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The Royal Wrap: Ascot Point To Point

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Blue Point just after the foal sale in 2014 | Kate Sigsworth

By Emma Berry

Conditions for Royal Ascot went from black rainclouds to an altogether more agreeable sunlit second half, lifting hearts, drying the ground and allowing macs and brollies to be cast aside. The one creature to be completely unmoved by such radically different backdrops was Blue Point (Ire) (Shamardal). Come rain or shine, he stole the show as both a much needed warm-up act and a dazzling star of the finale.

Choisir (Aus) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}) was flown halfway around the world to snare the audacious Ascot sprint double, which has been attempted in the meantime but took 16 years to be replicated by Godolphin’s increasingly heroic 5-year-old, who must now be considered the best sprinter anywhere in the world.

Not long after Choisir’s epic feat, a young Kate Sigsworth reported for duty in Darley’s nominations department at Dalham Hall Stud. Her elder brother Matthew worked just across the road at Cheveley Park Stud and still does. Along with their regular jobs, which for Kate also involves appearances on Racing TV, the siblings indulge in a spot of pinhooking. At the Tattersalls December Sale of 2014, they selected a Shamardal weanling from Linda and Reddy Coffey’s Oak Lodge & Springfield House Studs, paying 110,000gns for the son of the Royal Applause (GB) mare Scarlett Rose (GB). At Book 1 less than a year later, he was sold through their family’s West Moor Stud for 200,000gns to Kate’s former boss, John Ferguson. It was good business on both sides of the equation. The Sigsworths made a tidy profit for their client and Godolphin has Blue Point, who has been skilfully coaxed by Charlie Appleby to excel at Ascot and Meydan—arguably the two most important stages for the horse’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed—and, perhaps even more importantly, will be one of the most enticing prospects to enter stud next season.

“On pedigree before we went to the sales, I’d picked out three Shamardals,” Sigsworth recalled. “One of them was Blue Point and I just loved the way he moved as well as his demeanour. He had quite a big head and a great big backside. At that stage his front end hadn’t really caught up, but what really drew me to him was the way he moved. He was quite a nervy horse when we first got him home but he was always very gentle and kind, and very easy to do.”

She added, “It’s given us great pleasure to follow him. Having worked at Darley in nomination sales and shown all those brilliant stallions from the days when I was there, to think that I’ve had even the smallest nugget to do with a stallion who could end up standing at Dalham Hall Stud is unbelievable.”

One of the most refreshing aspects of the Blue Point story is that he is still dazzling us on the racecourse at the age of five. This is not a reflection of him being slow to come to hand. He made his winning juvenile debut the week before Royal Ascot three years ago and made six 2-year-old starts in all, winning the Gimcrack S. and finishing second in the Middle Park and the Richmond S., and then third in the Dewhurst. The two horses to which he was runner-up—Mehmas (Ire) and The Last Lion (Ire)—were both bustled off to stud the following year, while Churchill (Ire) and Lancaster Bomber, who finished ahead of him in the Dewhurst, stuck around a little longer. Blue Point went on to appear at three consecutive Royal meetings, twice beating Battaash (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) in the King’s Stand before pulling off this year’s remarkable follow-up act in the Diamond Jubilee. Furthermore, he landed the G1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai’s biggest day earlier this year, having been withdrawn at the start when favourite for that race 12 months earlier after banging his head and suffering a nosebleed.

With his restricted book, Shamardal has been pretty much off limits to breeders outside the Darley fold for several seasons now, his fee having been listed as private for the last four years, and his reputation as an elite sire is growing steadily all the while. His son Lope De Vega (Ire) is already widely recognised as a high-calibre stallion in his own right, while Shadwell’s Mukhadram (GB) is making progress with his first two crops on the track and recorded a first Royal Ascot winner of his own, Thanks Be (GB), who also notched notable firsts at the meeting for her owner Emma Capon, jockey Hayley Turner and trainer Charlie Fellowes.

Shamardal has long been famed for imparting his noble Roman nose to his offspring, but it is clear that looks are not the only thing transmitted through those genes. He’s a stallion whose range increases with each passing season: witness the fact that this year his best performers include not just a crack sprinter, but the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Castle Lady (GB), and Saturday’s thrilling Chesham and Wokingham S. heroes Pinatubo (GB) and Cape Byron (GB), while grandchildren, through sire and damline respectively, include Irish 2000 Guineas winner Phoenix Of Spain (Ire) and Oaks runner-up Pink Dogwood (Ire).

A closer look at Blue Point’s pedigree drops several hints as to his durability, including as it does two horses famed for their toughness. His grandsire is the ‘Iron Horse’ himself, Giant’s Causeway, who lit up the summer of 2000 with his winning streak that started at Royal Ascot in the St James’s Palace S. and continued through the Eclipse, Sussex, Juddmonte International and Irish Champion S. A little less celebrated but no less hardy was his dam’s half-brother Tumbleweed Ridge (GB) (Indian Ridge {Ire}). His ten wins from 58 starts included five Group 3 victories in a career spanning eight seasons. Admittedly, he wasn’t top drawer, but his solid constitution was something that we don’t often get a chance to see in colts these days before they are signed up at stud. We’ve seen it in Blue Point, whose achievements add more than a dash of class to a division in which this is sometimes lacking. Darley already has Shamardal’s sons French Navy and Bow Creek at stud in Ireland and France, but the arrival of Blue Point to one of its stallion barns, whenever that may be, will be a day to be celebrated.

Breathtaking Performances
Royal Ascot was far from just the Shamardal show. Those dependable brothers Galileo (Ire) and Sea The Stars (Ire) played their roles with their usual aplomb. The latter perhaps just had bragging rights with his two Group 1 winners—Crystal Ocean (GB) and the indefatigable Stradivarius (Ire)—but the manner of Japan’s win in the G2 King Edward VII S. suggested that the son of Galileo and Newsells Park Stud’s classy matriarch Shastye (Ire) (Danehill) is surely a Group 1 winner-in-waiting.

Galileo’s sons Frankel (GB), Gleneagles (Ire) and Nathaniel (Ire) were also represented by Ascot winners. Frankel’s Baghdad (Fr), bred by Haras de Saint Pair, was winning at Royal Ascot for the second year running for Mark Johnston, while his other winner The Grand Visir (GB) cemented a memorable spell for trainer Ian Williams. The excellent dual-purpose trainer notched a first Royal Ascot winner just days after a Listed victory for his Melbourne Cup hopeful and new signing, Gold Mount (GB) (Excellent Art {GB}), who, under his previous name of Primitivo had won at Royal Ascot three years ago.

For freshman Gleneagles it was of course an important breakthrough stakes win in the Windsor Castle S., while Nathaniel’s Dashing Willoughby (GB) provided a first Royal Ascot and group win for his owners Mick and Janice Mariscotti, of whom we will hear more in Tuesday’s TDN, as well as continuing a terrific week for his sire after the G1 Prix de Diane success of the Kilcarn Stud-bred Channel (Ire). Her success also started a memorable week for trainer Francis Graffard and jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who claimed the G1 Coronation S. with Watch Me (Fr), an important first Group 1 winner for Haras de Bouquetot’s Olympic Glory (Ire), himself a son of the aforementioned Choisir.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the meeting for breeders on more modest budgets was an excellent week for Bated Breath (GB), whose trio of Royal Ascot winners—Biometric (GB), Daahyeh (GB) and Space Traveller (GB)—was followed up by Saturday’s Santa Anita victory of Simply Breathless (GB) in the GIII Wiltshire S. The Highgate Stud-bred 4-year-old had in fact posted her final British win at Ascot for Clive Cox last September, with subsequent GI EP Taylor S. winner Sheikha Reika (GB) (Shamardal) behind her in fourth that day, before she was transferred to Neil Drysdale’s barn in California.

Mummy’s Boys
All Ascot races are competitive but none offers quite such a spectacle as the 30-runner cavalry charge that is the Royal Hunt Cup. Afaak (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) improved on an admirable second last year to nose out Clon Coulis (Ire) (Vale Of York {Ire}) and become a Royal Ascot winner just like his dam, Ghanaati (Giant’s Causeway), a grand-daughter of the Queen’s Height Of Fashion (Fr) (Bustino {GB}) who won the G1 Coronation S. after landing the 1000 Guineas in 2009.

South Pacific (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) is another with a strong family link to the Royal meeting as his half-brother Most Improved (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}) won the G1 St James’s Palace S. in 2012 for Brian Meehan, while another, Ectot (Ire) (Hurricane Run {Ire}) was a Group/Grade 1 winner in France and America.

Going one better than their late dam Tonnara (Ire) (Linamix {Fr}) when it comes to supplying Royal Ascot winners, however, is Lynnwood Chase (Horse Chestnut) who, coincidentally, was a resident of Richard Gibson’s Chantilly stable at the same time as Gerry Oldham’s homebred Tonnara. Bought as a yearling for Anthony Oppenheimer by Hugo Lascelles for €140,000, Lynnwood Chase had already been represented by the G3 Tercentenary S.-winning Lemon Drop Kid brothers Pisco Sour and Cannock Chase, and the mare, who died earlier this year, was given a posthumous tribute by her daughter Star Catcher (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), the first of the family to score at the meeting in the colours of her breeder when winning the G2 Ribblesdale S. Lynnwood Chase died after foaling a colt by another winner of the Tercentenary S., Time Test (GB), and she also has a yearling filly by Frankel at Oppenheimer’s Hascombe & Valiant Studs.

The Torch Passes
Amid the clamour surrounding Hayley Turner’s win—the first for a female jockey at Royal Ascot for 32 years—it should not be overlooked that it was a special, if not poignant, day for the filly’s owner Emma Capon, who lost her grandmother only last week, and for her husband Simon, whose sister was diagnosed with cancer on the morning of Thanks Be’s win. The Capons, with Emma’s father Tom Wilson, have recently bought Glebe Stud near Newmarket and have set up a new consigning venture, Skyline Thoroughbreds, with former Newsells Park Stud yearling manager Gerry Meehan at the helm.

Thanks Be has been entered for the forthcoming July Sale at Tattersalls but it would be no surprise to see her withdrawn after breaking her maiden in such dramatic fashion.

Just as longstanding owner-breeder Julia Scott has recently handed over to new owners at Glebe Stud, Luca and Sara Cumani have done the same at Bedford House Stables, where Thanks Be is now trained by Charlie Fellowes. On the same day that that the most recent Royal Ascot winner from the historic yard was registered, it was pleasing to see Luca Cumani’s notable training career, which came to a close earlier this year, acknowledged by his inclusion, with Sara, in the Royal Procession.

It’s unlikely to be the last we’ll see of the couple at the course as their breeding operation continues in earnest and was on Thursday represented by five-length Chelmsford winner Kirstenbosch (GB) (Mount Nelson {GB}), who is now unbeaten in two starts for the Cumanis under the tutelage of James Fanshawe.

 

Egans At The Double

David Egan must be congratulated for his first Royal Ascot victory in a terrific week for his boss Roger Varian, who saddled Daahyeh to win the G3 Albany S. with Egan aboard, as well as posting a final-day double with Defoe (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}) and Cape Byron for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid.

It would be easy for Egan, who turned 20 last week, to trade on his family ties: with former trainer Sandra Hughes as his mother, jockey John Egan his father, former champion jockey-turned-trainer Richard Hughes as an uncle and the late Dessie Hughes as his grandfather, he won’t find connections hard to come by. But what marks him out as a young jockey to follow closely in the coming years, alongside his obvious talents as a rider, are his cool head and exemplary manners. Youngsters wishing to follow his path should be shown videos of his post-race interviews as an example of how to conduct oneself in the media glare.

It perhaps won’t be long before we hear more of the Egan name as Friday was also a memorable day for another member of the family, David’s younger brother Philip, who graduated from Ireland’s Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) that same morning. Watch this space.

Casamento’s Classic Strike
We started this round-up with one of Shamardal’s sons and we’ll end with another: Casamento (Ire). A resident for one year at Ljungstorps Stud in Sweden after leaving the Darley roster, the strapping chestnut was repatriated this year to stand at the Hickey family’s Sunnyhill Stud alongside Doyen (GB) and Lucky Speed (Ger). It’s a farm better known for its excellent National Hunt record but Casamento is enjoying rather a good season with his Flat runners.

On Guineas weekend in Newmarket, his son Communique (Ire) beat subsequent Coronation Cup and Hardwicke S. winner Defoe when landing the G2 Jockey Club S., while a fortnight ago Amade (Ire), trained in France by Italian expat Alessandro Botti, won the GII Belmont Gold Cup and is now being aimed towards the Melbourne Cup.

The latest success for Casamento came on Sunday at San Siro, where his daughter Lamaire (Ire) won the G2 Oaks d’Italia for her owner-breeder, Razza Dormello Olgiata, which is owned by the Marchese Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta, the son of Federico Tesio’s business partner in his famous breeding enterprise.

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