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How do sprinters become top all-distance sires?

IT was certainly the weekend for Darley sires, with the Derby going to Cape Cross, the French Derby to Noverre, the German 1,000 Guineas to a filly by Tobougg, and a Grade 1 feature at Belmont Park landed by a daughter of  Medaglia D'Oro.

Actually,only one of those stallions, Sea The Stars' sire Cape Cross, has been with Darley all along. Noverre was exiled to India, Tobougg no longer stands under the Darley banner at East Burrow Farm, and the red-hot Medaglia D'Oro was officially added to the roster only last weekend. It all goes to show how quickly stallions are shuffled on the frantic floors of the thoroughbred stock exchange.

It is also a reminder there are factors other than the sires. For instance, the stable of Jean-Claude Rouget, who saddled Noverre's son Le Havre to win the Prix du Jockey Club on Sunday, has been unstoppable this season.

Then there is Sea The Stars. The magnificent colt is at least as much a product of his dam as of his sire. I can’t say that a catalogue-style pedigree always makes compelling reading, but Urban Sea's is breathtaking.

The two real messages to take home from the weekend – from a breeding standpoint – are these, I believe: first, Darley has capitalised on Coolmore's deceleration of momentum, seizing not only the Derby with a Green Desert-line sire, but Medaglia D'Oro, from the Sadler’s Wells line no less.

Darley's line-up will now include the proven sires Cape Cross, Street Cry and Medaglia D'Oro. They also own significant chunks of Distorted Humor, Invincible Spirit and Pivotal. That gives them some potent weaponry on the stallion front.

The second message is this: Green Desert, ace sprinter, is forming a middle-distance battalion. The (you got it) Darley stallion was grandsire of both the Derby winner and the agonisingly close Oaks runner-up, Midday, by Oasis Dream.

Winner of the July Cup and sire of such blisteringly fast runners as Sheikh Albadou, Owington, Tamarisk, Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream, Green Desert has got a second generation going for him that, if not an influence for stamina, is apparently not a hindrance to it either.

The same can be said for Pivotal, sire of the Oaks winner, Sariska. A top-notch sprinter himself, Pivotal has previously sired numerous Group 1 winners over 1m2f, including Chorist, Golden Apples, Halfway To Heaven and Megahertz.

There is an interesting twist to the weekend's Epsom Classics. The Derby was utterly dominated by horses almost guaranteed to get the trip, while the Oaks was less so; however, both were led home by horses whose sires' stamina indices were among the lowest in their respective fields (tables for both races at the bottom of the page).

Cape Cross's 8.5 SI (meaning his progeny have an average winning distance of 8.5 furlongs) is at least a furlong lower than any other sire in the line-up, and well below the 10.7 average for the field.

In the Oaks, where Sariska and Midday passed the post virtually together, the winner's SI was 7.7, while that of the runner-up was 7.1. They compare to an average for the field of 9.5.

What is going on here? I think we are seeing the true potential of Cape Cross, Oasis Dream and Pivotal. In our collective bloodstock mind we have pegged them all as milers at most, and so put a distance limitation on our expectations for their progeny. They have now given definitive proof that need not be the case. But why not?

Cape Cross and Pivotal's three-year-old crops are both their first bred on a significant leap in fee from modest beginnings – up to €50,000 for Cape Cross and up to £65,000 for Pivotal. But I am not sold on the theory this ratchets up the quality of a truly prepotent sire's stock.

Such a rare sire already upgrades his mares so much that the difference of a better book may well be marginal. In any case, Ouija Board, Cape Cross's Oaks winner, was bred on a fee of Ir£8,000, while Oasis Dream's first four crops, including this year's three-year-olds, were bred on the same £25,000 fee.

What I think we may see in future is that more expensive books bring a different type of mare – more of the Oaks or Arc mare. In Oasis Dream’s case, he has had a head start as he has been supported by his owner Juddmonte, which bred Midday from the family of Oaks winner Reams Of Verse; likewise Pivotal has had the support of Cheveley Park Stud.

Danehill is the gold standard of sprinters turning into top-class all-distance sires. His eight Derby runners include winner North Light and third-placed Dylan Thomas, and he has also had the likes of Westerner, while his miling son Rock Of Gibraltar has had such top-class 1m4f winners as Eagle Mountain and Mount Nelson, along with the classy stayer Yellowstone. He is proof that some sprinters can pack brilliance without banishing stamina from bloodlines.

Green Desert has had but a single Derby runner himself – Thourios, who finished tenth at 50-1 in 1992. His lone starter in the Oaks was Urban Sea's daughter Cherry Hinton, fifth two years ago. But just in time, the 26-year-old sire may leave a similar legacy.

OAKS ORDER OF FINISH
horse sire SI grandsire SI
Sariska Pivotal 7.7 Polar Falcon
8.5
Midday Oasis Dream
7.1 Green Desert
7.9
High Heeled
High Chaparral
9.4 Sadler's Wells
11.3
Rainbow View
Dynaformer 11.1 Roberto 11.2
The Miniver Rose
High Chaparral 9.4 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Phillipina Medicean 8.7 Machiavellian 9.1
Oh Goodness Me
Galileo 11.1 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Tottie Fantastic Light
10.8 Rahy 9.5
Wadaat Diktat 8.2 Warning 8.8
Perfect Truth
Galileo 11.1 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Average 9.46 Average 10.02
DERBY ORDER OF FINISH
horse sire SI grandsire SI
Sea The Stars Cape Cross 8.5 Green Desert 7.9
Fame And Glory Montjeu 11.6 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Masterofthehorse Sadler's Wells 11.3 Northern Dancer 10.5
Rip Van Winkle Galileo 11.1 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Golden Sword High Chaparral 9.4 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Crowded House Rainbow Quest 11.1 Blushing Groom 10.5
Age Of Aquarius Galileo 11.1 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Debussy Diesis 9.5 Sharpen Up 8.9
Kite Wood Galileo 11.1 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Black Bear Island Sadler's Wells 11.3 Northern Dancer 10.5
Gan Amhras Galileo 11.1 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Montaff Montjeu 11.6 Sadler's Wells 11.3
Average 10.73 Average 10.62
 

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