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Mastercraftsman - CURRAGH SAT 23 MAY 09

Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mastercraftman (above) kicked off a brilliant weekend for Coolmore sire Danehill Dancer - he is also sire of Again, winner of the 1,000 Guineas, and Grand Ducal, winner of the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker  

Grand Ducal: Danehill Dancer is in pole position

THE winners ofthe 2009 Irish Guineas have both featured in this slot before - Mastercraftsman last July and Again in September - and here we are not like one of those TV stations that specialises in repeats.

But we could hardly ignore Danehill Dancer's exceptional feat of completing the Classic double on a weekend when he assumed a clear lead in the race for the sires' championship, and thanks to the Group 3 victory of his son Grand Ducal in the Gallinule Stakes we have the excuse to celebrate the ever-rising profile of a Coolmore stallion who has far exceeded expectations in more than one respect.

Racing career did not inspire confidence
When Danehill Dancer was taken out of training, after a dismal effort in his only start as a four-year-old, and promptly despatched to Australia, who would have cared if he had stayed there? That seemed to be the right place for him - somewhere he would get respect just for being a son of his sire; he could expect a different sort of reception in Ireland.

Nobody could deny was a big, strong, taking individual with a decent enough pedigree, or that he had some smart performances in his record. But he had never really convinced us that he was that good, and there were plenty in the stallion ranks who could flaunt similar, or superior, credentials.

On paper, Danehill Dancer's record as a two-year-old did not leave much to be desired. He had won three out of four, notching a Group 1 double in the Phoenix and National Stakes, and he had finished second to the season's champion, Alhaarth, in the Dewhurst Stakes.

Closer examination of the form told a different story. The opposition had been weak at both Leopardstown and the Curragh, and at Newmarket, where the four-horse turn-out included a pacemaker for the favourite, Alhaarth had run all over him.

At three he had started well with a Group 3 score in the Greenham Stakes, but he was well below par in the 2,000 Guineas and the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, so a return to sprinting was prescribed. He gave a respectable showing as fifth in Anabaa's July Cup before turning in a career-best effort in third place behind Anabaa and Miesque's Son in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

On his final outing that season he was soon outpaced in the Haydock Sprint Cup, with the fast ground offered as his excuse, and after he had finished down the field in the Duke of York Stakes on his return at four, connections decided that enough was enough.

Danehill Dancer's RPRs confirmed that he had never been quite top class - just one of a crowd of ‘nearly' horses. Did he stay 1m? He surely ought to have, but it was hard to tell from his dull efforts in the Newmarket and Longchamp Classics, the only occasions when he was tested at the trip.

Cheaply priced newcomer attractive to Irish breeders
One thing was certain. If he was to achieve any recognition at stud in Europe, he would need to do it the hard way. He might get a few decent mares down under, where his sire was standing at Aus$100,000 and he was priced at Aus$7,500, but Danehill's name was not - yet - magic in Ireland, and while he might well get big books as a bargain basement stallion, there would be no quality among them.

It was no great surprise that Danehill Dancer should cover 133 mares in his first season at Kilsheelan. Small Irish breeders have always been attracted to cheaply priced newcomers to the stud ranks, and, as a dual Group 1-winning two-year-old, he promised to represent value at Ir4,000gns.

As it turned out, 75 yearlings from his first crop of 97 went to auction in 2000, and although 20 of them did not even return the service fee and the overall median price was only 8,000gns, one of his sons topped the trading at the Doncaster St Leger sale, fetching 72,000gns, and a dozen of the better conformed individuals made 20,000gns or more. Among that group were two - Ziria (27,000gns) and Where Or When (26,000gns) - who went on to win in Group 3 company as juveniles.

Where Or When gave first sign, Choisir cemented it
By the time those successes had drawn attention to Danehill Dancer's possibilities, he had covered for four seasons, never at more than Ir4,000gns. An abrupt rise to Ir£9,000 brought him a bumper book of 196 mares, including plenty with real credentials, and before their foals were delivered Where Or When ran away from odds-on Hawk Wing to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

It was time for Danehill Dancer to shift up the road to Coolmore and reap the full benefits of its promotion machine, but before the next (2003) breeding season had run its course a living advertisement in Choisir had done all that was necessary to secure his sire's long-term future. Danehill Dancer was not going to look back after Choisir, a product of his second season in Australia, had notched that superb Royal Ascot sprint double in the King's Stand and Golden Jubilee.

Sure enough, it has all been onward and upward since that time. His fee went from €30,000 in 2003 to €45,000 in the following year, reached €75,000 in 2006, then €115,000 for the next two seasons. No charge was advertised for 2009, the term "private" presumably indicating a still higher fee.

Events on the racecourse have dictated those increases. Eighth on the sires' list in 2005, he ranked second to his own sire in 2006, finished fourth in 2007, and was runner-up again, dividing Galileo and Montjeu, in 2008. Now, with his historic weekend Classic double, he has reached the top of the pile.

What of the future?
Where does he go from here? We can only expect a further raising of his profile, and it will probably happen in much the same way as it did in his sire's case. He is going to be supplied with mares from Classic backgrounds, and it will come as no surprise if he gets stock capable of holding their own over middle distances at the highest level.

Again may make that point soon enough, whether or not she contests the Oaks, but meanwhile there have already been Pattern victories by Anna Pavlova and Ice Queen over 1m4f, Wajir at 1m3f, and Grand Ducal at 1m2f. Aidan O'Brien has made it known that he expects the last-named to stay the full mile and a half, and why should we not believe that of a colt whose dam was by Shirley Heights?

There is a certain irony about Danehill Dancer's rise to stardom in that it was an Australian-bred sprinter who proved the catalyst, yet we don't now think of him in terms of sprinting progeny, while down under, in spite of Choisir and Private Steer in the early days, he shows no signs of dominating the sire scene as Danehill did.

Bred by A. Stroud and J. Hanly in Ireland
220,000gns Tattersalls December foal; 340,000gns Tattersalls October Part 1 yearling


Pedigree Assessment

Sire: Danehill Dancer
Bred by Larry & Kip McCreery in Ireland. Ir38,000gns Goffs October yearling. Won 4 (6-7f) of 11 races, viz. 3 (inc. Phoenix S.-Gr1, National S.-Gr1) out of 4 at 2 years, 1 (Greenham S.-Gr3) out of 6 at 3 years, 0 out of 1 at4 years. Also 2nd in Dewhurst S., 3rd in Prix Maurice de Gheest (best career performance). Earned £212,758. RPR 116 at 2, 118 at 3, 108 at 4.

Strong, well-made, lengthy sort. Smart performer with a good turn of foot, equallyeffective at 6f and 7f. Should have stayed a mile (raced only in Classics at that distance). Never raced on extremes of going.

Well-bred. By a leading sire out of a once-raced grand-daughter of top-class sprinter-miler Lianga. Same family as Mr Greeley and Street Sense.

Stands at Coolmore Stud, Fethard, Co. Tipperary; last advertised fee (2008) Euros 115,000. Sire of 9 northern hemisphere crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Lady Dominatrix (Gr3), Where or When (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes-Gr1), Ziria (Gr3), Monsieur Bond (Gr2), Barbajuan (Gr3), Venturi (Gr3), Indesatchel (Gr3), Pride of Nation (Gr3), Anna Pavlova (Gr2), Danehill Music (Gr3), Decado (Gr3), Jeremy (Gr2), Nordtanzerin (Gr2), Sexy Lady (Gr3), Silent Times (Gr2), Speciosa (1,000 Guineas-Gr1), Alexander Tango (Gr3), Drumfire (Gr3), English Ballet (Gr3), Express Wish (Gr3), Miss Beatrix (Moyglare Stud S.-Gr1), Snaefell (Gr3), Carribean Sunset (Gr3), Fast Company (Gr3), Ice Queen (Gr3), Lizard Island (Gr2), Again (Moyglare Stud S.-Gr1, Irish 1,000 Guineas-Gr1), Chintz (Gr3), Mastercraftsman (Phoenix S.-Gr1, National S.-Gr1, Irish 2,000 Guineas-Gr1), Tamazirte (Gr3), Wajir (Gr2), Westphalia (Gr2). Also sire of 9 southern hemisphere crops, inc. Gr1 winners: Choisir (Lightning S., Golden Jubilee S.), Private Steer (Stradbroke H., All-Aged S., Doncaster H.), Arapaho Miss (VRC Oaks), Light Fantastic (Australian Guineas).

Dam: Mood Swings
Bred by Lord Halifax in Ireland. Won only start (6f) at 2 years in England, placed subsequently in UAE. RPR 76 at 2. Earned £3,600.

Winner of ordinary Redcarmaiden on debut, failed to progress.

Quite well bred. Sister to 2-y-o Listed winner Catwalk, half-sister to 5 lesser winners. By a dual Derby winner who succeeded as sire and broodmare sire. Dam won 2 races, 2nd in Listed, 3rd in Gr3,4th in Gr1, half-sister to 6 other winners.

Reliable winner-producing family, but not one associated with Classic-calibre stock in recent generations.

To stud at 5 years and dam of: Hurricane Floyd (1998 g by Pennekamp; Listed-placed winner), Psychic (1999 f by Alhaarth; winner), Calculus (2000 c by Barathea; unplaced), Etizaan (2001 f by Unfuwain; unraced), Best Side (2002 f by King's Best; Listed-placed winner), Tears of a Clown (2003 g by Galileo; winner), Al Khaleej (2004 g by Sakhee; winner), Grand Ducal (2006 c by Danehill Dancer; Gr3 winner), Lowdown (2007 c by Shamardal; unraced to date. She has a yearling colt by Invincible Spirit, and was covered by Exceed and Excel in 2008. Barren to Marju in 2005.

Conclusion
Pleasing seasonal debut by a colt who may well do more to enhance his sire's record with middle-distance performers

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