It has often been said that we should not judge a stallion until his first crop are four-year-olds. By the same token, it seems odd we are often ready to condemn a mare on the evidence of just three or four foals, but there is some validity in that judgement. It has been brought home this year once again by Duke Of Marmalade, whose progeny are enjoying such a successful season, causing us to re-evaluate his reputation as a sire, though in his case it has taken until his initial crop is five.
When Duke Of Marmalade retired to stud at Coolmore at the age of five in 2009, he seemed to have so much going for him. Advertised to stand at $40,000, he was the most expensive horse on their roster with a published fee (Galileo, Danehill Dancer and Montjeu were all listed as "private").
The previous year he had really blossomed and had been crowned the Champion older horse in Europe, after winning his first five starts in Ireland, France and England, all in Gr.1 company. His wins were headed by a particularly impressive success at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales's Stakes and a clear cut triumph in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. They culminated with a win in the Juddmonte International, which had been rerouted to Newmarket after York was waterlogged, in which he beat New Approach into third. His season may have ended with two below par runs: in the Arc (where he was beaten under four lengths by Zarkava) and the Breeders' Cup Classic, but he had clearly established himself as a top-class performer, and throughout had shown an admirable toughness.
He was certainly at his best at that age and up to that point he had been something of a "nearly" horse. His only previous victory had come in a seven-furlong maiden at the Curragh on his second start at two. After finishing runner-up to Strategic Prince in the Gr.3 Vintage Stakes on his next outing, he was found to have fractured a pastern and had to undergo surgery, with two screws being inserted. He returned from that injury to perform consistently well in the highest company at three. After finishing fourth in both the English and Irish Guineas, he went down by only a neck to his stablemate Excellent Art in the Gr.1 St James's Palace Stakes and then was second to another inmate of Ballydoyle, Dylan Thomas, in the Gr.1 Irish Champion Stakes. He ended the season by finishing third in the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes behind Ramonti.
He had much to recommend him on pedigree too. He was from the final crop of his sire Danehill, who had died in 2003. Danehill was one of the few stallions who had been proven to be an equally good sire in both hemispheres as, incidentally, has his son Exceed And Excel. Although he was primarily seen as a source of speed, he was also a very versatile stallion, siring top winners across the distance spectrum, producing a Derby winner in North Light, an Irish Derby hero in Desert King and a Gold Cup winner in Westerner, as well as top sprinters. By that time too, Danehill had also established himself as a sire of sires with Danehill Dancer leading the way in Europe and Redoute's Choice and Flying Spur advertising his merits In Australia.
Duke Of Marmalade was the first foal of his dam Love Me True, who was another trained at Ballydoyle. She gained her only win in 15 starts in a mile maiden at Naas at three, and was somewhat flattered by finishing third in the Gr.3 Killavullan Stakes.
Duke Of Marmalade gave her an excellent start as a broodmare, and her next three foals were all winners, including the very useful French Listed-placed winner Countess Lemonade (Storm Cat), who went on to finish third in the Gr.3 Athenia Handicap at Belmont. Since then she has gone on to consolidate her status as a "Blue Hen Mare" for Coolmore by breeding Ruler Of The World, the Champion European three-year-old of Europe when his four wins included the Gr.1 Derby, and his full-brother, the current three-year-old Giovanni Canaletto, who was third to Jack Hobbs in the Gr.1 Irish Derby. They are by Galileo.
As one might expect for a filly who cost $1,350,000 as a yearling, Love Me True is very well connected. Inbred to the close genetic relatives Mr Prospector and Alydar, she is a full-sister to the Stakes-placed American sprinter Black Mambo and is closely related to the Gr.1 Belmont and Gr.1.Travers Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, who has enjoyed plenty of success at stud. They share a sire in Kingmambo and their dams are half-sisters.
Love Me True's dam, the Stakes-placed Lassie's Lady, also bred the very smart two-year-old Bite The Bullet (Spectacular Bid), winner of the Gr.2 Sanford Stakes, who also finished third in the Gr.1 Arlington Washington Futurity Stakes; and the very useful middle distance/staying colt Shuailaan (Roberto), a Listed winner in England. In addition, she is the grandam of the Gr.3 Comely Stakes winner Madison's Charm, who was third in the Gr.1 Acorn Stakes; and the third dam of the Gr.2 winners Travelin Man and Discreet Dancer.
The next dam Lassie Dear won two Stakes, including the Gr.3 Villager Stakes, and was a full-sister to the Stakes winner Gallapiat and a half-sister to the Gr.1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Gay Mecene (Vaguely Noble). The latter enjoyed some success at stud in France, siring three Gr.1 winners there, including the Champion two-year-old filly Almeira, but he will be best remembered as the broodmare sire of both Anabaa and Kendor. Their dam Gay Missile was a half-sister to Raja Baba, the Champion Sire in America in 1980.
Lassie Dear bred twelve winners, four of them Stakes winners. They were headed by the dual Gr.1-winning Champion Sprinter Wolfhound (Nureyev), subsequently the sire of the Gr.1 Prix de Diane winner Bright Sky but otherwise a bitter disappointment at stud. Her French Listed-winning son Foxhound fared better in that role, as did his winning full-brother Deerhound, the sire of Gr.1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Countess Diana. They were by Danehill's sire Danzig and so bred on similar lines to Duke Of Marmalade.
However, it is her daughter, the smart two-year-old Weekend Surprise, winner of the Gr.3 Golden Rod Stakes and the Gr.3 Schuylerville Stakes, who has made the greatest mark in the long term. By Secretariat, whose three-parts-brother Sir Gaylord is the sire of Lassie Dear, she was an outstanding influence, producing two Classic winners in the Champion three-year-old A P Indy (Seattle Slew), winner of the Gr.1 Belmont Stakes, and Summer Squall, winner of the Gr.1 Preakness Stakes. Both have been very good sires, and A P Indy has twice been leading sire in North America and is a major influence there, founding his own dynasty.
Matched with his good looks, Duke Of Marmalade would have appeared to have had all the credentials to be a good sire. However, success was not immediately forthcoming. His first crop of two-year-olds in 2012 may have produced a satisfactory number of winners, but in truth few were of the calibre you might have expected.
Eventually a respectable twelve Stakes winners have emerged from that first crop, headed by the very likeable filly Venus De Milo, twice a Gr.3 winner and runner-up in both the Gr.1 Irish Oaks and Gr.1 Yorkshire Oaks; and the French-bred Big Memory, winner of the Gr.2 Herbert Power Stakes in Australia, who was the only winner above Gr.3 level.
His second crop has produced five Stakes winners so far. They include the aptly named Big Orange, a huge gelding who has really come into his own as a four-year-old this year in the same manner as his sire. Last week he battled his way to success in the Gr.2 Goodwood Cup, backing up his recent success in the Gr.2 Princess of Wales's Stakes, and is now bound for the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup.
Also on the board last week at Goodwood was the improving three-year-old filly Simple Verse, who won the Gr.3 Lillie Langtry Stakes. She is one of four Stakes winners so far in Duke of Marmalade's third crop. Remarkably, the other three are all Classic winners: the Gr.1 Deutsches Derby winner Nutan, the Gr.1 Prix de Diane heroine Star Of Seville and the Gr.3 Premio Regina Elena – Italian 1,000 Guineas winner Sound Of Freedom. Three of those Stakes winners are fillies and it is notable that nine of Duke Of Marmalade's first fourteen Group winners are of that sex, as are five of his seven Listed winners. Suddenly in his third crop he has produced his first two Gr.1 winners. Is there any explanation for the turnaround in his fortunes?
It is interesting that both Nutan (dam by Peintre Celebre) and Big Orange (dam by Fasliyev) are inbred to Nureyev; whilst Star Of Seville is inbred to Nureyev's dam Special and her full-brother Thatch; and Simple Verse is inbred to Nureyev and his three-parts brother Sadler's Wells. Of his earlier winners, the Listed winner Alive Alive Oh is another out of a mare by Sadler's Wells, while Venus De Milo is one of two Stakes winners he has sired out of mares by his son Galileo. However, the presence of such inbreeding is unlikely to tell the full story. It may simply be that horses like Duke Of Marmalade, who take time to reach their peak on the course, also need time to mature as sires.
Whatever the explanation, success has come too late for Duke Of Marmalade. Following the disappointing results of his first crop, his book dropped to just thirty mares in 2013. With no obvious star on the horizon, commercially it must have been a relatively easy decision last year for Coolmore to accept an offer from the Drakenstein Stud in South Africa to buy the horse. With its obsession with speed and precocity, unfortunately the market demands instant success and has no patience for the slow burners.
As is so often the case when a horse either dies or is sold, his record since has taken a marked turn for the better. If his current crop of three-year-olds were his first, we would be hailing him as a very promising sire. South Africa's gain is Ireland's loss.
Extract from ANZ
Duke Of Marmalade / Drakenstein Stud (p)