Seven Days: On The Classic Trail

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Champion 2-year-old Native Trail returns to the Rowley Mile a year to the day after he was sold at the Craven Breeze-up | Racingfotos.com

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It wouldn't be Craven week without a brisk wind blasting across Newmarket Heath, but for those of you considering spending afternoons paddock-side perusing the physical merits of some of this year's Classic contenders, the encouraging news is that the temperature is rising in East Anglia this week, along with the quality of action on the turf.

France and Ireland are ahead of Britain on the Classic trials front, and there is plenty to reflect upon in that regard, but a brief look ahead to the Newmarket and Newbury trials this week is enough to quicken the pulse that has only just come back to a steady tempo following the Corinthian exploits of the marvellous Sam Waley-Cohen in Saturday's Grand National. The name Mullins is never far from the winner's enclosure, in National Hunt circles especially, but Willie's thunder is increasingly being stolen by his nephew Emmet, 32, for whom Noble Yeats (Ire) was a first National winner with his first runner, the season after the young trainer saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner. The winning 7-year-old also ensured that his sire, the four-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yeats (Ire), surged to the head of the National Hunt sires' table for the first time. 

But enough of the hedge-hoppers, it's Craven week after all, and we are about to witness the unveiling of Europe's champion 2-year-old of 2021 in Wednesday's Craven S. Godolphin's Native Trail (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}), the pride of Jose Delamotte's Haras d'Haspel, sailed through his juvenile exams without turning a hair, culminating in victory on the Rowley Mile in the G1 Dewhurst S. That experience of Newmarket's famous dip will doubtless be of value as his trainer Charlie Appleby sends him out on his first serious test a year to the day after he was sold by Norman Williamson's Oak Tree Farm for 210,000gns at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze-up Sale, which begins on Tuesday. 

Appleby has won two of the last three runnings of the Craven, bearing in mind that the race didn't take place at all in 2020. His first winner, Masar (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}), famously went on to win the Derby, while last year's winner Master Of The Seas (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) was beaten only a short-head by Poetic Flare (Ire) (Dawn Approach {Ire}) when second in the 2000 Guineas. 

Appleby's embarrassment of 3-year-old riches includes the exciting Coroebus (Ire), who looks set to head to Saturday's Greenham S. at Newbury, while New Science (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) heads a disappointingly small field for Tuesday's European Free Handicap.

Those on 'young stallion watch' will have spotted two entries for the National Stud resident Time Test (GB) in the Nell Gwyn S. The duo consists of William Stone's Salisbury Group 3 winner Romantic Time (GB) and Ribbon Rose (GB), who is unbeaten in two starts for the in-form stable of Marco Botti, who has formed an interesting partnership with Neil Callan since the jockey's return from Hong Kong.

These days, the Nell Gwyn is sponsored by Lanwades Stud, an arrangement that came about after the race was run for some years in the name of the former Plantation Stud manager Leslie Harrison. It was a fitting memorial to a man who devoted so much of his life to the breeding operation of Lord Howard de Walden, and who loved nothing more than the prospect of a Classic filly. 

In retirement, Harrison, whose caustic wit was every bit as sharp as his pedigree recall, chose to share his great knowledge with a group of young(ish) enthusiasts who would gather in his study once a week, large glasses of wine in hand, sharing the space with his many lurchers. I was lucky enough to be among the group, and they were days I cherish. I miss them as much as I miss Leslie himself, whose extraordinary kindness is remembered especially in this week, 15 years after his passing.

The Z Factor

Zarkava (Fr) (Zamindar) was described at the end of her racing career by her breeder HH The Aga Khan as “the greatest reward a breeder could have”.

With brilliance in abundance, plus a liberal dash of spirit, there was little she had left to prove on her retirement from the track. All bar one of her Zarkava's seven victories came at French racing's Parisian focal point of Longchamp where she annexed the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac, G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, G1 Prix Vermeille and G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. At Chantilly, she also claimed the G1 Prix de Diane. She was simply wonderful, and as a fifth-generation descendant of Petite Etoile, who was such an important foundation of the Aga Khan Studs and a hugely influential mare worldwide, Zarkava represented the pinnacle of the breeding operation which celebrates its centenary this year.

While superior performance on the racecourse is the ultimate aim for any breeder, studs are built on the ability of those champions to impart their superior genes. For myriad reasons that doesn't always happen. In the case of Zarkava, though she cannot yet be considered a blue hen, she has already produced three black-type winners, led by her Group 1-winning son Zarak (Fr) (Dubawi {Ire}), who has made strong indications in his fledgling stud career that he will further cement his mother's reputation by becoming a stallion of note. 

The champion first-season sire in France last year, Zarak's name has continued to feature among the winners in this early stage of the Flat season. Last week alone, he was represented by a quartet of 3-year-old winners in Sabio Cen (Fr), La Parisienne ((Fr), Caramelito (Fr) and Zagrey (Fr). The first two named hold Classic entries in the Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de Diane respectively. Sabio Cen, trained in Chantilly by Christopher Head, was impressive in his second victory in the Prix Tourbillon at Saint-Cloud last week, racing in the colours of his Spanish breeder Leopoldo Fernández Pujals of Yeguada Centurion.

It was also confirmed this week by William Haggas that Zarak's daughter Purplepay (Fr), who was last seen on the track running third in the G1 Criterium International before selling at Arqana for €2 million to Roy and Gretchen Jackson, has joined his stable and has been given an entry for the Irish 1000 Guineas on May 22.

Zarak is not the only son of Zarkava at stud. His unraced half-brother Zaskar (Fr) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) has recently embarked on his stallion career at Haras de Cercy. Still to come from the family is a 3-year-old full-sister to Zarak named Zarka (Fr) and a Frankel (GB) 2-year-old filly, Zarkala (Fr), both of whom are in training with Francis Graffard.

An Abundance Of French Classic Hopes

Zarak wasn't the only Aga Khan Studs stallion in the news last week as Dariyan (Fr) was represented by a decent Classic prospect and his first group winner in the G3 Prix La Force with Mister Saint Paul (Fr), whose co-trainers Gregoire and Etienne Leenders are as readily associated with jump racing as with the Flat. Bred by Annie and Philippe Delarue, Mister Saint Paul was a €10,000 buy-back at the yearling sales but was later syndicated by his trainers for €25,000 via the recently established Iwantthewinner sales platform.

Not to be outdone, Siyouni (Fr), France's reigning champion sire and stud-mate of Zarak and Dariyan, was also in the limelight with the exciting filly Mqse De Sevigne (Fr), who won Sunday's G3 Prix Vanteaux. The half-sister to Group 1 winner Meandre (Fr) (Slickly {Fr}) races for her breeder Edouard De Rothschild, whose family's Haras de Meautry bred both her dam Penne (Fr) and the mare's unraced sire Sevres Rose (Fr), who stood for a time at Haras du Quesnay.

Thursday's G3 Prix Imprudence saw the return of two exciting juveniles from 2021 in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac winner Zellie (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) and Malavath (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}), who took the G2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte before running second to Pizza Bianca in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Running for the partnership of Everest Racing, David Redvers and Barbara Keller, Malavath, representing the Francis Graffard stable, confirmed that she has wintered well after her exciting 2-year-old campaign when holding off Zellie by a length and a half over Deauville's heavy turf. The winner and runner-up are both close up in the betting for the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches behind Juddmonte's Raclette (GB), who is entered for Sunday's G3 Prix de la Grotte.

The Eagle Flies On

The aforementioned Francis Graffard has a big year ahead at the helm of his own stable and that of the Aga Khan at Aiglemont. The trainer has started the season in fine form and another owner-breeder with whom he has enjoyed notable success of late is Baron Georg von Ullmann of Germany's historic Gestut Schlenderhan. 

As ParisLongchamp's season got underway on Sunday, Graffard unleashed two unraced 3-year-olds to score on debut, both by the late Schlenderhan-bred stallion Adlerflug (Ger) who died last year in the season after he was crowned champion in Germany for the first time. 

Alerio (Ger) got the ball rolling in the Prix Juigne, while the filly Swoosh (Ger) took the Prix de Chaillot. The latter, who has Classic entries in France and Germany, is a full-sister to the G2 Prix de Deauville winner and German Derby runner-up Savoir Vivre (Ire), who is now at stud in France at Haras du Taillis. Their dam is the Listed-winning Monsun (Ger) mare Soudaine (Ger), and this cross of two Schlenderhan stallions was seen again in Germany's first group race of the year, the G3 Walkman Frujahrs-Meile, won by Adlerflug's 4-year-old son Mythico (Fr), winner of last season's G2 Mehl-Mulhens-Rennen (German 2000 Guineas).

Alerio is also bred along similar lines, with his dam Amazona (Ger), by Dubawi (Ire), being a daughter of Monsun's Preis der Diana winner Amarette (Ger), who is a half-sister to the dam of Melbourne Cup winner Almandin (Ger) (Monsun {Ger}).

Adlerflug, a son of In The Wings (GB) and closely related to Galileo (Ire), did not leave many sons at stud. In addition to Savoir Vivre, Iquitos and Ito remain in Germany, and the full-brother of the latter, another Graffard/Schlenderhan star In Swoop (Ire), has recently joined Coolmore's National Hunt division at Beeches Stud, where, unsurprisingly, he has been very busy.

Think Again – And Again

A decade ago, So You Think (NZ), the mighty wild-maned son of High Chaparral (Ire), completed the rare feat of winning five Group 1 races in Europe to complement his five Group 1 successes in Australia. 

Now ensconced at Coolmore Stud in Australia, he pulled off the equally rare–perhaps unique–feat of siring three consecutive Group 1 winners on Saturday during Sydney's Championships at Randwick. 

Two of those–the Queen Elizabeth S winner Think It Over (Aus) and Sydney's Queen of the Turf S winner Nimalee (Aus)–are out of daughters of Zabeel (NZ), while the Sydney Cup winner Knights Order (Ire) started his career in Ireland, where he was bred by the Rogers family at Airlie Stud. The 7-year-old's dam Lamanka Lass (Woodman) was 20 when she foaled him and was also responsible for producing the GII Oak Tree Derby winner Dark Islander (Ire) (Singspiel {Ire}), who was trained by the late John Hills.

Brits Abroad

The early 2-year-old skirmishes at Keeneland over the weekend saw a gratifying debut win for Baytown Lovely, by Fast Anna out of the Bernardini mare Meu Amor. As overlooked in the betting as she was at last year's Keeneland September Sale, the filly provided a great start to the Spring Meet for a pair of British expats in trainer Paul McEntee and jockey Jack Gilligan. McEntee plucked Baytown Lovely from the final day of the September Sale for $3,000. She rewarded him with a return of $48,360 from her first racecourse outing. 

It is the kind of result also associated with the trainer's both Phil, who is based in Newmarket and is a dab hand at turning sales bargains into multiple winners. There are plenty of members of the McEntee clan spread around the racing world, including another brother, Carl, who runs Ballysax Bloodstock in Kentucky. Phil's son Jake is also currently in America assisting Kenny McPeek, while daughter Grace is a successful young jockey in Britain.

Lucrative BEBF Target For Juveniles

There was welcome news from the British wing of the European Breeders' Fund on Monday with the launch of a £200,000 series aimed at the offspring of middle-market stallions. 

Juveniles can qualify for two £100,000 finals for colts and fillies respectively by finishing in the first six from a total of 110 restricted novice or maiden races throughout the turf season in Britain. The aim of the series is “to identify ways to encourage a new avenue for progeny of commercially priced stallions to compete without an expensive series of early closing deadlines”.

The finals take place over seven furlongs, with the fillies' final being staged at Goodwood on Sept. 7, and the race for colts and geldings on Oct. 7 at York.

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