Breeding Digest: How Time Flies

Not This Time | Mary Ellet

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It is the typically interesting opinion of John Sikura that “a stallion's genetic switch is either on or off.” The quality and quantity of his books may affect his profile, but his potency (or otherwise) will be operative the day he covers his first mare.

Sure enough, six Grade I winners to date for Not This Time all belong to his first two books, conceived at just $15,000.

Whatever he might yet achieve with his upgraded mares, paying $135,000 last year and now $150,000, he did not need their help to establish himself as the principal American heir to his sire.

The Taylor Made stallion has had to ride out a typical bump in the commercial road, his third book having dwindled to 64 live foals in 2020. Even his incoming yearlings were conceived at no more than $45,000, so his rewards for second-crop graduates Epicenter and Up to the Mark will not cycle through the racetrack for a while yet.

That being so, Not This Time has had a helpful couple of weeks, aptly dividing headlines between a late-maturing member of that second crop and a sizzling 2-year-old from his fifth.

What Cogburn and Shareholder have in common, besides deploying it on turf, is terrific speed. Cogburn broke the North American record for 5 1/2 furlongs in the GI Jaipur Stakes; while the race won by Shareholder at Royal Ascot last week, the G2 Norfolk Stakes, essentially identifies the most precocious dasher in Europe.

Hold this forte against the two-turn resumes of Epicenter and Up to the Mark, and it's plain that Not This Time inherited versatility as well as class from Giant's Causeway.

For those of us who consider the gene pools either side of the ocean culpably insular since “the Iron Horse,” his son's Ascot success feels like a significant new frontier so soon after Justify's conquest of Epsom.

That Not This Time should offer the best of both worlds reflects a pedigree that combines the Florida speed of his maternal family (second dam inbred 2×3 to Ta Wee-quite something, given that the latter only had five foals) with the transatlantic blends behind his sire.

Giant's Causeway was a grandson of one of many sons of Northern Dancer exported to Ballydoyle during a more vital era of cross-pollination. His dam, meanwhile, represented a famously international sire-line (Rahy/Blushing Groom (Fr)/ Red God) while his next dam was by Roberto, who similarly adapted Hail to Reason to the European theater.

Shareholder's dam doubled down on these European flavors as an unraced daughter of Invincible Spirit (Ire), who channelled so much “chlorophyll” into Danzig's legacy. Further back, moreover, the family carries strongly indigenous British influences.

All that doubtless helped to relegate Shareholder to Hip 2057 at the September Sale last year, but will also have encouraged M&C Bloodstock in buying him out of the Frankfort Park draft for $62,000. After all, his dam is a sibling to Gale Force Ten (GB) (by Oasis Dream (GB), like Invincible Spirit a son of Green Desert), who was himself runner-up in the Norfolk before returning to Royal Ascot to win the G3 Jersey Stakes. The third dam, moreover, is half-sister to Bianca Nera (GB) (Salse) and Hotelgenie Dot Com (GB) (Selkirk), respectively first and second in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, the latter producing later dual Group 1 winner Simply Perfect (GB) (Danehill).

We've often noted how European investors tend to prove far more receptive to American sires once imported into their local system by pinhookers. And Shareholder was a case in point when placed under their noses by Gaybrook Lodge at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale. Having confirmed possession of the requisite moving parts, he advanced his value to $450,000 from Blandford Bloodstock (whose Richard Brown has proved so triumphantly equal to the pressures of his brief from Wathnan Racing).

In contrast with Shareholder's strong family, Cogburn appears to confirm their sire's ability to move up a mare. His dam-a daughter of Saintly Look, no less-was carrying Cogburn when changing hands for just $26,000, the black type in her family being largely confined to Panama and Peru. No question about it: the genetic switch was “on” here.

The last couple of weeks have duly put a quietish start to the year behind Not This Time, as he awaits incoming reinforcements. He has fielded 158 starters, compared with 357 for Into Mischief. Yet eight black-type scorers and 16 such performers keep his ratios (five and 10 percent of starters) in step with the champ.

Cogburn's delayed flowering partly reflects time on the sidelines and partly earlier experiments with dirt, but remember that his sire's curtailed career felt like only the tip of the iceberg for a half-brother to late-blooming Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song). Having produced a champion dirt sophomore with third and fourth dams by throwback turf stayers Ela-Mana-Mou (Ire) and Busted (GB), yet now a Norfolk winner as well, Not This Time is truly a sire for our times.

 

Beaten at Their Own Game

Whenever I've reproached (and, for the most part, bored) them for neglecting the speed-carrying properties of dirt stallions, I have tended to accuse European breeders of instead becoming disastrously oriented to mere precocity-scarcely a reliable identifier of class. Curious, then, that American influences remain so potent in the Ascot race that showcases precisely that attribute.

Into the slipstream of Not This Time's Norfolk winner ran third-placed Arizona Blaze (GB), by rookie Sergei Prokofiev; while a nostril behind was Whistlejacket (Ire), a son of No Nay Never. Sergei Prokofiev, a seven-figure yearling from the outstanding Anderson Farms of Ontario, is by Scat Daddy out of a Tapit mare (granddam by Unbridled's Song). And No Nay Never is another son of Scat Daddy, of course, out of a daughter of Elusive Quality.

Last year the Norfolk was won by a son of Malibu Moon out of a Quality Road mare. Shareholder and Valiant Force both broke a minute, incidentally, something that hadn't been done since 2018, by a son of Shanghai Bobby. No Nay Never himself and another son of Scat Daddy, Sioux Nation, are among other modern Norfolk winners; and don't forget Bapak Chinta, by Speightstown out of a Maria's Mon mare. All I'm saying is that this feels a disproportionate impact, relative to opportunity, when thousands of British and Irish mares are being mated for precocity.

Meanwhile the Windsor Castle Stakes, a similar test at a slightly lower tier, was last week dominated by a son of Gone Astray until run down in the last strides.

As for the fastest animal on show at Ascot, in its only Group 1 prize at five furlongs, it's curious to recall that the sire of Asfoora (Aus) (Flying Artie {Aus}) was by American turf miler Artie Schiller, himself a son of El Prado (Ire). The variety of the latter's influence-primarily through Medaglia d'Oro and Kitten's Joy-remains ever underestimated.

 

No Keeping this Juddmonte Family Down…

Given the program he represents, and the equally seasoned judgement of his trainer, it came as no surprise that thoughts of fast-tracking Batten Down (Tapit) to the GI Belmont Stakes were ultimately abandoned in favor of a more temperate elevation to the GIII Ohio Derby. That decision was duly vindicated last Saturday and, while nobody could have anticipated pocketing a 23:96 second quarter, Batten Down can now aspire to pick up the pieces against those sophomores who staggered along the road to and through the Triple Crown.

That's precisely what they did with Arrogate, but the Juddmonte team will keep taking one step at a time with this guy. Whatever he achieves from here, after all, Batten Down is already sealing the status of Close Hatches (First Defence) as a broodmare every bit as accomplished as she was a runner.

Even this most aristocratic of farms can't have a more vibrant family. Idiomatic (Curlin) has been doing her part, as daughter of a GI Kentucky Oaks-placed sister to Close Hatches; the latter, having already produced Tacitus to win $3.75 million, now has the prospect of winning graded stakes on consecutive weekends, with her thriving daughter Scylla heading for the GII Fleur de Lis.

We discussed Scylla's antecedents after her last run, and now it appears that her brother is going to assist the proliferation of the dynasty tracing to fifth dam Best In Show.

Mention of Arrogate, incidentally, prompts the poignant reflection that Relatable, a debut winner on opening weekend at Los Alamitos, will presumably be among the last of his final crop to contribute to his legacy. “Chapeau” to breeder Xavier Moreau, who sold her for $500,000 at the 2022 September Sale-a deserved coup for this estimable horseman after finding her dam, a Consolidator mare, deep in the 2017 November Sale for just $50,000.

 

…But this One May Mean Even More

How affronted Tapit would be, after their serial trysts, if told that Close Hatches had deserted him in 2021 for one of his own sons. But the Juddmonte team's esteem for Constitution was clear the previous year, when they sent the WinStar stallion Mexican Gold (Medaglia d'Oro). A Classic-placed half-sister to G1 Prix Jean Romanet winner Announce (GB) (Selkirk), she belongs to one of their most precious families.

Though Constitution has seen his sophomore arsenal depleted by various setbacks since the spring, he may yet have the most talented of the lot in Mindframe-and now Mexican Gold's son Pure Force looks another potential star, having following up his debut success in a Churchill allowance last weekend.

Pure Force's fifth dam Mofida (GB) (Right Tack {GB}) is one of the late Prince Khaled's foundation mares. When bought from Robert Sangster in 1981, she was carrying a foal by The Minstrel that turned out to be Zaizafon. Herself a Group winner, Zaizafon went on to produce the Gone West brothers Zafonic and Zamindar-the former a champion on the track, but arguably matched by the latter in their second careers.

Zaizafon is Pure Force's fourth dam. But Mofida's next foal, Modena (Roberto), proved no less significant for the developing program: besides elite winners Elmaamul (Diesis) and Reams Of Verse (Nureyev), she also produced the dam of another in Midday (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}).

As a model for anyone trying to establish a breeding program today, note how very old-fashioned was Mofida's pedigree. She was out of a mare inbred 2×3 to Gold Bridge (Fr), a fount of speed foaled way back in 1929. Gold Bridge actually carried the Edwardian legend Orby (GB) 3×3, and was also responsible for one of the keystone mares of the Bluegrass in Rough Shod (GB).

 

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