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Mastery - Doncaster St Leger Stakes - 12.09.2009

Mastery (white cap) edges out stablemate Kite Wood to win the St Leger

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham  

Mastery: blessed in the stamina department

3 b c Sulamani - Moyesii (Diesis)

IT seems reasonable to suppose that if Sea The Stars had turned up for Saturday's St Leger, there would have been a considerably larger attendance on Town Moor.

But just where the additional visitors might have been accommodated it was hard to tell on a glorious afternoon, when a bumper crowd delivered ample proof that there is life yet in the Classic that some have pronounced moribund or worse.

What is more, I doubt that anyone departed with the feeling that they had been served up a performance of Hamlet without the prince. What they saw was a well-contested race which, as throughout its 233 years, provided the sternest test of class allied to stamina for the three-year-old generation, and which once again crowned a worthy winner.

Of course, the result was not what the majority of punters wanted, and backers of Kite Wood no doubt felt frustrated that the favourite was collared so close to home. But, as I have seen a number of times in my 47 St Legers, that long punishing straight takes its toll, and the extra 132 yards that our forefathers tacked on to what we are still lazily inclined to call a 1m6f event can make a significant difference.

Mastery was the best horse in the conditions on the day, getting every yard of the trip, while Kite Wood was visibly spent in those last few agonising strides. Lawrie Inman's pluck in stumping up the £45,000 to supplement Monitor Closely was justified with a healthy dividend for the colt's third place, but he hung badly in the final furlong, and it seems a fair bet that he will stick to shorter distances in the future.

Father Time undoubtedly has more stamina than his talented sister Passage of Time, but he did not have enough for this test and did not quite get home. On the other hand, Mourayan's downfall was not caused by a want of stamina; had he been ridden closer to the pace, he would have avoided the traffic problems that beset him, and might at least have claimed a place.

The news that Mastery would remain in training in 2010 was hardly unexpected, as he still has only eight races behind him and might be expected to progress further. Itwould probably be too much to hope that he might thrive quite as conspicuously at four as Conduit, last year's St Leger hero, but there will be ample opportunities for him to add to his reputation in the staying ranks.

Mastery began his career with Mark Johnston, opening with an all-the-way win by a wide margin in a 1m maiden at Nottingham last October. Little over a week later he ran third in a conditions event over the Rowley Mile, palpably still green,but the manner of his strong finish from out of the dip suggested that he had the makings of a smart performer over longer trips at three.

He duly tried a longer trip on his first outing this season, in the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes over 1m1f of Kempton's all-weather track. After a poor break he did well to finish fourth, beaten two necks and a head, and the evident promise he displayed there resulted in his prompt removal into the Godolphin fold.

The Derby Italiano's relegation to Group 2 in the 2009 European Pattern meant that it carried less prestige than before, but there was still a whopping £330,000 on offer to the winner, and it was surprising that Mastery was the only foreign contender in the field of 21. Godolphin's enterprise was rewarded with the colt's ready victory, and it was clear that the 1m3f of the race in Rome would not represent the limit of his stamina.

To prove the point, Mastery went next for the 2m Queen'sVase, in which he had to concede 5lb to all his rivals, and he acquitted himself well as an arguably unlucky third to his former stable-companion, Holberg, who won in course record time.

The colt's next two runs were both at around 1m4f, as a creditable third to Cavalryman and Age of Aquarius in the Grand Prix de Paris, then second in the Great Voltigeur, when Monitor Closely was allowed an easy lead and six embarrassed jockeys were left wondering why he never came back to them.

With that record of consistency and his proven stamina for the distance, hindsight should make us wonder why only the two no-hopers attracted less attention than Mastery in the St Leger betting.

All too late, we can recognise his merit now, and raise a cheer as well for his sire Sulamani, who was a top-notch runner for three consecutive seasons, but who retired to stud in France at a fee of only Euros 7,000 and has failed to capture the imagination of many prominent breeders. Sometimes it is just not enough to win six Group 1/Grade 1 races in five different countries; being a Derby winner and half-brother to a dual Derby winner may also not suffice.

The trouble with Sulamani was that he was never an imposing specimen who filled the eye and never impressed in action. He had that lean and hungry look, was apt to hang and carry his head awkwardly in his races, sometimes swished his tail under pressure.

In addition, he had no form as atwo-year-old to flaunt, and while he was unquestionably well bred, that was not the same as being fashionably bred. His pedigree was perceived as too rooted in stamina.

But, for all his imagined faults this was a horse who earned over£3 million, who finished out of the frame only twice in 17 lifetime starts, who won at the top level in France, England, America, Dubai and Canada, and was placed in an Arc and two King Georges. Handsome is as handsome does, after all.

Still, Mastery does come from Sulamani's first crop of only 53; there may be time yet for breeders to reassess the sire's qualities and provide him with better opportunities.

Of course, Darley did not neglect Sulamani, and his home team's faith is rewarded with a Classic hero out of a winning mare from an excellent family. Mastery is the second top-level scorer out of Moyesii, after Kirklees, who has recently added Group 2 and Group 3 wins to his victory in the Group 1 GranCriterium as a juvenile.

Moyesii's half-brother Bowman was a Group 3 winner and placed in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, and their dam was the admirable Cherokee Rose, a rare sprinting daughter of Dancing Brave who collected Group 1 wins in the Prix Maurice de Gheest and Haydock Park Sprint Cup and was runner-up in the Prix de l'Abbaye.

The family has produced notable performers at both ends of the distance spectrum, with Prix du Cadran heroine Molesnes among those, like Mastery, blessed in the stamina department.

Bred by Darley in England.


Sire: Sulamani

Bred by The Niarchos Family in Ireland. Won 9 (1m2f-1m4f) of 17 races, viz. unraced at 2 years, 4 (inc. Prix du Jockey-Club-Gr1, Prix Niel-Gr2) out of 6 at 3 years, 3 (Sheema Classic-Gr1, Arlington Million-Gr1, Turf Classic Invitational S.-Gr1) out of 6 at 4 years, 2 (International S.-Gr1, Canadian International S.-Gr1) out of 5 at 5 years. Also 2nd in Prix de l'Arc deTriomphe at 3, 2nd and 3rd in King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at 4 and 5.  RPR: 126 at 3, 128 at 4, 127 at 5. Earned £3,072,326.

Sparely made, close-coupled individual, 16.1hh. Showed unimpressive short action, latterly raced in bandages and tongue-tie. Tended to hang and carry his head awkwardly, sometimes swished his tail. Looked a difficult ride, but performed with admirable consistency, only twice out of the frame. Effective on going from firm togood to soft, untried on really soft ground. Probably best at 1m4f.

Well bred. By a high-class middle-distance/staying performer who has tended to get stock of similar aptitude. Half-brother to dual Derby winner Dream Well. Dam won over 1m3f in France, half-sister to 5 other winners, inc. Metamorphose (Gr1 in US). Grand-dam Listed-placed winner, half-sister to US Gr2 winner Regal Bearing and French Listed winner Keep In Step.

Next dam high-class 2-y-o in France, half-sister to Grey Dawn. Same family as Green Dancer, Authorized, etc.

Stands at Haras du Logis, France, at a fee of Euros 7,000. Sire of 2 crops of racing age, inc. notable winner: Mastery (St Leger S.-Gr1).

Dam: Moyesii

Bred by Darley Stud Management Inc. in Kentucky. Won 1 (1m1f) of 7 races, viz. 0 out of 1 at 2 years, 1 out of 6 at 3 years. RPR: 93 at 3. Earned Ff89,500.

Showed useful form in French provinces, well beaten only start in Pattern company.

Well bred. By a high-class 2-y-o and successful sire. Half-sister to Bowman (by Irish River; Gr3-winner, Classic-placed). Dam dual Gr1-winning sprinter, half-sister to Listed winner Keltoi and Gr2-placed winner Volksraad (also leading sire in New Zealand).

Grand-dam Listed-placed winner, half-sister to 11 other winners, inc. Molesnes (Gr1) and Celtic Heir (Gr3). Third dam Listed winner, half-sister to Gr1 winner Galaxy Libra and Gr2 winner Garden of Heaven.

Excellent family.

To stud at 4 and dam of: Magic Tree (2002 f by Timber Country; unplaced), Kirklees (2004 c by Jade Robbery; Gr1 winner), Artisti (2005 f by Cape Cross; unraced), Mastery (2006 c by Sulamani; Classic winner), Quiet Queen (2007 f by Sulamani; unraced to date). She has a yearling colt by Librettist and a colt-foal by Street Cry.


A worthy Classic winner, still quite lightly-raced. May well improve again as four-year-old.





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