While this may be so on a comparison with the human species, it's difficult to fathom out the basis for our logic; we'd have to say then that most horsemen probably prefer pedigree as a matter of tradition and the “snobbish” origins of the breed during it's 300 years under the custodianship of the English nobility, more so it's an essential ingredient in every high profile performance athlete.
The reality though, is that in the human realm, the greatest achievers seem to come from anywhere, left field, centre field, and off-the-field altogether, whether in science, athletics, the professions or the hurly-burly world of commerce, particularly in the upstart stages of ground-breaking endeavours, from people of modest or almost no background by which you could anticipate their wonders. While the list is endless, you need only look at the recent world of technological and scientific revolution, to find names like Steve Jobs, Intel's Andy Gore, a Hungarian child fugitive from the Nazis who found refuge in the “Land of the Free” after escaping the subsequent Russian purge, as well as South Africa's own Elon Musk, now at the simultaneous forefront in the development of carbon free motor cars and his conquest of the world of space. South Africa's own history is littered with the names of great people who came from nowhere, not the least of whom are several Nobel Prize winners and a bunch of street urchins who aspired to the titles of “Randlord” and Knight of Her Majesty's Realm.
Of course, while there've been many regally bred and very successful stallions at stud in this country, three of our most successful sires of recent times, who might be as good or better than anything we can remember, Dynasty, Jet Master and Foveros were all horses of extremely modest background. Starting with the oldest, Foveros was the son of a stallion, Averof, who failed in England, was banished by the Australians and finally, in this country, bred nothing himself we can remember him by, save for his exceptional English-bred son, Foveros, who was already forging a powerful belief that he could be young stallion of outstanding merit. In his case, not only was his father a failure, but at the time of his acquisition for South Africa, Foveros was the only bold Black type horse in his catalogue page. Four of Jet Master's first five dams either lived or were born and raised at Summerhill under the ownership of the late Dickie Dunn, so the team knew them intimately, and with the exception of his great grand-dam, Let's Laugh, who placed third in the Allan Robertson Fillies Championship (Gr.1) he was another devoid of any pretensions of what we call “ink” on his mum's side.
Most of us in the game today worship the ground on which Dynasty walks, remembering not only his phenomenal exploits as a racehorse, but now reminded every day by the deeds of his stock on the racetracks of South Africa. A chat to Mary Slack would reveal the story of how she came by his mother, and if you're anything of a romantic, you can find similar threads in the love story of Signor Ginistrelli and his breeding of the English (now Investec) Derby heroine, Signorinetta. Dynasty's mum was the daughter of the extremely modest stallion Commodore Blake, which explains why, until Mary had the daring to send her to her excellent sire, Fort Wood, his family was replete in failures.
As an aside, the maestro Terrance Millard, still a comparatively young man almost twenty-five years ago, was one of the members of the yearling inspection panel for the TBA. Over a wee dram of scotch at the end of a hard day's work looking at youngsters, he and Mick Goss got into their usual conversations about their addictive pastime, its origins and what keeps the sport going. Mick raised the question at some point in the evening as to what Terrance considered “a good pedigree”, and after a short pause, he responded: “You know Mick, I've spent fifty years in this game asking myself the same question. Eventually the penny dropped for me not so long ago: a good pedigree belongs to a good horse!”. Simple as that.
The events at the Dubai World Cup carried much to enthuse about, but in the frenzy of it all, the one thing the fans seemed to overlook is what lay behind the production of the excellent athletes that turned up on the day. Summerhill's good friend Andrew Caulfield, one of the world's top analysts of these insights, has an uncanny ability to dig up the unique angle. If ever there was a blue collar story of note (and by “blue collar”, we mean modest origins), here it is, this time in the form of one of the world's great “breed-shapers”.
Not for the first time, the Dubai World Cup meeting must have left a few of America's older breeders fighting the urge to kick themselves. The American regret dates back to 1990, when it was announced that 1989's Horse of the Year Sunday Silence was being retired to the Stone Farm of co-owner Arthur Hancock III. The response, or lack of it, from local breeders was such that Zenya Yoshida, Japan's elder breeding statesman, revealed his rare intuition once more with his conviction to increase his stake in this great but somewhat unusually conformed racehorse and Sunday Silence left Stone Farm for Shadai without standing a single season. To his Japanese eyes, Sunday Silence's exploits in the Kentucky Derby (Gr.1), Preakness Stakes (Gr.1) and Breeders' Cup Classic (Gr.1) were of greater importance than the fact that his first two dams were daughters of two unglamorous stallions in Understanding and Montparnasse. And how right they proved to be.
With 13 consecutive Sires' Championships in Japan, Sunday Silence enjoyed a degree of dominance which entitles him to be mentioned in the same breath as Ireland's Sadler's Wells or Australia's Danehill. In the eight years since his last championship, the title of Champion Sire has gone on six occasions to one or other of his sons, with Deep Impact establishing himself as his true heir with four consecutive championships. The sport at Meydan provided a few reminders of Deep Impact's talents, with Real Steel taking the Dubai Turf (Gr.1) and Last Impact finishing third in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Gr.1). However, it hasn't only been Sunday Silence's sons which have safeguarded his legacy. Even though the top 10 positions on Japan's leading sires' lists have long been monopolized by Sunday Silence's sons, his broodmare daughters have also managed to make a seismic impact. After being runner-up on the broodmare sires' table in 2005 and 2006, Sunday Silence has achieved a remarkable sequence of nine straight championships.
Consequently, it came as no surprise to see the UAE Derby (Gr.2) fall to Lani, a Tapit colt with a dam by Sunday Silence. A creditable third place went to another Japanese challenger in Yu Change, this one a colt by Sunday Silence's Group Three-winning son Swift Current.
Lani's victory, his third from five starts on dirt, appears to have booked the colt's ticket to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, a race Sunday Silence won comfortably from Easy Goer in 1989. The 100 points Lani earned with his defeat of the filly Polar River (Congrats) places him second on the list behind Gun Runner and there are now three sons of Tapit in the top five positions.
Later in the programme at Meydan it took Postponed (Dubawi, sire of the excellent South African performer Willow Magic,) to prevent the Dubai Sheema Classic falling to Duramente (King Kamehameha), last year's Japanese 2,000 Guineas and Derby winner who is another with a dam by Sunday Silence. There has been plenty of other international success for Sunday Silence's broodmare daughters. With help from the comparatively small number of daughters sired to Southern Hemisphere time, their progeny feature such as More Joyous (an eight-time Group One winner in Australia), Karakontie (a French classic winner who took the 2014 Breeders' Cup Mile) and Tale of Ekati (Wood Memorial and Cigar Mile). The best of their Japanese winners include the Japan Cup winners Admire Moon (who travelled to Dubai to take the Dubai Duty Free), Rose Kingdom and Screen Hero (sire of last year's Group One Hong Kong Mile winner Maurice).
OV Guide (p)