By Andrew Caulfield
Perhaps one wouldn't expect Wolverhampton's all-weather track to have featured very often in Juddmonte's extraordinary history, but the Dunstall Park circuit has indeed played its part. For example, it was over Wolverhampton's Tapeta surface that Kingman's son Emissary made a stylish debut three days ago, earning TDN Rising Star status in the process.
This half-brother to Derby and Arc winner Workforce will do very well to match the achievements of a previous Juddmonte colt who gained his first success at the West Midlands track. Back in 2000, when the surface was Fibresand, the ex-French Skimming made his British debut for Barry Hills as the 1-2 favourite in a race for maidens aged four or over. The son of Nureyev duly landed the odds, collecting £2,795. Unfortunately Skimming broke a blood vessel when returned to Wolverhampton a month later, forcing his transfer to Bobby Frankel in the U.S. Unexpectedly, Skimming was to retire as a winner of more than $2.2 million, thanks largely to his five American graded stakes successes, which included consecutive editions of the GI Pacific Classic.
By 2012, the Wolverhampton surface has been replaced by Polytrack (which was itself to be replaced by Tapeta in 2014). The course was chosen by Roger Charlton for the second appearance of Mizzen Mast's daughter Nimble Thimble, whose main claim to fame was that she was a half-sister to Three Valleys. This son of Diesis had romped home eight lengths clear in the G3 Coventry S. nine years earlier (and was also first past the post in the G1 Middle Park S., only to lose the race when a banned substance was found in his post-race sample.)
Despite her distinguished pedigree, Nimble Thimble started at 13-2 at Wolverhampton, having shown little on her previous start, but she gained that all-important win. Even though she was to disappoint when returned to Wolverhampton two weeks later, there were strong reasons for her retention for the Juddmonte broodmare band.
A strong individual, with substance, Nimble Thimble is a daughter of Skiable, a mare bred to a similar pattern to Juddmonte's blue hen Hasili. Both Skiable and Hasili were sired by Nijinsky II line stallions from Kerali, a daughter of the 1977 Cheveley Park S. winner Sookera. Another of Kerali's daughters, Hasili's sister Arrive, had produced those excellent fillies Promising Lead and Visit for Juddmonte, so any filly from this family was potentially precious.
Also, it didn't harm Nimble Thimble's prospects that her pedigree was free of such widespread European influences as Sadler's Wells and Danehill. Importantly, this made her eligible to visit the great Frankel, named after the man who trained her dam Skiable to gain the last of her four wins, in an allowance over a mile on Hollywood Park's turf course in 1994.
Nimble Thimble made her first visit to Frankel in 2016. It was around the same time that reports were starting to be received from Beckhampton that Occurrence, a filly from Frankel's first crop, was showing considerable promise on the gallops. Occurrence's dam Arrive, as mentioned above, was a sister to Hasili and there were hopes that Occurrence was going to add significantly to the achievements that had made Arrive the TBA's Broodmare of the Year for 2008. Sadly, she suffered a very bad fracture to a pastern before she could race. Thanks to the veterinarians' skill she was saved for a broodmare career and has a likeable Dark Angel filly as her first foal.
The thoughts of what might have been with Occurrence have been revived by the emergence of the unbeaten Quadrilateral, Nimble Thimble's filly by Frankel. She staked her claim to being the best filly of her generation with her admirably determined victory in last Friday's G1 Fillies' Mile, with her win making her the 10th G1 winner by Frankel.
Quadrilateral is already the best winner that Frankel has sired from the Kerali family, but he has also done well with three of Hasili's daughters, siring the smart Mirage Dancer (G3 Glorious S.), Obligate (G2 Prix de Sandringham and third in the G1 Prix Rothschild) and Weekender (third in the G1 Irish St Leger after being second under top weight in last year's Ebor).
It is worth mentioning that Frankel's success with the Kerali family hasn't all been with mares that shone on the racecourse. Leaving aside Mirage Dancer's dam Heat Haze, who was one of Hasili's five Grade I winners, Quadrilateral's dam Nimble Thimble was ordinary (her Racing Post rating was 71); Obligate's dam Responsible never went into training; and Weekender's dam Very Good News never made it to the races for Andre Fabre. Maybe neither mare was helped by her birth date–Very Good News's was May 29 and Responsible's was May 14.
While on the subject, it is also worth pointing out that two of Frankel's other 2019 group winners for Juddmonte are Logician, the unbeaten winner of the St Leger, and Delaware, a four-length winner of the G3 Prix Daphnis. Logician's dam, the useful handicapper Scuffle, gained her only black-type when third in an all-weather listed race, whereas Delaware's dam Zatsfine gained her only win at Dieppe.
However, as all the agents and breeders who dream of buying a Juddmonte filly know very well, performance is only part of their appeal. Family is arguably of greater importance as has been highlighted by most of the mares mentioned here. Logician's dam Scuffle is a half-sister to those very good colts Bated Breath and Cityscape, whereas Delaware's dam Zatsfine is a half-sister to the Group 1 winners Byword and Proviso, their dam Binche being the Broodmare of the Year in 2010. Incidentally, there was very nearly a third Group 1 winner for Binche earlier this month when her Frankel gelding Finche failed by a short-head to catch Kings Will Dream in the G1 Turnbull S. at Flemington.
The truth is that Frankel is siring group winners from quite a variety of mares. Some of his best winners, such as the Japanese Oaks winner Soul Searching and the very smart Elarqam, are out of famous Group 1 winners, as is Fount, a Group 3 winner among Juddmonte's 2019 group winners by Frankel. Another of his recent Group 1 scorers, the Oaks and Prix de Royallieu winner Anapurna, is out of Dash To The Top, who failed by only half a length to win the G1 Yorkshire Oaks.
As Juddmonte's recent advertisements in the TDN have been highlighting, Frankel has been achieving some remarkable percentages with his runners from his first four crops, including 14% group winners to runners.
You might wonder, then, why he ranks no higher than fifth on the European leading sires' list. The answer is that, with a third crop which numbers 86 Northern Hemisphere foals and a fourth crop numbering 80, Frankel currently has less ammunition than any of the other stallions in the European top 20. Whereas Kodiac and Dark Angel have had more than 310 individual runners this year, and Zoffany, Lope de Vega, Siyouni and Invincible Spirit have had more than 225, Frankel has had only 120, of which 14 are stakes winners. In fact the only other stallion in the top 20 to have had fewer than 161 runners is Frankel's fellow Banstead Manor stallion Kingman, with 128. The four stallions above Frankel–Galileo, Shamardal, Dubawi and Sea The Stars–have had between 177 and 209 runners.
I am very much looking forward to seeing Frankel's fifth crop race next year. Conceived after his first-crop 2yos excelled in 2016, this crop numbers more than 160 foals and has already made a splash in the sales ring, achieving such prices as 3,100,000, 850,000, 725,000 and 700,000gns
There is a sister to Quadrilateral among the Juddmonte homebreds, together with brothers to Finche and Weekender and sisters to Obligate and the smart Fair Eva. There's also a filly out of a sister to Midday, a half-brother to Shutter Speed, a filly out of a half-sister to the dam of Workforce and Emissary and a half-sister to Showcasing and Camacho.
They should help to offset the fact that Frankel will be competing with comparatively small crops of 3- and 4-year-olds in 2020. It will be 2021 before Frankel is competing on level terms numerically. That will be the year his first £175,000 crop reaches the track, his fee having risen by £50,000 after Cracksman and so many other members of his first two crops did so well in 2017.