High Chaparral… firing the digestive juices of Australian investors
(Photo : Coolmore)
“Racing is about running and in general,
the best beget the best…”
There’s no doubt about it, the Aussies have been using their home-bred racing champions with greater confidence than we have, for some time now. While it took an imported stallion in the form of Star Kingdom (a grandson of the great English sire, Hyperion) to trigger it off, he left in his wake a legion of out-and-out speed horses, Biscay, Bletchingly and Marscay to inspire the locals into believing that colonial-breds had some kind of shot in the breeding sheds. Whether it was driven by commercial necessity or a genuine belief in their own racing merit, their faith rested principally in those that had shown extraordinary precocity and speed at two, and so Golden Slipper heroes like Vain (by Wilkes by Court Martial) got their chances, too.
However, the lords and ladies of the “Old Country” kept reminding us colonists that the font of real excellence remained in Britain, and when the Americans and the French began to reveal the prowess of their local-breds, the British parliament enacted the Jersey Act in 1913, which effectively closed the General Stud Book to only those horses with genuine British roots. Whether we can blame it on this piece of legislation, or whether it was a general sense that if it came from England, it was always better than the local product, we don’t know, but the fact is that breeders in the colonies laboured for decades with the complex that the local-bred was inferior.
You’ve heard us say this before, but it’s worth reiterating, racing is about running and in general, the best beget the best. The Aussies eventually discovered this in no uncertain terms with the advent of the only genuinely successful imported shuttle sire, Danehill, who left a veritable treasure trove of stallion prospects in Australia. Just as the Japanese discovered through their “emperor”, Sunday Silence, who with his sons occupied as many as seven or eight of the top ten spots in their sires log, Danehill and his sons have done much the same, and in Fastnet Rock, he now has a third champion sire to his name. The redoubtable Redoute’s Choice was the first, Flying Spur the second, and now Fastnet Rock, who like Redoute’s Choice, is posting numbers comparable to the legend himself.
This weekend past, Fastnet Rock recorded his 33rd career Stakes winner when Destruction did just that to his field in the Dalrello Stakes in Brisbane. Remarkably, he was Fastnet Rock’s 16th individual Black- type scorer this season alone.
What’s interesting about Fastnet Rock’s career to date are the parallels with Danehill. At the same point in his career, Danehill had raked up 32 Stakes winners (including 12 Group One winners) while Fastnet Rock with a couple of months of the season to go, already has 33 Stakes winners with 10 Group One winners. It has to be said though, that for all his spectacular virtues (he is the only sire in history to have claimed titles in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres), the competition in Danehill’s time was probably not quite as stiff as it is now. It was a straight dogfight in those days with the great New Zealand stallion, Zabeel (himself an Australian home-bred), while both were competing in a space that was largely being vacated by the likes of Marscay and Bletchingly.
These days, Fastnet Rock has to compete head on with his own barn-mate, Encosta Da Lago, as well as Redoute’s Choice and Flying Spur, while the “ante” in the shuttle stakes has been upped considerably with the entry into the market of Darley and their flotilla of world-class performers.
While it’s true that these horses and those of Coolmore represent most of the cream of Northern hemisphere stallions, it’s only in Australasia that the best of America, Europe, Britain and Ireland, get to compete on a single playing field, and so there’s an argument to support the theory that the Southern hemisphere could just be the toughest testing ground in the stallion business anywhere.
Of course, we must remember that success in the North doesn’t always convert itself into success in the South; indeed, it seldom does, and it’s probably fair to say that despite the odd successes from the legion of shuttlers that have done duty in the Antipodes, the only real big hit came from Danehill. Horses like Montjeu, Galileo and Giant’s Causeway had little impact Down Under, though there’s a new star in the firmament right now in the form of Sadler’s Wells’ six-time Group One winning son, High Chaparral, who gave that territory four Group One winners in his first season at stud, to add to the two he’d produced up North. The trifecta of his sons Shootout, Descarado and Monaco Consul in the Australian Derby (Gr.1) and the globe-trotting exploits of one of the world’s best middle distance performers, So You Think, have so fired the digestive juices of Australian investors, that fellows like us, who trawl their sales for the occasional prospect, don’t even get in a gear change in the bidding for them.
So much for Australasia. The local scene appears to have finally turned the corner in its self-belief. We’ve had the occasional warning shots from the likes of Elevation, Harry Hotspur and Model Man, telling us to pay more attention to our own champions, but it wasn’t until recently that Jet Master, Captain Al and National Emblem shot to real prominence. We’ve been short of faith for so long, the regular practice among our trainers was to geld as the quick solution to any animal’s temperament, waywardness or haemo-concentration in his blood, and we haven’t quite found our way out of that mentality yet. For all his influence as one of the best stallions we’ve known, Jet Master has just one Group One-winning son at stud, and he’s already gone. It’s time we took a leaf out of the Australian book, and come to the realization that the horse proven in our own conditions, has at least as good a shot as a top horse from abroad. The cattle and the sheep breeders knew that long ago.