To a significant degree, the departure of these great sires, all of a single generation, was ascribed to the buying power of the American dollar and the primitive domestic taxation regimes applicable at the time. A glance at the list connects these giants of the thoroughbred world to men of the means of the Aga Khan, Stavros Niarchos, Roland de Chambure, the Wildensteins and the Wertheims, and the outstanding French horseman of that era (and arguably of all eras), Alec Head. If they felt compelled to sell, who are we mere mortals to suggest they should've resisted?
That modern day France has struck back with a quartet of budding stallion superstars, Siyouni (Aga Khan), Le Havre, Kendargent and Makfi (a joint venture between the Aga and the rising force, Sheikh Joaan Al Thani of Qatar), reminds us of former stallions in our own neighbourhood: Sybil's Nephew, Mashem (both Hartford, now Summerhill), Olean (Joyce Tatham's Springfield Stud), Mystery IX and Sadri II (the Labistours' Dagbreek Stud) and Herald II (Harry Barnett's Springvale Farm), the first two of which won national Sire's titles.
Latterly, we struck another rich vein, when Jungle Cove (Scott Brothers Highdown Stud), Northern Guest (Summerhill), Foveros (Scotts) and Secret Prospector (Aldora Stud) fork out successive sires' premierships, eliciting a howl of derision from quarters who weren't used to this kind of behaviour, and blamed the prominence of KwaZulu-Natal on the unfair advantages of our premium scheme! How silent are those guns now that the pendulum has returned to its former base!
Towards the end of that era, at Summerhill alone, we had four other stallions featuring regularly and simultaneously in the top 10; National Emblem (2x's a Champion Juvenile sire), Kahal, Rambo Dancer and Muhtafal; and there are signs of “green shoots” in the garden once again, as we script this piece.
This column though, is about Sunday's events in Paris' Bois de Boulogne, where the French Two Thousand Guineas (colts) and One Thousand Guineas (Fillies) were staged on the historic plains of Longchamp. The colts' version fell to Make Believe, a sturdy first crop son of a former hero of the same race, Makfi (by Dubawi) trained by the “Napoleon” of French racing, Andre Fabre. The Fillies' Guineas succumbed to the prey of the Aga's Ervedya, likewise a first crop product of the Haras de Bonneval-based Siyouni.
Pedigree buff Andrew Caulfield tells us Makfi spent his first four seasons in England, standing at a fee of £25,000. That his introductory fee in France is €17,500, (about half his English “ask”) betrays the fact that his first two-year-olds hadn't covered themselves in glory.
I have often warned about the dangers of rushing to conclusions about young stallions, regularly citing the fact that Galileo also sired nothing better than a single listed winner from more than 40 first-crop 2-year-old runners in 2005. Yet that same first crop quickly set the record straight, with Nightime and Sixties Icon becoming Classic winners, while Red Rocks took the G1 Breeders' Cup Turf.
Now, Makfi has also begun to fulfill the high expectations originally held of him, with Group 1 winners both in Europe and New Zealand. In addition to Make Believe, who was so impressive in the Poulains, he was represented last week by Maimara, a respectable eighth in the Pouliches, and by the Queen's homebred colt Fabricate, who won a maiden in good enough style to suggest he could develop into a stakes performer.
In view of the ease of Make Believe's Classic victory (which surely owed something to the tactical expertise of his veteran rider, Olivier Peslier), I am pleased that I came to Makfi's defense in the April issue of The Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder. Here's some of what I wrote:
“As Makfi had been the highest-priced new stallion of 2011, there were high expectations of his first 2-year-old runners. To be frank, their achievements were somewhat underwhelming, to the extent that his yearling average for his second crop stood at 30,388gns, compared to his first crop's 65,699gns. The median also fell by more than 50%.
However, I would advise against a knee-jerk reaction. It is worth remembering that the 2-year-old Makfi was considered surplus to requirements by the Shadwell team, which sold him unraced for 26,000gns at the Autumn Sales. Although he went on to win his only juvenile start for his new connections, his victory came on very soft ground in a Class F newcomers' race at Fontainebleau in November...
There are sound reasons for thinking that [his move to Bonneval] will play to Makfi's strengths. Although he won the G1 2000 Guineas, his other wins were gained in France, and he accounted for Goldikova when he emulated the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois victories of his sire Dubawi and grandsire Dubai Millennium. In gaining his French successes, Makfi showed his appreciation of soft ground - something he shares with many of Dubawi's other progeny. If Makfi's offspring inherit this penchant, France could be the ideal base for him, as soft ground is very common across the Channel. [The ground was officially good to soft at Longchamp on Sunday].
The early signs are that Makfi is set to shine with his French-trained offspring. Nine of his 10 nominees in the French Classics are trained there, the one exception being Marco Botti's tough and useful filly Astrelle. There is plenty to like about Makfi's French collection, which is made up mainly by fillies. There are a couple of interesting colts, though, especially Prince Faisal's Make Believe.”
This colt, trained by Andre Fabre, put in two appearances late in the season and emerged victorious each time. Having taken a newcomers' race at Deauville in late October, Make Believe didn't have to extend himself to land a conditions event on heavy ground at Saint-Cloud in November. His dam Rosie's Posy produced the American Grade 1 winner Dubawi Heights to Makfi's sire, so there's cause for optimism here.
The other Classically-engaged colt, Cornwallville, proved his toughness during a long 2-year old campaign which began in the Brocklesby Stakes in March and ended with a listed victory at Toulouse in November. Altogether he won four of his 14 starts, with one of his wins coming on heavy.” [Cornwallville also contested the Poulains, having won another listed race on his reappearance.]
Make Believe's dam Rosie's Posy was once knocked down to a cash buyer for as little as 2,200gns at Tattersalls' 2002 Autumn Sale, but a little over 10 years later Barronstown Stud had to go to 400,000gns to acquire this daughter of Suave Dancer. Barronstown recouped its outlay in one fell swoop, as the Oasis Dream colt that Rosie's Posy had been carrying sold to Shadwell for 400,000gns as a yearling. Now named Estikmaal, he is in training with Freddie Head in France. Rosie's Posy's next foal is a colt from the first crop by Frankel.
Clearly, something quite striking must have happened to Rosie's Posy's family in the years between her appearances at Tattersalls. The answer lay primarily, as mentioned above, with her daughter Dubawi Heights. Having established her potential as a useful English 2-year-old, Dubawi Heights was transformed into a Grade 1 winner over nine and 10 furlongs on turf in America following her sale for 75,000gns at the end of her juvenile campaign. With Dubawi as her sire, Dubawi Heights is closely related to Make Believe. She also provided her buyers with a very handsome profit, as she was sold for $1.6 million at Fasig-Tipton in the year of her Grade 1 successes. Her destination was Japan, where she produced a Deep Impact filly in 2013.
The mystery, really, is why Rosie's Posy was sold so cheaply as a 3-year-old back in 2002. She had contested a couple of listed races after winning on her 2-year-old debut and she had the respectable Timeform rating of 86.
The only explanation I can think of, is that she paid the price of being a daughter of Suave Dancer. Although this grandson of Nijinsky had been a magnificent winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club and the Arc, he had become unpopular as a stallion by the time he was killed by lightning at the age of 10 in Australia at the end of 1998. He had his moments, though, being responsible for the top-class Group 1 winners Compton Admiral, Volvoreta and Execute. Another of his daughters produced Tuscan Evening, who did so well after her transfer from Ireland to the U.S.
There was certainly no fault to be found with Rosie's Posy's dam, My Branch. Capable of producing a good turn of foot, this daughter of the top miler Distant Relative possessed sufficient talent to finish second in the G1 Cheveley Park Stakes, fourth in the 1000 Guineas and third in the Irish 1000 Guineas.
It was unfortunate for Rosie's Posy's vendor that her sale came a few weeks before her 2-year-old half-sister Tante Rose (by Barathea) ran out an impressive winner of a 17-runner maiden race at Newmarket. Tante Rose quickly became a group winner, taking the Fred Darling Stakes on her reappearance at three and she was sold at the end of the year for 350,000gns. Rather surprisingly her new owner, Bjorn Nielsen, kept her in training and his boldness was rewarded with three six-furlong victories from three starts, including one in the G1 Sprint at Haydock Park. Perhaps Tante Rose's failure to stay a mile has contributed to Andre Fabre's belief that it would be best to keep Make Believe at a mile for the time being.
Tante Rose had come on the market as part of the complete dispersal of Wafic Said's Addison Racing, which also included her listed-winning half-sister Bay Tree. This daughter of Daylami made 450,000gns. Their dam My Branch had sold for 420,000gns a year earlier, carrying a filly by Grand Lodge.
My Branch owed her high price mainly to her own achievements. Although her dam Pay The Bank and second dam Zebra Grass had both won at two, neither had bred anything of note until My Branch came along (Pay The Bank has since been represented by Celestial Halo, a son of Galileo which developed into a high-class hurdler after showing very useful form on the flat).
However, My Branch's third dam, Ash Lawn, was extremely well-related. In addition to being a sister to the smart Selhurst, Ash Lawn was a half-sister to the 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Royal Palace and to Glass Slipper, dam of the Classic winners Fairy Footsteps and Light Cavalry, so Make Believe's Classic success is the latest in a long line for this former Jim Joel family.