By Andrew Caulfield
Back in 2006, when the first two flashed past the winning post in the G1 Dewhurst S., they also earned themselves first and second places on the European Two-Year-Old Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings. Galileo’s unbeaten son Teofilo topped the table by 1lb from Danehill’s dual Group 1-winning son Holy Roman Emperor, who had also been beaten into second place by Teofilo in the G1 National S. Holy Roman Emperor, for his part, had won four of his remaining five starts, notably taking the G1 Phoenix S. and the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
It didn’t take much imagination to envisage these two also fighting out the finish of the 2000 Guineas, but–extraordinarily–neither was to race again, for different reasons. The breeding world’s gain was definitely racing’s loss, as Vital Equine, a colt who was twice beaten around three lengths by Holy Roman Emperor, was to finish second in the 2000 Guineas, beaten only a length and a half.
Both young stallions were to make a Classic impact, with Teofilo siring Pleascach (Irish 1000 Guineas) and Trading Leather (Irish Derby), while Holy Roman Emperor has been responsible for Homecoming Queen (1000 Guineas by nine lengths), Well Timed (Preis der Diana) and Romanised (Irish 2000 Guineas). Romanised, of course, has recently used his telling burst of acceleration to revive his career with victories in the G2 Minstrel S. over seven furlongs at The Curragh and the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois over a mile at Deauville.
Holy Roman Emperor has also gone close to siring an Irish Oaks winner, as Banimpire was beaten only a short head in the 2011 race, and his Group 1-winning son Morandi was second in the 2013 Prix du Jockey-Club. During a peripatetic career, he has also sired an Australian Derby winner in Mongolian Khan and a New Zealand 1000 Guineas winner in Rollout The Carpet. There have also been a couple of major earners in Hong Kong, in the form of Designs On Rome and Beauty Only, as well as the American Grade I winners Rich Tapestry (Santa Anita Sprint Championship) and Glorious Empire (Sword Dancer S.) and the Brazilian Group 1 scorers Salto Olimpico and Maraton.
That adds up to quite an impressive collection for a stallion who is still only 15 years old and who has been priced no higher than €15,000 in 2018 and 2019. I think it is fair to say that Holy Roman Emperor and his progeny have often flown under the radar, with both Homecoming Queen and Romanised starting at 25-1 when they won their Classics.
Holy Roman Emperor’s premature retirement came in such unusual circumstances that it is worth retelling the story. He had been retired unexpectedly in early March, when another first-rate son of Danehill, the 2000 Guineas winner George Washington, encountered serious fertility issues while standing his first season at Coolmore at a fee of €60,000. The situation at Coolmore was made all the more complicated by the fact that Rock of Gibraltar, another 2000 Guineas winner by Danehill, had been leased to Japan for the 2007 season and Danehill Dancer was already heavily booked at a fee of €115,000.
Coolmore attempted to remedy this difficult situation by shuttling the top Australian stallion Encosta de Lago to Ireland, but he didn’t leave Australia until Mar. 20, and Holy Roman Emperor carried most of the burden, covering 136 mares compared to Encosta de Lago’s 59.
While the decision to retire Holy Roman Emperor can’t have been easy, I have always wondered whether connections were worried that his racing prospects at three might be compromised by his lack of size, as he stands just over 15.2 hands. However, Holy Roman Emperor had been very progressive as a 2-year-old, with his Dewhurst second arguably representing his best effort, and many of his progeny have thrived after the age of two. Good examples include Designs On Rome, Beauty Only, Rich Tapestry and Glorious Empire, all of whom were all at least five year olds when they recorded their last Group 1 success.
It is surely no coincidence that Romanised is owned by the Hong Kong-based Robert Ng, as Holy Roman Emperor’s progeny have been extremely popular and successful there. In addition to Designs On Rome and Beauty Only, the American Grade I winner Rich Tapestry was originally based in Hong Kong after leaving Ireland, and so too was Glorious Empire. The speedy Charles The Great was another who developed into a group winner in Hong Kong after a useful juvenile career in England.
Romanised’s appeal to Mr. Ng no doubt owed a lot to the fact that he shares the same sire and the same Moyglare Stud female line as Designs On Rome, with his dam, the Indian Ridge mare Romantic Venture, being a half-sister to Designs On Rome. In becoming something of a superstar in Hong Kong, Designs On Rome gained four Group 1 wins over a mile and a quarter and a Group 2 over a mile.
Romanised has so far raced exclusively at up to a mile, which is what might be expected of a Holy Roman Emperor colt out of an Indian Ridge mare who won over 8.5 furlongs on her debut at three. However, there is a distinct theoretical possibility that he too could stay a mile and a quarter.
His dam Romantic Venture may have had a sprinter as her sire but she also had the dual Arc winner Alleged–whose progeny had a high average winning distance of 11.6 furlongs–as her broodmare sire. Romantic Venture managed only one further start, at Group 3 level, before joining the Moyglare broodmare band but she was culled for €40,000 as an 11-year-old in 2008. Since then she has demonstrated how difficult it can be to establish the stamina potential of mares who are the product to two extremes. Fictional Account, her Moyglare-bred filly by the champion sprinter Stravinsky, showed Alleged’s influence rather than those of Stravinsky and Indian Ridge. Her two listed victories came over a mile-and-three-quarters at The Curragh and two miles at Ascot.
It was a similar story when Romantic Venture was mated to the top miler Rock of Gibraltar, a horse bred to a similar pattern to Holy Roman Emperor. The result was Rock of Romance, winner of the G3 St Leger Italiano over a mile-and-three-quarters and a German listed race over two miles.
Romanised’s second dam Summer Trysting, produced middle-distance Group winners to three fast horses, including Romantic Venture’s smart brother Sights On Gold, who was once beaten only half a length by Phoenix Reach in the G1 Hong Kong Vase over a mile and a half. Simple Exchange, Summer Trysting’s colt by Romanised’s grandsire Danehill, won the GII American Derby over 1 3/16 miles.
Romanised’s third dam Bubinka did sterling work for Moyglare and Romanised ranks alongside the Irish Derby and Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Grey Swallow and the Irish Oaks and Prix de l’Opera winner Covert Love as one of four Group 1 winners descending from her.