By Andrew Caulfield
The great Hasili added another jewel to her crown on Sunday when Champs Elysees became her second son to sire a winner of the G1 1000 Guineas. But whereas Dansili’s daughter Miss France was among the leading fancies for the 2014 edition, virtually no-one considered Champs Elysees’s admirably tough daughter Billesdon Brook, who became the longest-priced winner of the first fillies’ Classic.
Perhaps one reason why people were so dismissive of Billesdon Brook’s chances is that Champs Elysees is now plying his trade primarily as a sire of jumpers, having been transferred from Banstead Manor Stud to Coolmore’s National Hunt division after he attracted only 54 mares during the 2016 season. He found himself somewhat busier at Castlehyde Stud, covering around 240 mares at a fee of €6,500 in 2017. No doubt he is busy again this year, as Billesdon Brook is his third group winner of the year on the flat, following the Grade III success in the U.S. of his daughter Elyseas’s World and the G1 Australian Cup victory of his ex-French son Harlem.
There was quite a lot of controversy following Champs Elysees’s sale as a jumping sire, largely because it seemed to summarise the widespread prejudice against stallions–no matter how talented–whose progeny generally need a bit of time and distance.
The truth is that Champs Elysses’s long-term prospects hadn’t been helped by his fluctuating popularity since his return to England from a two-year spell on North America tracks which yielded three Grade I victories over a mile and a half. Helped by the Group 1 sire successes of his brothers Dansili and Cacique, he was popular enough in his early years at Banstead Manor, attracting 105 mares in 2010, 86 in 2011 and 112 mares in 2012. Then, in that difficult fourth season, his book fell to only 49 in 2013. A promising start in 2013 saw him inundated with 155 mares at a fee of only £5,000 in 2014–one of them being Billesdon Brook’s dam Coplow. Even though his fee was doubled to £10,000 in 2015, Champs Elysees again covered more than 100 mares–105 to be exact–but then came that book of only 54 mares.
When demand for a stallion’s services fluctuates to that extent, ranging from 49 and 54 mares to 155, it becomes very hard to avoid further peaks and troughs in the future. Juddmonte was also in the difficult position of finding it harder to support Champs Elysees. The broodmare band, which was steadily being reduced, featured numerous descendants of Hasili, including plenty of daughters of Dansili. There were also Dansili and his fast son Bated Breath to support, and it was important that some different bloodlines were introduced.
By the time he was sold, Champs Elysees had produced around 80 foals for Juddmonte. Four of them–a respectable 5%–were to become group/graded winners, but the only one to do so in the Juddmonte colours was Suffused, a triple Grade III winner in the USA who was unlucky not to become a Grade I winner in the 2016 E.P. Taylor S. (she was beaten a nose after being short of room).
The other three proved to be very durable performers after being sold. Harlem’s victory in the G1 Australian Cup as a 6-year-old justified his price of 520,000gns. Distain became a Group 3 winner in Italy as a 5-year-old after being sold for 68,000gns, and Renown became a Grade III winner at Keeneland as a 5-year-old after being sold for 40,000gns. Juddmonte could also claim some of the credit for Champs Elysees’s smart daughter Jack Naylor, as this second in the G1 Irish Oaks was sold in utero.
There are four daughters of Champs Elysees in the Juddmonte broodmare band and they could have an important role to play. Suffused is now in foal to Kingman, while Contribution, a group-placed half-sister to Enable, is in foal to Dubawi, having produced a colt to Lope de Vega. Colourful, a half-sister to the dam of Frankel, is visiting Australia, after producing a Nathaniel filly, and Spice Trail, a winning half-sister to Prix du Jockey-Club winner New Bay, is visiting Lope de Vega, after producing her first foal to Gleneagles.
Needless to say, Champs Elysees has also produced smart winners for other breeders, the best being the Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris and Billesdon Brook. Both of these Group 1 winners demonstrated that Champs Elysees can sire 2-year-old winners, even though he failed to win at that age. Billesdon Brook won three times last year, including in the G3 Prestige S. It will be interesting to see whether Getchagetchagetcha, a Champs Elysees colt who won over five furlongs at Ascot last week, can prove similarly progressive.
Billesdon Brook’s pedigree pays tribute to Bob McCreery, the very astute breeder who died in February last year at the age of 86. His Stowell Hill operation in Somerset produced the classic winners High Top (2000 Guineas) and Old Vic (an impressive winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club and Irish Derby). These two were linked, as Old Vic was produced by Cockade, a sister to High Top.
No doubt it was this family link which attracted McCreery to Anna Oleanda, when this daughter of Old Vic came up as Lot 1719 at the 2005 December Sales. He bought the then-7-year-old for 45,000gns, which wasn’t a big price to pay for a mare from an outstanding German family. Anna Oleanda’s dam was the German champion Anna Paola, which made her a half-sister to several successful broodmares. Anna Oleanda is also a sister to Anno Luce, a German Group 3 winner who also won a listed race in England.
McCreery’s investment paid rich dividends. He was responsible for the matings which produced Anna Oleanda’s last seven foals and six of them won. It is a lesson in the quirks of thoroughbred breeding that the only non-winner was Billesdon Brook’s dam Coplow, a Manduro filly who came closest to success when beaten half a length in a 10-furlong maiden at Newbury.
McCreery first sent Anna Oleanda to Fantastic Light to produce Middle Club, a filly who carried his colours to victory in two of her four juvenile starts, including the G3 Prix d’Aumale at Chantilly. Middle Club went on to finish a close second in the G3 Prix Penelope and G2 Oaks d’Italia.
Middle Club’s efforts earned Anna Oleanda a chance to visit Dubawi and she eventually produced two sons and a daughter to him. The first, Piping Rock, looked a fine prospect when he won his three starts as a 2-year-old, including the G3 Horris Hill S., but he died of colic after being sold to Godolphin. The last of the three, Anna Nerium, also became a Group 3 winner at two, in the Dick Poole S., and was also successful in the Free H. before finishing a respectable seventh behind Billesdon Brook in the 1000 Guineas.
Anna Oleanda is now dead, but several of her daughters already have winners to their name, with Coplow doing best. In addition to Billesdon Brook, she has produced the 10-furlong listed winner Billesdon Bess, who has the distinction of being the only black-type winner so far by Dick Turpin. Coplow’s connections reaped the rewards from these half-sisters’ efforts when World’s Fair, her yearling filly by Showcasing, was sold to John Gosden for 380,000gns last October. Incidentally, Billesdon Belle and Billesdon Brook are two of the three black-type winners produced so far by Manduro mares. Coincidentally, the other is Trais Fluor, a Group 1-placed miler by Champs Elysees’s brother Dansili.
Bearing in mind that Champs Elysees thrived over a mile and a half and that Coplow was tried at up to 1 5/8 miles, Billesdon Brook has done very well to shine over seven furlongs and a mile. A couple of extra furlongs shouldn’t bother her.