Just when things looked like they couldn't get any better, they just did. That's if you're Coolmore in Ireland, home of the world's best stallion, Galileo, and owners this past weekend through the felicitous triumvirate of John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, of no fewer than five Group One winners. For the record, these victories included Ireland's two benchmark juvenile events, the National Stakes (Gr.1) for colts and the Moyglare (Gr.1) for fillies, the Matron Stakes (Gr.1), and the respective English and Irish St Legers (both Gr.1).
A good deal of space has been devoted in these columns over the past couple of years to the turf wars for supremacy in the international bloodstock world, which have raged between Ireland's Coolmore group and the Middle Eastern potentates, the Maktoum family. In the stallion realm this season, it was looking ominously like the Maktoum's Dubawi (12 Group One winners) had gone beyond recall in dismantling Galileo's endless hegemony at the head of the European sires' log. We all know the adage though: "you can't keep a good man down", and on the back of a couple of resounding weekends, Galileo's response could not have been more emphatic. He not only sired three of those five Group One aces on the weekend, but in the Moyglare, he repeated Silvano's recent feat in the Vodacom Durban July with the first three past the post. In Galileo's case though, it was a matter of deja vu, or as we would have it, a bit of "old hat". As astonishing as it may sound, he did it twice before in England's greatest race, the 2014 Investec Derby as well as the 2006 Irish St Leger.
Much has already been written about the weekend's events in England, Ireland and France, yet we forget that had Gleneagles taken his place on a slightly firmer surface in the Irish Champion Stakes (Gr.1), it could well have been six Group Ones for Coolmore; which tells us that whatever the inevitable fate of all empires, John Magnier's at Coolmore is nowhere near the point of decline; a glance at the outcomes to the National Stakes (1st and 3rd) and the Moyglare (1st, 2nd and 3rd) both for juveniles, speak of a strength in depth with generations of legs to it.
That said, Coolmore's victory with Bondi Beach in the third leg of the English Triple Crown, the St Leger at Doncaster, came at the expense of a filly with a South African flavour, Simple Verse. Given what didn't happen to Golden Horn in the way of disqualification after his blatant reshuffling of the decks in the Champion Stakes, it seemed inequitable that the filly should forfeit the St. Leger to Bondi Beach when it appeared, from where I was sitting, that both had been victims of scrimmaging. What was obvious was that she was the better of the two on the day.
Of course, as a casual television observer, and without the benefit of a "head-on" view, I can't claim the insight of the stewards. Qatar's Sheikh Suhaim Al Thani, Simple Verse's proprietor, has appealed so long, so we may yet witness an English Classic winner for a local sire before the next full moon. Gaynor Rupert's enterprise had previously deprived America of the services of the stellar stallion Trippi; now her Drakenstein Stud has prised the resurgent Duke Of Marmalade from the tightly-vaulted grasp of Coolmore's stallion ranks, and as so often happens, like trainer John Gosden, he's living out his annus mirabilis in the bloodstock realm, with Simple Verse in the vanguard.
Timing in this game is everything, and when you're going into a sale, there's nothing better than a good update. The Summerhill offering at the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale (Sunday 18th October) includes four sons and daughters of Australia's best stallions of the current era, Lonhro, Exceed And Excel, More Than Ready and High Chaparral. While there will be more on this topic as the sale approaches, the good news on the weekend for our Lonhro colt's connections was the win of his paternal half-brother, Exosphere in the Golden Rose Stakes (Gr.1) in Sydney, an excellent result not only for our fellow consignors, but also for Exosphere's owner/breeder Sheikh Mohammed, and for the Sir Ivor sireline. As John Berry says, Sir Ivor was the imperious hero of the English 2000 Guineas, the Derby, the Champion Stakes and the Washington D.C. International in 1968, and as European Horse of the Year, he retired to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky in 1969.
He sired plenty of good racehorses and broodmares, but as a sire of sires, he was a non-achiever, with one glorious exception. Sir Tristram was far from the best racehorse sired by Sir Ivor, recording merely two minor wins in France from 19 starts. Of no interest to breeders in the States and Europe, he was bought by Patrick Hogan, a young stud master of Irish origin in New Zealand who was influenced by the fact that Sir Tristram descended from the family of the influential stallions Hyperion, Sickle, Pharamond, Hunter's Moon and Mossborough. From his base at Cambridge Stud, Sir Tristram proved easily the best stallion sired by Sir Ivor, ultimately setting a new world record of 45 Group One winners.
Patrick (now Sir Patrick) Hogan always said he would wait until he was confident he'd found Sir Tristram's successor before adding a son of the patriarch to the roster at Cambridge. Eventually, he settled on one: Zabeel, winner in 1990 of the Australian Guineas (Gr.1) in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum. We all need a bit of luck in this game, but as Gary Player once reminded us, the harder we work, the luckier we get.
Nothing could be truer in that context than what happened to Patrick Hogan and Zabeel, who turned out by a country mile the most successful of the 14 sons of Sir Tristram with at least one Group 1 winner to their credit. Zabeel's sons included two horses voted Horse of the Year in Australia: the outstanding gelding Might And Power, and the 10-time Group 1 ace, Octagonal.
Bred by Cambridge from its outstanding matron Eight Carat, Octagonal was raced by our old pals, Jack and Bob Ingham, whose Woodlands Stud was the largest and most successful owner/breeder operation in Australia. Octagonal got off to a flying start at Woodlands with his first winner Lonhro, who eventually nabbed one more Group 1 than his illustrious father, as well as becoming (in 2003/04) Australia's only Horse of the Year sired by a previous Horse of the Year. Sheikh Mohammed bought Woodlands Stud and its stock from the Ingham family in May 2008 for a reported half a billion dollars, at a time when Lonhro was unproven as a stallion. If ever there was a payback, it rested in Commands and Lonhro, the latter of whom has since established himself as world-class, not least in his Australian Sires' premiership in 2010/11. That prompted a period of reverse-shuttling to Jonabell Farm in Kentucky beginning in 2012, in which year he was represented in Australia by the Golden Slipper (Gr.1) winner and champion juvenile, Pierro.
One of the events which has cemented Lonhro's reputation as a stallion has been his association with the Golden Rose, run at Rosehill each spring. This race, formerly known as the Peter Pan Stakes, adopted its present nomenclature in 2003 in an effort to capitalise on its connection to Rosehill's two year old jewel, the Golden Slipper, by making the "Rose" for three year olds what the Slipper is to juveniles. It had previously carried Group 2 status and been a lead-up race for more important events later in the spring, but since 2003 it has been promoted as a championship race in its own right (and has carried Group 1 status since 2009). Fittingly, the first Group 1 Golden Rose was won by a Woodlands-bred, Darley-raced son of Lonhro: Denman.
While staying at Darley's enchantingly beautiful Northwood Farm in Victoria recently, Cheryl and I shared a glimpse of Saturday's hero in his unsuccessful shot at the Blue Diamond (Gr.1). While that was a disappointment for the Darley boys at the time, knowing the esteem in which they had held him from the day Barley Ward Thomas and his team had "broken" him at their Kelvinside division in the "Hunter", on Saturday he made no mistake. That he'd made the progression they'd expected of a specimen of his magnificence, was clear when he skipped past the Golden Rose field at the top of Rosehill's tight straight en route to a 2 1/4-length victory. He had won the Run To The Rose Stakes (Gr.2) two weeks previously, while the highlight of his juvenile campaign was an impressive victory in the Skyline Stakes (Gr.2).
Exosphere's dam, Altitude, was a multiple winner in Melbourne. As a daughter of Danzero from a mare by Marscay, her merit can be attributed to two of Australia's most notable stallions of recent decades. Danzero was a member of the first Australian crop of the phenomenon, Danehill, while the Star Kingdom-line headlines the pedigree of Marscay. Both won the Golden Slipper and both sired Golden Slipper winners: Dance Hero and Dance Marscay respectively.