By Andrew Caulfield
Bearing in mind that Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson lost the sight in his right eye in 1794, his right arm in 1797 and was finally mortally wounded as a 47-year-old at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, he couldn't be considered the luckiest of individuals. Still, his exploits were so glorious that his name lives on. For example, I only have to drive a few miles up the road to enter Nelson's County, as the county of Norfolk–where he was born–has recently branded itself.
Naming a horse after a man who enjoyed such mixed fortunes might seem to be tempting fate, but horses with variations of the name have been remarkably successful. Horatio Nelson, who carried Sue Magnier's colours, proved himself one of Europe's best 2-year-olds of 2005, when he won the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. This son of Danehill and the dual Classic winner Imagine would surely have been very popular as a stallion had he not–like his namesake–suffered fatal injuries while in action (in the Derby).
Imagine's owners persevered, naming the mare's 2007 Giant's Causeway colt Viscount Nelson. This colt also proved to be well above average, developing into a Classic-placed Group 2 winner before being retired to Haras Don Alberto in Chile. And now we have Lord Nelson, who looks set to become a much-sought-after stallion when he eventually retires to Spendthrift.
The Spendthrift stallion roster contains the likes of Malibu Moon and Temple City, who have made the grade even though they didn't win at Grade I level. This explains the willingness of B. Wayne Hughes to purchase Lord Nelson (Pulpit) when he was still just a Grade II winner, that Grade II win coming when he beat the top-weighted Texas Red in last year's San Vicente S.
But now the 4-year-old has joined the Group I club, thanks to his courageous defeat of Subtle Indian in the GI Triple Bend S. three days ago.
Lord Nelson is now going to be very easy to promote. Like two-time champion sire Tapit, he is a Grade I-winning son of Pulpit. Again like Tapit, he has two lines of Mr. Prospector, with his inbreeding being 3×3, compared to Tapit's 3×4. And, according to Hughes, “he's a big, good-looking horse and we were looking for a stallion. He's exceptionally good looking.”
Another aspect of Lord Nelson's appeal is that there can't be many more future stallion sons by sire of sires Pulpit. The former Claiborne stallion died in December 2012, just short of his 19th birthday, and Pulpit's final crop, now three years old, numbered only 27 live foals. Lord Nelson comes from his penultimate crop, which also contains Win The Space, runner-up to Melatonin in the GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita S., and Teen Pauline, a Grade II winner in 2015.
Although Tapit is far and away the most successful of Pulpit's stallion sons, four others have sired American Grade I winners. One of them, Lucky Pulpit, is responsible for the remarkable California Chrome, while Sky Mesa has a creditable 19 graded winners to his credit.
Both of Lord Nelson's graded successes have come over seven furlongs, and his other victory in 2016 came over six. He has yet to hit the first three in four tries over a mile or 1 1/16 miles.
Perhaps the determining factor has been his 3×3 inbreeding to Mr. Prospector. This great stallion did most of his winning over six furlongs and set a couple of track records over that distance. Of course that didn't stop him going on to sire a winner of each of America's Triple Crown events and the chances are that Lord Nelson will also sire plenty of progeny which stay better than he seems to.
One of Lord Nelson's four grandparents, Pulpit's dam Preach, may well have channelled some of Mr. Prospector's speed, as she was fast enough to be placed in the GI Test S. and GII Prioress S. at three, even though she had won the GI Frizette S. over a mile at two.
Lord Nelson's other grandparents had no problems in staying at least a mile and a quarter. His grandsires are A.P. Indy, winner of the GI Belmont S., and Seeking the Gold, whose efforts over a mile and a quarter yielded a win in the GI Super Derby, a very narrow defeat in the GI Travers S. and a good second in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic. Lord Nelson's other grandparent, his second dam Miss Linda, won a couple of Group 1s over a mile and a quarter in her native Argentina, prior to her transfer to the U.S., where she added the GI Spinster S. over a mile and an eighth.
One of Miss Linda's sisters, the unraced Miss Simpatia, has also made a sizeable impact in the U.S. Her Argentine Oaks winner Miss Match won the GI Santa Margarita S. over a mile and an eighth. And now her American-bred daughter Carina Mia has developed into one of this year's most accomplished 3-year-old fillies, with wins in the GII Eight Belles S. over seven furlongs and the GI Acorn S. over a mile. It is surely no coincidence that Lord Nelson, Miss Match and Carina Mia were all sired by sons of A.P. Indy–Pulpit, Indygo Shiner and Malibu Moon, respectively.
Mention of Malibu Moon reminds me that there has been one major difference between the records of Pulpit and his paternal half-brother. Lord Nelson ranks as one of 10 colts among Pulpit's total of 12 Grade I winners, whereas Carina Mia is one of eight fillies among the 10 Grade I winners by Malibu Moon. This sex bias holds fairly true in a wider sample. Malibu Moon has 36 graded winners, of which 24–two-thirds–have been fillies. Pulpit, on the other hand, has 45 graded/group winners, of which 29–nearly two-thirds–have been males. This goes a long way towards explaining why Pulpit is more likely than Malibu Moon to establish an enduring male line, though Orb may have something to say about that, judging by the popularity of his first weanlings at last year's sales.