sheema Classic (Grade 1)

One of just eleven thoroughbreds in the fifth crop of Even Top, one revered as a dependable horticulturalist, the bright bay was the fourth foal of Taille De Guepe, a mare so slow she was given away to his breeder Yvon Lelimouzin, supervisor of Chantilly's Les Aigles training ground. By the disappointing Septieme Ciel, Taille De Guepe boasted a distinctly uninspiring page, her sole distinction that her grandam was half-sister to a Group winner by Baldric in Banjer. But in every racehorse there lies hope.

Corine Barbe had trained a Prix de Diane heroine in Carling from a mare deemed useless and discarded for free. Yes, she would be the perfect choice. We all dream of a guardian angel, a gift from God, a shield in times of trouble, a shining light of joy. Corine Barbe and Cirrus Des Aigles are each others' angels, theirs an indelible bond which has nurtured a champion not just for a month or a year, but of a lifetime. Seventeen Group race wins, the latest a comprehensive defeat of Al Kazeem in the Gr.1 Prix Ganay at the ripe old age of nine, a third victory in the showpiece Longchamp event after an eight-length romp in 2012 and triumph from Treve in last year's thriller.

The top-rated male in Europe bar Frankel in 2011 courtesy of a stirring defeat of So You Think in the Gr.1 Champion Stakes, the elegant bay returned as good as ever the following spring, conquering St Nicholas Abbey in the Gr.1 Dubai Sheema Classic, and comfortably added last year's Gr.1 Prix d'Ispahan and Gr.1 Coronation Cup, the latter on just three legs. And to think, such a superstar remains the only Stakes winner from Even Top's 163 named thoroughbred foals. Consider the Goffs November Foal Sale of 1993. A gracefully athletic foal with a beautiful shoulder strutted proudly around the ring, daring to punctuate the air with a high-pitched whinny of delight. But the sages paid no notice. Groans and sniggers abounded: "He's by Topanoora!" they cried, ridiculing his now Indian-based sire.

The ring promptly emptied and the gavel clicked at just 3,000gns. Two and a half years later and almost ten years to the day before the birth of his superstar, Even Top enjoyed his finest hour. Under the tutelage of Mark Tompkins, he made his seasonal reappearance in the 2,000 Guineas no less, having thrived since finishing second in the previous Autumn's Gr.1 Racing Post Trophy. Responding valiantly to Philip Robinson's every call, Even Top headed Mark Of Esteem and Bijou D'Inde after a pulsating final 300 yards. Sadly, the finishing line had come one stride too soon and the Classic eluded him by a short head. Mark Of Esteem finished the season with a Timeform rating of 137, while Bijou D'Inde claimed the scalp of Ashkalani in the St James's Palace Stakes.

Even Top headed for the Derby, but six days before the event was lame with an infected, cracked near fore hoof. He ran nevertheless, was buffeted about in a rough race and was never seen to his best again. Even Top’s gallantry prompted Topanoora's repatriation. Successful in the Gr.2 Blandford Stakes and first past the post in the Gr.2 Hardwicke Stakes, the son of Ahonoora did little to reward such a move, Even Top being one of just two flat Stakes winners from his 486 named foals, although the classy hurdler Joe Mac headed a sprinkling of decent jumpers. Yet, Topanoora’s was a fine lineage. A half-brother to a rare high-class individual by Royal Match in the Gr.2 Pretty Polly Stakes victrix Happy Bride, Topanoora boasted as his grandam a full-sister to the dam of Sir Tristram, a Champion Sire seven times in Australia and New Zealand, 45 of whose 1,077 foals triumphed at the highest level including such luminaries as Dr Grace, Grosvenor, Gurner's Lane, Marauding, Sovereign Red and Zabeel.

On the first Sunday of May 1963, Even Top's third dam Anticlea sealed victory in her second Classic. In a repeat of the Premio Regina Elena, the Razza Del Soldo filly courageously thwarted the challenge of the diminutive Doris Cramer by three quarters of a length to land the Oaks d'Italia and the title of Italian Champion Three-Year-Old Filly. And here, dear reader, the spectre of incest rears its ugly head once again! For Anticlea's sire and dam were genetic three-parts-siblings. By the 1958 British Champion Sire Mossborough, Anticlea was out of a mare with Hyperion and Nearco in her second generation, Mossborough being by Nearco out of Hyperion's threeparts-sister All Moonshine. But wait a moment.

That's All Moonshine, the fourth dam of Topanoora! Indeed, Even Top's grandam Skhiza was a genetic three-parts-sister to Topanoora's grandam Round Eye. Of course, All Moonshine and Hyperion were but two foals of our old friend, the Cheveley Park Stakes heroine and British Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Selene. A three parts-sister to the dual Classic winner Tranquil and closely inbred to the 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas heroine Pilgrimage, Selene produced not only the Derby hero Hyperion but also the Middle Park Stakes ace Pharamond, the Classic-placed Sickle, the Yorkshire Oaks victrix Night Shift and the classy pair Coronal and Hunter's Moon.

Thus to Yvon Lelimouzin's eternal legacy. Taille De Guepe, with Hyperion's Falmouth Stakes-third Run Honey her fourth dam and inbred not only to Hyperion but also to Northern Dancer with his Hyperion and Sickle combination. The result: a beautiful miracle, an angel from the heavens, one to inspire lives and generations forever.

Extract from European Bloodstock News / Eurosport (p)