Seven Days: Churchill's Brightest Hour

The Foxes is another Classic contender for Churchill | Racingfotos

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Seven years ago Churchill (Ire) beat Mehmas (Ire) in the G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S., and they both now feature prominently in their second careers at stud.

For Mehmas, that's nothing new. He was champion first-season sire, then leading second-season sire, and he gave way only to New Bay (GB) last year among his generation. Now with his fourth crop of runners taking to the track, the Tally-Ho Stud resident is back in front among his intake with four group winners to his credit so far this year, including the GI Maker's Mark Mile winner Chez Pierre (Fr). He was also responsible for the latest TDN Rising Star in Europe, Sunday's 12-length debut winner Asadna (Ire).

Churchill retired a year later after winning the 2,000 Guineas in England and Ireland. His rise was a little slower, but not by much. Finishing sixth among the freshmen of his year, he was the leading second-crop sire in Europe last year ahead of Zarak (Fr), and those two currently occupy the same two slots among this season's third-crop sires, with Churchill hovering just outside the top ten on the general sires' list. 

While his first crop was highlighted by the Aga Khan's champion three-year-old colt Vadeni (Fr), winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and Eclipse, as well as finishing runner-up in the Arc, his second has no less a potential star in Blue Rose Cen (Fr). The Yeguada Centurion homebred added the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches to her first Group 1 win in the Prix Marcel Boussac. 

This week, that leading pair has been backed up by the exploits of G2 Dante S. winner The Foxes (Ire), who, like the Jessica Harrington-trained Leopardstown Group 3 winner Sprewell (Ire), is now full steam ahead for Epsom. 

Harrington also took Friday's G3 Saval Beg Levmoss S. with Churchill four-year-old Yashin (Ire), who could be Melbourne Cup-bound come autumn, while the stallion's versatility was on display when Ladies Church (GB) won the Listed Sole Power Sprint S. for Johnny Murtagh. This was added to her victory in last year's G2 Sapphire S. and sets her on course for a Group 1 tilt at Royal Ascot. And let's not forget, for 'tis no disgrace, that he has also sired a couple of Grade 2 winners over hurdles in Comfort Zone (Ire) and Scriptwriter (Ire). 

In short, Churchill is compiling an impressively rounded portfolio of smart performers, and a Derby winner would push him yet another rung higher on the ladder.

Tanaghum Just Too Dam Good

Barronstown Stud's Tanaghum (GB) (Darshaan {GB}) deserves all the plaudits as an increasingly significant broodmare. A €250,000 purchase by David Nagle in 2014 from her breeder Shadwell, the daughter of the 1,000 Guineas winner Mehthaaf was already 14 by then and, though she had five winners to her credit, only two had earned black type, headed by G3 Curragh Cup winner Tactic (GB) (Sadler's Wells).

A snapshot of her page would look rather different now. The Raven's Pass foal she was carrying at Goffs became the nine-time winner Matterhorn (Ire), who claimed the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge in 2020. Then came Bangkok (Ire) (Australia {GB}), whose six victories include the G2 York S., and who is now standing at Chapel Stud. Yaazy (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), who was two when her mother was sold, won the following year's Listed Prix Joubert, while current four-year-old Perotan (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) won Her Majesty's Plate, a Listed contest at Down Royal, in 2022. Her full-brother The Foxes, who was sold to King Power Racing for 440,000gns as a yearling, looks even better, and the dual Group 2 winner is now third-favourite for the Derby. 

While Tanaghum may be one who got away, Shadwell will be taking increasing encouragement from the exploits of Listed winner Handassa (GB). The 14-year-old daughter of Dubawi (Ire) is already the dam of dual Group 1 winner Nazeef (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) and four-time Group 3 winner Mostahdaf (GB) (Frankel {GB}), and her three-year-old son Mostabshir (GB) (Dark Angel {Ire}) was an impressive winner at York last week. He will surely be seen back in stakes company soon after reportedly not enjoying the easier ground he encountered in the G3 Craven S. on just the second run of his life. Like his elder half-brother Mostahdaf, Mostabhir holds a Group 1 entry for Royal Ascot.

We must, too, acknowledge Darley's Modern Ideals (GB) (New Approach {Ire}), for though her son Modern Games (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) was already a multiple Group/Grade 1 winner, his latest success in the Lockinge S. brings his number of top-flight wins to five in four different countries. The mare's three-year-old daughter Mawj (Ire) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) is now a Classic heroine who has won five of her eight starts, including the G2 Duchess of Cambridge S., and Modern News (GB), who completes the trifecta of Darley stallions by being a son of Shamardal, counts a Listed victory among his six wins.

Azure Blue on Fast Track to the Top

“I found her on a rainy night at Book 3 in Harry Dutfield's.” It may not quite make the grade for an opening line to a Raymond Chandler novel, but it is poetic enough when describing the origin of the current rising star of the sprint ranks.

That memorable line was uttered by David Appleton, who passes the credit to his father Peter, co-owner of the G2 Duke of York Clipper S. winner Azure Blue (Ire) with Anne Elliott, the mother of bloodstock agent Alex Elliott.

Peter Appleton understandably had a spring in his step on the Knavesmire last week when reflecting on the impressive progress of their four-year-old daughter of El Kabeir. Bred by Debbie Kitchen and Mary Davison, Azure Blue was pinhooked as a foal by Harry Dutfield for €19,000 and then bought by her trainer Michael Dods for the partnership at 47,000gns after being spotted by David Appleton, a member of the Darley nominations team. 

“Book 3 has been good to us,” said Peter Appleton, who, with his wife Linda and Anne Elliott, also raced the Listed winner Que Amoro (Ire) (Es Que Love {Ire}), who was only a length behind Battaash (Ire) when second in the G1 Nunthorpe S. Picked up for 28,000gns as a yearling, the five-time winner subsequently sold for 220,000gns at the December Mares' Sale. Then there was the treble winner Arcavallo (Ire) (Arcano {Ire}).

“And he finished second, beaten a neck in the £150,000 sales race at Newmarket. He was bought for ten grand,” Appleton added. “David helps out, but we do the hard yards, myself and Linda. It's not easy to find one, but I quite like to look at the offspring of first-season stallions and unraced mares, because you can buy them.”

While Appleton has been involved in racing for long enough to admit that there is no specific winning formula, just “lots of luck”, he is quick to attribute must of their success to the patience of Dods.

“Michael is quite reserved, but he likes to see a horse progress. She's always had a lot of potential,” he said of Azure Blue, whose seven wins include back-to-back Listed wins on the Rowley Mile, spaced over last October and this May, followed by her first group-level win at York.

“We were keen to get a win into her as a two-year-old,” he continued. “But she's a big filly, she's over 500 kilograms, and she didn't win until November. Michael is quite keen to look at what might happen if the ground went soft at Ascot, but I'm pretty relaxed about it, because there's plenty of races.”

Based in Durham, not far from their trainer, the Appletons ceased being breeders several years ago and Peter said that he would not be tempted back to the fold, even by a potential broodmare as smart as Azure Blue.

“We'll let somebody else do that,” he said. “I have picked up a few foals to pinhook, to just keep dipping in and doing bits and pieces.”

He is also full of praise for Paul Mulrennan, who has ridden Azure Blue in most of her races.

“He's a proper pilot; proper pilot,” said Appleton. “I mean, he got off her, first race as a three-year-old, when she was beaten here [at York] in the handicap. She was rated 78 or something like that, and he said, 'This is a proper group filly'.”

Mulrennan wasn't wrong, and Azure Blue looks like she has plenty left to give. It will also be worth trawling the results of Tattersalls October Book 3 later this year to discover what budding young talent may be heading to the Dods stable for the Appleton/Elliott partnership. 

Finding his Calling

Ballyhane Stud's Soldier's Call (GB) is the latest of the young stallions to be zipping up the charts. In what seems like no time at all, he's gone straight to the top when it comes to number of winners, with a smart Saturday double bringing that tally to eight. 

He is also the first to have a black-type performer to his name in the Listed Marygate Fillies' S. runner-up Dorothy Lawrence (GB). Homebred by Steve Parkin of Clipper Logistics, the young filly is also well named as the real Dorothy Lawrence was a journalist who, prevented from reporting from the front line because she was a woman, dressed as a male soldier and spent some time serving in the trenches in the Somme. Such bravery is deserving at the very least of a decent namesake.

The aforementioned Book 3 sale was also the source of the first winner for Lanwades Stud's Study Of Man (Ire). The colt in question, Deepone (GB), was bought for 62,000gns by his trainer Paddy Twomey and now races in the colours of Vimal Khosla. He hails from the same family as last year's G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S. winner Al Riffa (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), who had been favourite for Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas until being ruled out of the race on Monday by Joseph O'Brien. 

Deepone's second dam is the G1 Prix Vermeille and G1 Yorkshire Oaks winner My Emma (GB) (Marju {Ire}), and his unraced dam Avyanna (Ire) is by Galileo (Ire). It was perhaps a surprise to see him ready so early but he relished the 7.5f test, finishing strongly, and is one to follow with interest.

 

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