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There is more than one way to shape a breed

REMEMBER Tesio's quote about the piece of wood and the selection of the thoroughbred? The idea was that the Derby winning postdetermines the future shape of the breed. But that was when populations, both human and equine, were much smaller, and it was before globalisation brought us shuttle stallions and southern hemisphere sprinters.

The breed now comes in all shapes and sizes. It may have done so before, but they were not all coveted equally at the top level. The Derby still has its cachet, but Royal Ascot is the greatest show on earth for displaying the variety of thoroughbred runner in the world today. Forget the fashion corner and millinery mania; in the pre-parade ring you can feast your eyes on the physiques it takes to compete at the top level from five-furlong sprints to two-mile marathons.

The five days of racecards include the full spectrum of sires, reminding us that a good horse can come from anywhere, speaking both genetically and regionally. Whether or not they come from obscurity, Royal Ascot, despite the suggestion of the name, offers all runners an equal opportunity - toearn their chance at shaping the breed. A victory here, be it in the Coventry, the St James's Palace or the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, can help launch a colt's career at stud. Whether he succeeds in posterity is another matter.

But some do survive; Royal Applause, Coventry Stakes winner of 1995, has been among the most successful sires in terms of getting his two-year-olds to the meeting. Since 2002, he has had 11 juveniles run at Royal Ascot - more than Danehill Dancer, Night Shift orStorm Cat - and although he has not had a winner, he came close with The Bonus King (a short head second in the 2002 Norfolk Stakes), while his Nevisian Lad was third in the same race in 2003, and Progressing Times filled the same spot in the Windsor Castle Stakes of 2002. Royal Applause gets another shot with Crown, winner of her last two starts for Richard Hannon, in the Queen Mary Stakes today.

It is not only the males who determine the breed, and two former Queen Mary contestants are returning in the shape of their daughters, who will both contest the five-furlong fillies' dash this afternoon. Queen's Logic, winner of the race for trainer Mick Channon and owner Jaber Abdullah in 2001, will be represented by her fourth foal, Lady Of The Desert, a winner of her only start for Abdullah and trainer Brian Meehan.

Majestic Desert, who was also a Channon and Abdullah project when finishing third in the 2003 Queen Mary and second in the following year's Coronation Stakes, has her first foal, Grand Zafeen, aiming to go one better for the same connections.

It is rare enough for a popular stallion to sire two winners of a Royal Ascot group race, even with 100 foals gunning for him each year. Just imagine the odds against a mare doing it twice, then; like Urban Sea with her Galileo and Sea The Stars, such producers do not come along often.

But My First Romance achieved the feat with Romantic Myth and Romantic Liason, winners of the Queen Mary in 2000 and 2002. To top it off, the Danehill mare also produced 2002 Balmoral Handicap winner Zargus.

It all goes to show there is more than one way to shape the breed. And more than one shape that it comes in.




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