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Archive for October, 2018

The first eight to cross the finish line in the 2018 Arc carried Urban Sea in their second and third generations. It was just another day in the legacy of the arguably most important matriarch in modern thoroughbred history.

Eric Saint-Martin and URBAN SEA after their win in the 1993 Prix de l”Arc de Triomphe.

When Enable came charging home in the 2018 Arc with Sea of Class nipping at her throatlatch, history was made and turf records danced all around it. The 4 year-old became the first British-trained thoroughbred to win the Arc twice, joining a very select group before her that includes Treve, Alleged and Ribot. For trainer John Gosden it was a third Arc win in four years, beginning with Golden Horn in 2015. For jockey Frankie Dettorri, it was an incredible sixth Arc win, his first coming when aboard Lammtarra in 1995.

 

A joyous team — Imran Shawani, Frankie D., and Tony Proctor — after ENABLE’S win in the 2018 Arc. Photo and copyright, Michael Harris. Used with permission.

But there was more in Enable’s victory to set the heart singing. There was the fact that the filly was making only her second start of the season and wasn’t “battle-ready” for the exigencies of the Arc, making her win even more extraordinary. Post-race, Dettorri said that when he first asked her she gave him the same feeling she had when she led the Arc field home in 2017. But it didn’t last — and Dettorri knew he was under fire and that Sea of Class was coming. Trainer Gosden acknowledged the season with Enable had been a “nightmare” because of the injury to her knee that took her out of contention until the September Stakes, followed by a fever she had sparked between that win and the Arc, which forced him to tone her training down substantially. Of her second Arc win, Gosden reflected that it was “…Enable…who got herself back today” adding that she was a determined individual, always bringing her very best to whatever is asked of her. And to ask an Arc victory after a year like she’d had was a huge ask. Gosden summed it all up by in stating that Enable had won on “…grit, determination and brilliance.”

Nor can the brilliant run by Sea of Class, who came from last to within a hair’s breadth of defeating Enable, be overlooked. The 3 year-old, a daughter of Arc winner Sea The Stars, is undefeated in 4 of 6 starts in 2018 including wins in both the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks. According to trainer William Haggas, the filly will be put away now until 2019 where the ultimate goal will be another Arc run. And if she gets it, Sea of Class will be the third in a family of Arc winners begins with Urban Sea.

The brilliant runner-up to ENABLE is this year’s Arc, the 3 year-old filly, SEA OF CLASS. It was compelling for us to note that she carries the blazing red coat of URBAN SEA.

 

URBAN SEA with the tiny SEA OF STARS, the sire of SEA OF CLASS.

So overwhelming was her presence in the 2018 Arc that the Racing Post published an article with the lead, “Urban Sea in Overdrive…”  For the Tsui family, Urban Sea has been the centre piece in their contribution to the making of a powerful bloodline. Few are the thoroughbreds who take their racing brilliance into the breeding shed. But Urban Sea not only did that, she did it so thoroughly as to be hailed as arguably the most important matriarch in modern thoroughbred history.

URBAN SEA during the first chapter of her remarkable life.

The bright red filly by Miswaki X Allegretta was purchased at the Keeneland November sale in 1984 and once weaned, she was promptly shipped overseas to Haras d’Etraham in Normandy, France, a farm located near the famed Omaha Beach, where allied forces had swept into war-torn Europe on June 6, 1944. In France at the Deauville yearling sales, the filly was initially purchased by trained Jean Lesbordes for a wealthy Japanese client. When he first saw her, Lesbordes reportedly loved her “at first sight” and she was shipped back to his stables near Chantilly. The trainer was thrilled to have the athletic filly, who was named Urban Sea.

URBAN SEA with trainer Jean Lesbordes after her 1993 triumph in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

However, Lebordes’ Japanese client encountered financial difficulties and his entire stock., including Urban Sea, were consigned to the sales. Not wanting to part with her, Lesbordes began looking around for a new owner himself.

Enter the Tsui family.

Mrs. Ling Tsui, a brilliant entrepeneur in China, re-located in Paris in 1986 to assume the position of CEO for China Cheers, a commercial arm of China Aerospace. As fate would have it, Mrs. Tsui met Jean Lesbordes and the former agreed to purchase Urban Sea and keep her in training with Lesbordes.

 

Learning to dance: a horse and its trainer. Tang Dynasty, AD 618-907, China.

Mrs. Tsui didn’t know much about horse racing when she acquired Urban Sea, but as she made weekend visits to see her filly, she not only fell in love with her but began a personal study of horse racing in Western culture. In China, horses have been revered since well before the birth of Christ. They were not only instrumental to the tea trade, but the bearers of power, carrying armies to victory in the many wars waged by different regions in China for power. The horse was associated with elemental powers, principally with the Yang, or vitality, and it was believed that horses not only carried the dead into heaven but resurrected humans from death. Closely associated with divine and heavenly attributes, beloved horses were buried with Emperors of China over the centuries.

One of the most famous of all sacred horses was Night-Shining White (depicted below). The painting of the stallion is the most famous work of Chinese master Han Gan, famous for his ability to convey the power and the personality of his equine subjects. Unlike Western art, in Chinese traditional painting the brush is viewed as the extension of the soul and the subjects of brush work — be they mountains or horses — are captured with the intent of portraying their divine energy.

 

NIGHT-SHINING WHITE, the beloved of Emperor Xuanzong (712-756 A.D.) Painted by one of the most acclaimed masters of the brush, HAN GAN, the stallion is shown here in all of his power. The writing all around the painting is that of those who owned the manuscript over the centuries and added their own words of appreciation. Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). Now in the collection of THE MET, NYC, USA.

 

The video below (despite the commentary) illustrates the principle of traditional Chinese brush work to show how the depiction of a horse begins with its divine energy and spirit:

 

 

No wonder Mrs. Tsui was quick to fall in love with her burnished red filly.

Urban Sea trained only lightly into her second year, bothered in part by a problem with a fetlock, but more because she wasn’t yet ready, according to Lesbordes. But she did carry the Tsui silks into two races, winning one easily at Maisons Lafitte and finishing third at Evry.

But as a three year-old, Urban Sea would notch a victory for which she will always be famous, even though some saw it as rather ho-hum given a weak field and slow pace. After two starts, Urban Sea returned to Longchamp to win followed by the third place finish in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly. Following a narrow defeat at Evry, the filly won the Piaget d’Or at Deauville and came in third in the Prix Vermeille. After this, Urban Sea became a globetrotter. At Woodbine in Canada she finished she came second in the E.P. Taylor, returned to France to win the Prix Exbury at Saint Cloud, then was off to Royal Ascot, where she finished second in the Prince of Wales.

Then came two victories in France, culminating in a victory in the 1993 Ciga Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe:

Mrs. Tsui and her young son Christopher had managed to learn enough about their gutsy filly and the European racing scene to understand that Urban Sea’s triumph was one for the ages. In 1993 and arguably still to this day, winning the Arc was the mark of an outstanding thoroughbred and a dazzling accomplishment for a 3 year-old filly. Indeed, Urban Sea was only the 10th filly to ever win the Arc since 1920, its debut.

 

URBAN SEA wears the Arc blanket, while her young jockey Eric Saint-Martin is understandably overjoyed. She would be his only Arc winner. After riding in Hong Kong for almost a decade, Saint-Martin retired to become a thoroughbred trainer.

Despite her lithe frame, Urban Sea was a tough individual and she actually raced into her 5th year, winning the prestigious Prix d’Harcourt and coming in third in the Prix Ganay and the Coronation Cup, her final start. She retired with a race record of 22-8-4-3 and earnings of slightly over $1.7 million USD.

Hopeful as the Tsui family may have been that their champion mare would produce a winner, they could hardly have imagined that she would become the matriarch of dynasties. But that’s exactly what she did. After two foals, Urban Ocean (Bering)and Melikah (Lammtarra) proved promising, the mare visited Sadler’s Wells and from that union came Galileo. Two more visits to Galileo produced the champion Black Sam Bellamy and All Too Beautiful, a filly.

URBAN SEA and her LAMMTARRA filly, MELIKAH. A beaming Mrs. Tsui poses beside her beloved mare.

A mating with Giant’s Causeway produced still another champion, the filly My Typhoon. In 2004, Urban Sea foaled Cherry Hinton (Green Desert), who was also very useful as a runner but, like her dam, would turn out to be an even better broodmare.

URBAN SEA grazes with MY TYPHOON, her filly by GIANT’S CAUSEWAY at her side.

URBAN SEA with CHERRY HINTON, a daughter of GREEN DESERT.

Then, based on the exploits of his incomparable daughter, Ouija Board, the Tsui family bred their mighty mare to Cape Cross in 2006. The result of this union was Sea The Stars.

Introducing SEA THE STARS, the son of CAPE CROSS and URBAN SEA

By the time her bay son was staking his claim to immortality, Urban Sea was gone. In 2009, she died of foaling complications giving birth to a colt foal by Invincible Spirit who was named Born To Sea. Yet, when her son stormed home in the Arc a short seven months later, it was impossible not to believe that Urban Sea was there. The field was brilliant and included the champions Stacelita, Dar Re Mi, Youmzain, Conduit, Fame And Glory and Cavalryman. But none of that mattered.

The brilliant Mick Kinane, who had partnered so many great thoroughbreds declared, “This one is something special.”

And in the hearts of the Tsui family and Jean Lesbordes, who was also there, Sea The Stars and Urban Sea were united in victory:

 

Each one of Urban Sea’s produce have gone to the breeding shed in a virtual red wave of success, excepting her last foal Born To Sea who is only beginning his stud career.

It’s hardly worth saying the Galileo’s influence has been epic, except to add that with the recent win of his daughter, Magical, on Champions Day in England, Galileo surpassed his sire, Sadler’s Wells, in numbers of individual elite Grade One winners to now stand at 74.

Nor did Sea The Stars have anything but a great Champions Day, with his brilliant son Stradivarius coming home to take the G1 Long Distance Cup, completing the season undefeated and in brilliant fashion, with wins in the Lonsdale Cup, Gold Cup and the Goodwood and Yorkshire Cups:

STRADIVARIUS and Frankie Dettori after their win in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day, Oct. 20, 2018.

Too, on the same day (Oct. 20) Sea The Stars posted a 1-2 in a maiden race at Leopardstown. But this is just another day in the life of this brilliant young sire, who counts among his best the winner of the 2014 Investec Oaks as well as the King George VI and QE2 Stakes,Taghrooda; Sea The Moon, winner of the 2014 German Derby; multiple stakes winner, Cloth of Stars; Zelzal who won the G1 Prix Jean Prat; Tanino Urban Sea (a filly out of champion Vodka) winner of the Seibu Suponichi Sho and Suma Tokobetsu in Japan; and Harzand, winner of the 2016 Investec and Irish Derbies.

A lesser-known full brother to Galileo was the late Black Sam Bellamy. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, his mosty impressive wins came in the Gran Premio del Jockey Club at 3 and a win in which he demolished the field in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at4. Retired to the German stud Gestut Fahrhof until 2008, he was subsequently leased by Shade Oak Stud Shorpshire, where he died of congestive heart failure at the age of 19 in July 2018.

His best flat produce were Earl Of Tinsdal, a triple Group 1 winner in Germany and Italy, Daveron, successful in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Handicap, and German Group 3 winners Goathemala, Saphir and Valdino. Black Sam Bellamy was hugely successful as a jumps sire, producing The Giant Bolster, twice placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Sam Spinner, winner of the 2017 Long Walk Hurdle, as well as the handy runners Flute Bowl, Hollies Pearl and Sam’s Gunner.

BLACK SAM BELLAMY (Sadler’s Wells ex. Urban Sea)

Urban Sea’s daughters have had their share of successes too, both on and off the track. Fan favourite My Typhoon has yet to produce a really good individual, but has a 2016 daughter by Tapit named Tappity Tappity who might well change all that. Certainly My Typhoon had a brilliant racing career. Trained by the eminent Bill Mott, one of her best performances came at Saratoga in 2007:

 

Urban Sea’s daughter by the brilliant Lammtarra, Melikah, has success with sons, Masterstroke (by Monsun), Mr. Moonlight Magic (by Cape Cross) and Royal Line (by Dubawi), who is now in training with John Gosden. Masterstroke, who won the Lucien Barrier Grand Prix de Deauville and finished third in the Arc on the heels of the Japanese superstar Orfevre, stands at Darley’s European facility. Mr. Moonlight Magic was in training with Jim Bolger before moving to the stable of Jim Cummins in Australia in 2018.

MELIKAH with her 2013 colt, MR. MOONLIGHT MAGIC. Thus far, the colt has won or placed in 8 of his 15 starts.

Masterstroke winning the Grand Prix de Deauville in 2012. (Bright blue cap wearing #10):

 

 

ROYAL LINE coming home to win the Great Metropolitan Handicap this year. He’s another who carries the distinctive red coat of his Bm sire, dam and granddam.

Cherry Hinton is well on her way to becoming a Blue Hen, black-type producer like Urban Sea, her dam. Leading the way are her daughters Bracelet (2011 by Montjeu), Athena (2015 by Camelot) and the very promising Goddess (2016 by Camelot). In 2018, the mare birthed a filly foal by American Pharoah who is unnamed at present. Daughter Bracelet is now retired and has produced two foals to date: Magic Fountains (2016 by War Front) and Urban Aunt (2018 by Uncle Mo).

Athena has been making a lot of noise on both sides of the Atlantic. Most recently, in July of this year, the 3 year-old captured the Belmont Oaks in what was her 8th start in a mere 12 weeks and her first G1. She won it impressively, crossing the line with ears pricked:

 

 

The best illustration of the mighty current that flows from Urban Sea into generation after generation of thoroughbred champions is arguably this: in over 200 years of British breeding, only 10 brood mares have produced siblings to win the Epsom Derby, the last being Windmill Girl whose sons Blakeney and Morston won in 1969 and 1973 respectively. Through her sons Galileo and Sea The Stars, Urban Sea has joined Windmill Girl; too, when Harzand (Sea The Stars) and Minding (Galileo) won the Derby and Oaks in the same year, Urban Sea joined Pocahontas, another key broodmare in British racing annals, who accomplished the same in 1866 through her sons Stockwell and King Tom. They are the only two broodmares who can make this claim.

But in recent memory, a more dramatic illustration is this: within a space of two weeks, descendants of Urban Sea dominated in both the 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the 2018 Champion Stakes. As noted above, the first eight across the finish line in the Arc are direct descendants of Urban Sea:

While in the 2018 edition of the Champion Stakes, the first five are also direct descendants of this great mare:

It is an amazing accomplishment for a good – to – brilliant thoroughbred to hand down winning blood as consistently as did Urban Sea, staking her claim to the title of one of the most important broodmares in thoroughbred history.

And isn’t it lovely to feel the current in her blood racing ahead, into the future?

 

Bibliography

Cox, Michael. HK Racing. “Famous bloodlines go from generation to generation for the Tsui family”

Sea The Stars website: http://www.seathestars.com/en/#home

Stevens, Martin. Racing Post. “Only six Epsom Classic Entrants Not Descended From Urban Sea”

Sexton, Nancy. Thoroughbred Racing Community. “Why Urban Sea may be the mnost influential matriarch in Thoroughbred history”

 

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