New Approach heds the rankings and the Norther Dancer clanPICTURE: Edward Whitaker
World Ranking elite hail from dominant sire lines
YOU might expect the internationally top-ranked horses to be a diverse group, pedigree-wise. I would. After all, there are a lot of sires rolling around the planet; more than 3,800 in the US alone, for instance, with another 750 in Britain and Ireland. Yet the elite group of highest ranked horses - the dozen given a rating of 125 or higher - have not fallen far from the same tree.
Northern Dancer-line rules
Half are from Northern Dancer's line, admittedly a ubiquitous strain nowadays. However, all of these are from either the Danzig or Sadler's Wells lines, and you don't have to go far back to find the common ancestor. Two, New Approach (by Galileo) and Montmartre (by Montjeu) are by sons of Sadler's Wells, while three - Duke Of Marmalade (Danehill), Goldikova (Anabaa) and Big Brown (Boundary) are by Danzig sons. The final Northern Dancer-line top-12 horse, Youmzain, is by Danzig's grandson Sinndar.
Mr Prospector holds his own
Nearly all of the remaining runners rated 125 or higher are from Mr Prospector's line. That is a good showing against the almighty European force, Northern Dancer - especially when we consider that although Mr Prospector's sire line has dominated the best of American dirt racing for thelast two decades, only two of his descendents among the world top 12 raced primarily on dirt. Those were the phenomenal Curlin, by Mr Prospector's son Smart Strike, and given a joint-top ranking (along with New Approach) of 130; and the unbeaten California sensation Zenyatta, by Mr P's grandson Street Cry.
Zenyatta and Conduit fly the flag for first-season sires
Zenyatta, incidentally, is one of two runners among the top 12 who are from their sire's first crop. The John Shirreffs-trained filly, who is owned by Anne and Jerry Moss, was conceived on a $30,000 fee, which is now long distant as Street Cry's fee is $150,000 this year.
The other first-crop top-12 horse is Conduit, who like Zenyatta received a 125 rating. Bred andowned by Ballymacoll Stud, Conduit is by Dalakhani, who stood for €45,000 in his first year. After dipping in the interim as low as €35,000, the fee for the son of Darshaan is now €50,000. He and Street Cry are among the few sires who so far have resisted the deflation in the stallion market. Incidentally, Conduit is the only one of the group not descended tail-male from Mr Prospector or Northern Dancer.
Sadlers' Wells as broodmare sire
A few other facts about this group also stand out. Three of them - Conduit, Henrythenavigator and Youmzain - are out of mares by Sadler's Wells. That's25 per cent of the horses ranked 125-plus on the international classifications, a reminder yet again of what a tremendous force the stallion, retired last year at Coolmore Stud, remains.
Leading studs monopolise the leader board
Speaking of Coolmore, three of the top-12 horses are by their sires - New Approach, by Galileo, Duke Of Marmalade, by Danehill, and Montmartre, by Montjeu. There are two each for sires owned by the Aga Khan (Sinndar and Dalakhani), Darley (Elusive Quality and Street Cry) and Lane's End (Kingmambo and Smart Strike), and one each for Claiborne Farm (Boundary), Juddmonte (Zamindar) and Haras du Quesnay (Anabaa). The top studs really do seem to have it all stitched up.
Lower down the list
Branching outa little bit to the 40 horses rated 121 or better, Danzig and Sadler's Wells barely have the edge over Mr Prospector as sire lines. Together the two Northern Dancer sons account for 14 of the 40 runners, while Mr Prospector's line yielded 12. However, there are another four horses descended from other Northern Dancer branches to give that line the most success. No other sire line produced more than two runners rated 121 or better. Those that had two include Blushing Groom, Halo, Konigsstuhl and Roberto.
Only two older horses by British sires but
two-year-old representation is better
Tamayuz did his sire Nayef proudPICTURE: Mark Cranham
It is not a happy comment for British breeding that only two of the top 40 runners were sired by a stallion who stood in Britain at the time of their conception - the same number as Australian stallions. The British-sired horses are Tamayuz, by Shadwell's Nayef, and Zarkava, by Juddmonte's Zamindar, while the Australians are Sacred Kingdom, by Coolmore's Encosta De Lago, and Weekend Hussler, by Arrowfield's Hussonet. In contrast, there are three each by sires standing in France, Germany and Japan, as well as 12 sired in the US and 14 sired in Ireland. There is also one by a South African sire - Pocket Power, by Jet Master.
However, Britain makes a better showing among the European two-year-olds. Thirteen of the top 53 - those rated at least 110 - are by sires who stood in Britain, including Crowded House (by the late Rainbow Quest), rated third at 120.
Danehill Dancer: the two-year-old sire
Sire-wise, it is even more concentrated among the two-year-olds. Six of the juveniles rated 110 or better are by Danehill Dancer - among them high-weight Mastercraftsman - quite a feat for the Coolmore sire, whose fee has gone from €115,000 to private this year. A full nine are by Danehill's grandsons, including two by Dansili (Shaweel and Delegator) and one byDanetime (second-rated Bushranger).
Additionally, three are by Montjeu, two by Galileo, two by Sadler's Wells, one by Peintre Celebre and one by Giant's Causeway, making it 15 out of 53 for Coolmore sires, which is a remarkable 28 per cent of the top-rated European two-year-olds.
Art Connoisseur: by first-season sire Lucky StoryPICTURE: Martin Lynch
Money buys performance
Want to breed one of them? It is liable to take a bit of money, according to these statistics: the average stud fee for the 53 two-year-olds was £43,000 (conversions based on 2006 rates) while the median fee was £25,000. That's not hair-raising, but it's not exactly bargain-basement either. Individually, the fees ranged from a low of €2,000 to a high of $500,000 (for Heart Shaped and Shimah, both rated 110 and both by the pensioned Storm Cat).
Five of the two-year-olds are first-crop products. Art Connoisseur, by Lucky Story, Ashram (Indian Haven), Lord Shanakill (Speightstown), Sayif (Kheleyf) and Soul City (Elusive City) give support to those whose hope springs eternal in putting their money on unproven sires.