The Weekly Wrap: Fit For A King

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Kingman had a banner day at Sandown on Friday | Bronwen Healy

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Khalid Abdullah's legacy will live long in Thoroughbred genealogy thanks to the female families he cultivated, like the one that supplied him Sunday's 'TDN Rising Star' and G1 Cadoo Oaks contender Noon Star (Galileo {Ire}).

Juddmonte's sires, likewise, have started the season off with a bang. In this space last week we were singing the praises of Frankel (GB) off the back of a week of intercontinental successes. While Frankel remains poised to have an excellent season, in the space of 35 minutes at Sandown on Friday along came his Banstead Manor barnmate Kingman (GB) to steal the spotlight with a pair of exciting 4-year-olds. First up was Waldkonig (GB), who had flashed talent early last season before being sent to the sidelines by setbacks. He earned a first black-type victory second up in the 2000 metre G3 Gordon Richards S. in just his fifth start, and considering the bottom half of his pedigree, connections-including trainers John and Thady Gosden–should be enthusiastic that he will keep improving: his half-brother, Waldgeist (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) was at his best at five when he beat Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) to win the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe-his fourth win at the highest level.

The Gosdens and Frankie Dettori barely had time to digest Waldkonig's win before last year's champion 3-year-old Palace Pier (GB) upstaged him to win the G2 bet365 Mile by eight lengths. John Gosden insisted that Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's colt was only at 80% for his comeback, and while last year's G1 St James's Palace S. and G1 Prix Jacques le Marois winner will stick to a mile for the G1 Lockinge S. and G1 Queen Anne S., Gosden said that longer races are on the radar for the second half of the season.

Waldkonig became Kingman's 34th stakes winner last week, three days after the sire had notched his 33rd in the form of Godolphin's Listed Blue Riband Trial scorer Wirko (GB), a €700,000 Baden-Baden yearling bred by Gestut Rottgen. Wirko is out of the listed-winning Mount Nelson (GB) mare Weltmacht (GB), herself a daughter of the Group 2 winner and multiple stakes producer Wild Side (Ger) (Sternkoenig {Ire}), and thus a sturdy template has been written for crossing Kingman with German pedigrees.

Mehmas On The Up

Kingman has consistently proven the class leader of his sire crop and another who looks like doing so, Mehmas, likewise had a productive week. On the same Sandown card on which Palace Pier and Waldkonig starred, 3-year-old Nelson Gay (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) won the five furlong bet365 H. by 6 1/2 lengths, igniting Royal Ascot dreams for trainer Richard Hughes. On Sunday Fayathaan (Ire) became Mehmas's eighth stakes winner in Rome's G3 Premio Parioli (Italian 2000 Guineas). After comfortably breaking the record for winners for a first-season sire last year, Mehmas has kicked on with 20 at this early stage of the year. While he presented something of a question mark last year based on the fact that he himself didn't race beyond two, Mehmas appears to be supplying progeny with scope. Fayathaan was his third stakes winner of 2021, joining the G3 Leopardstown One Thousand Guineas Trial scorer Keeper Of Time (Ire) and Going Global (Ire), who has won a pair of Grade IIIs this year since being sold to California connections. Keeper Of Time was in the news this weekend after it was revealed that she too has been sold to race on in America, where Mehmas has had two stakes winners (last year's Listed Blue Norther S. winner Quattroelle {Ire} in addition to Going Global). With Acklam Express (Ire), Mystery Smiles (Ire) and Mehmento (Ire) having also picked up placings in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint, G3 Craven S. and G3 Greenham S. in the past month, Mehmas looks to be continuing on his upward trajectory.

Amid all the excitement of the young pretenders, it was nice to see a headline horse on Sunday for Coolmore stalwart Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire) in the form of the 4 1/2-length Listed Salsabil S. winner Rocky Sky (Ire). Standing for €5,000, Rock Of Gibraltar certainly wouldn't be the flashiest horse in the sire ranks, but he has compiled an admirable body of work in 19 years at stud that places him currently fifth on the TDN's Cumulative Lifetime Active Sire List for European stallions, behind only his barnmate Galileo and Dubawi (Ire), Exceed and Excel (Aus) and Invincible Spirit (Ire). Rock Of Gibraltar has sired 135 stakes winners at a rate of 6.2% of his starters, and in Rocky Sky-who also provided trainer Ross O'Sullivan and jockey Gary Halpin with their first stakes wins-he looks to have one that could take him back to the top table. Rocky Sky races as a homebred for Catherine Kinane, whose husband Mick partnered Rock Of Gibraltar to six of his seven Group 1 wins.

More Derby Dreams For Adlerflug

Another star rising through the sire ranks in recent seasons has been Gestut Schlenderhan's Adlerflug (Ger), and his loss at age 17 earlier this month has already been keenly felt through the opening weeks of the turf season. Adlerflug's 2020 G1 Deutsches Derby winner and G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up In Swoop (Ire) made an encouraging start to his 4-year-old campaign when a narrow second to the race-fit Sublimis (Ire) (Shamardal) in a mile-and-a-half listed race at ParisLongchamp two weeks ago, and Adlerflug has another Classic contender on the books in Alenquer (Fr), who sprang a 25-1 upset in Friday's 2000 metre G3 Classic Trial at Sandown. Alenquer is another feather in the cap for trainer William Haggas, who has made a bright start to the season, and the trainer insisted Alenquer would be better upped in trip and could target the German Derby or be supplemented to the G1 Cazoo Derby. Rider Tom Marquand picked up exactly where he had left off last weekend in Australia; Alenquer was his first ride since piloting Addeybb (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) to victory in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S. in Sydney.

Euro-Breds Star At Keeneland

The exodus of European-bred horses to America with aim on the country's lucrative turf purses is no new phenomenon, and last week saw a rapid-fire double for Stonestreet Stables and trainer Wesley Ward in that sphere at Keeneland. Last autumn, bloodstock agent Ben McElroy was dispatched to Europe with the memorandum to find a select team of yearlings that could excel on both continents. McElroy possessed the track record for the job, having plucked last year's G2 Queen Mary S. and G1 Prix Morny winner Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) out of Book 1 at Tattersalls October for 190,000gns, and his 2020 class has gotten off to a bright start, with Ruthin (GB) (Ribchester {Ire}) (350,000gns at Book 1) and Napa Spirit (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) (£420,000 at Goffs Orby) each breaking their maidens in professional fashion at Keeneland last week. Ruthin, in fact, was the first winner for Ribchester and she achieved that accomplishment in memorable fashion, earning 'TDN Rising Star' status.

McElroy admitted to the TDN that he felt more relieved than excited in the aftermath of Ruthin and Napa Spirit's races, which is understandable considering that both horses were relatively large outlays. The risk on them as yearlings, however, must have been somewhat lessened by the fact that they had $60,000 2-year-old maiden special weight purses to run for at Keeneland. American buyers have become a growing force at European yearling sales in recent years, and though at a disadvantage currency-wise, the promise of fat purses back home gives them considerable spending power. Successes at Royal Ascot for Ruthin or Napa Spirit would only fuel that fire, and all going well, that's where they are headed. It's probably a safe bet, too, that McElroy will be headed back this year's European yearling sales.

Breeze-Ups Looking Bright

On the subject of the sales, we were afforded a deeper look into the breeze-up market last week with the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale following on from Tattersalls's Craven Sale a week prior, and happily the outlook was once again bright. The aggregate of £6,219,500, average of £48,590 and median of £34,000 were all records for the sale, as was the number of six-figure lots (15). Likewise, the clearance rate of 89% (it had been 88% at Craven, the highest at that sale since 2000) pointed to a strong desire for bloodstock, and indeed there appeared to be a wide cross-section of buyers at both Doncaster and Craven, with no entities dominating the buyers' sheets. It is interesting that at the first two breeze-up sales of the season we have seen strong trade, but no true fireworks; the Tattersalls top lot was 360,000gns, while the joint top lots at Doncaster sold for £210,000. It appears thus far that there has been a slight weakening at the top of the market with simultaneously a strengthening in the middle market. The next clues will be provided by the Tattersalls Guineas Breeze-Up Sale on Friday.

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