Posts Tagged ‘Ballydoyle’

The influence of Holy Bull in Caravaggio’s bloodlines presents an exciting prospect. Coolmore’s gifted three year-old has already flashed brilliance on the turf. But this is just the beginning. 


The magnificent CARAVAGGIO and Davey Leigh, his lad. Photo and copyright, David Betts. Used with the permission of David Betts.



Bred by Pelican Farm, Holy Bull was a son of Tartan Farms’ Great Above, and the mare, Sharon Brown. Great Above was a useful stallion with a 71.2% strike rate from a total crop of 617 named foals. The stallion’s best progeny was Holy Bull; he was also the BM sire of the great Housebuster. Great Above’s dam, Ta Wee, was a two-time champion American sprinter and arguably one of the greatest distaffers of all time:

It was from his dam, Sharon Brown, that Holy Bull got his grey coat. The mare’s sire, Al Hattab, was a homozygous grey. Al Hattab was campaigned by Rachel Carpenter, Holy Bull’s first owner, and he won the Hutcheson and the Fountain of Youth in 1969. A direct descendant of The Tetrarch, Al Hattab (pictured below) carried Mumtaz Mahal 4X4 in his pedigree and held a distinct resemblance to Mahmoud.


The first time I saw Holy Bull race — in the Florida Derby — was enough to make him my (Kentucky) Derby favourite. It was a moving race to watch and that courageous heart seemed to jump out at you, even when it was mediated by a television screen.

Here he is winning the Florida Derby (#5), under a hand ride by Mike Smith. Dave Johnson calls the race:

“The Bull,” as he was affectionately dubbed, just rose above every other colt that season on the Derby Trail. And he didn’t appear to have a track preference — the Bull won short or long, on tracks from fast to sloppy. And, unlike many famous American thoroughbreds, his reputation had little to do with his performance in the prestigious Kentucky Derby:

Much to the perplexity of Hall of Fame trainer, Warren A. “Jimmy” Croll and Smith, their brilliant colt was a complete flop on the most important day of his young life. For those watching, Holy Bull’s loss was the kind of upset that the mind refuses to process.

Post-race, both Croll and Smith indicated that The Bull seemed not quite himself: he was sluggish and never really fired. According to multiple-award winning journalist, Steve Haskin, Croll would say until the day he died that someone had “gotten” to his colt, i.e. tampered with him in some way, likely with drugs.

Although this was never proven, the remainder of The Bull’s 1994 campaign was nothing if not brilliant. He took eight of ten Grade 1 races that year, to be awarded Eclipses for Champion Three Year-Old (Colt) and Horse of the Year. The legendary Daily Racing Form blazed the headline “Bullmania Sweeps The Nation” as Holy Bull’s 3 year-old campaign came to a close.

The Bull’s owner and trainer had inherited the colt from one of his longtime clients, Rachel Carpenter. Upon her death, the 73 year-old Croll became Holy Bull’s new owner.  Jimmy Croll had an eye for promising thoroughbreds: twenty years before The Bull came into his life, he had picked out two bay colts, Royal and Regal, a colt he took to the Kentucky Derby the year that Secretariat ran — and Mr. Prospector. As North American readers will know, Mr. Prospector turned out to be arguably the most important stallion in the history of American breeding.¹

Below, Jimmy Croll holding his two three year-olds, Royal And Regal and, in the foreground, Mr. Prospector.


ROYAL AND REGAL, Jimmy Croll, and in the foreground, MR. PROSPECTOR. In THE VAULT’S private collection. Photo and copyright: Associated Press/AP

In the 1994 Donn Handicap where he was pitted against another champion, Cigar, Holy Bull was pulled up suddenly by jockey Mike Smith. Here is how Kathleen Jones, writing in “Thoroughbred Champions: For the Fans of the Horse in Racing” described the scene:

“…Like man walking on the moon, we remember precisely where we were and what we were doing at the time. I recall the lump in my throat watching the iron horse coasting to a halt on the backstretch. The audible collective gasp of those packing the grandstand, the terror in the jockey’s eyes, the trembling voice of his trainer, and the tears of his groom are part of most people’s last image of this noble athlete. Agonizing hours passed as we waited for positive news and finally it came. Holy Bull would survive.”²

The positive news was that The Bull had strained ligaments and a bowed tendon, but even though ligaments and tendons heal, Croll made the painful decision to retire him. Mike Smith cancelled his other riding commitments, calling the moment “devastating” and adding, “I feel the life has come out of me.” And then his eyes filled with tears. Jimmy Croll was no less affected: “It’s over, it’s over. I said the day he retired would be the saddest day in my life. It happened a lot sooner than I expected.”³–¹


“It’s over, it’s over…” HOLY BULL and his owner, HOF trainer Jimmy Croll. Photo and copyright: NYT

Days later, leading his bandaged colt out of his stall on the backstretch for the last time, Croll added, “If he wasn’t Holy Bull, I’d bring him back to the races next year…I’m sorry we couldn’t finish the year with him. He would have gone out in a blaze of glory. He has courage and class. I’m going to miss him. Everybody’s going to miss him.”³–²

Retired to Jonabell Farm in Kentucky (later to become Darley) where he lived until the age of twenty-six, Holy Bull was never forgotten by his connections and his legions of fans, who proudly posted photos of him from their visits to Darley right up until this year, when the beloved HOF Champion died. The sire of BC winner, Macho Uno, and Giacomo, the winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby, as well as Flashy Bull, the winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap, it is to his daughters that The Bull has passed his legacy. Grade/Group One winners Judy The Beauty (out of Holy Blitz), Caravaggio (out of Mekko Hokte), Munnings (out of La Comete), Cairo Prince (out of Holy Bubbette) and most recently Holy Helena (out of Holy Grace), are so far the best. As of this writing, Holy Bull’s BM count stands at 50 winners and rising.

On his death on June 7, 2017, tributes sprung up all over social media. Here’s one that highlights Holy Bull’s greatest moments and features people who knew and loved him best, including Jimmy Croll, Mike Smith and legendary race commentator, Tom Durkin:



MEKKO HOKTE with her Pharoah foal_5d65dcbd7d53aff1d41291005a970ae1

CARAVAGGIO’S dam, MEKKO HOKTE (Holy Bull), with her 2017 American Pharoah colt foal. The mare also had a filly, a full sibling to CARAVAGGIO, in 2016.

The flat racing season is in full bloom in the UK and part of what makes it an exciting year is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Caravaggio. Like his BM sire at the same age, the handsome grey is charismatic, courageous and has earned himself no shortage of admirers.

Here is the two year-old Caravaggio winning the G1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes:

From the 2014 crop of the late Scat Daddy (Johannesburg), Caravaggio was a superstar in 2016 and has continued to develop into a powerful and talented sprinter in his three year-old campaign. Ballydoyle’s champion three year-old may indeed be his father’s son in some ways, but in others he is without question the work of his champion BM sire. For starters, the overall resemblance in the conformation of Caravaggio and Holy Bull is striking:

HOLY BULL_EBAY postcard_$_57



CARAVAGGIO pictured winning the G1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes in 2016.

There is no question that Caravaggio’s pedigree is a gift to the Coolmore broodmares, providing a potential outcross to the Danehill/Sadler’s Wells sire line. But with 3 X 5 to Mr. Prospector and a generous dose of both Intentionally and The Axe in his female family in the fifth generation, there are also other tantalizing influences in his bloodline. Intentionally, aka the “Black Bullet,” sired Ta Wee and In Reality, both important names in American thoroughbred history. The former was one of the greatest American sprinters of all time, herself a daughter of Aspidistra, one of Florida’s most influential broodmares, who is also the dam of the incomparable Dr. Fager. Too, the European champions Known Fact and son, Warning, descend from Intentionality’s sire line.

TA WEE_2650643_origIn Reality was an excellent sire who would have rated as an above-average runner had he been born in another year: Damascus and Dr., Fager, his contemporaries, rather bumped him off centre stage. Through In Reality, the sire line of the legendary Man O’ War continues through his progeny and their descendants. Sons Relaunch, With Anticipation and the only horse to have ever won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice in a row, Tiznow, are the best progeny of In Reality.

IN REALITY_6fefb45e7a33e6d2cea3fda391032cce

The handsome IN REALITY carried on the sire line of MAN O’ WAR. He appears in CARAVAGGIO’S female family in the 4th generation. Of note is the conformation, especially the head, passed on to HOLY BULL and to CARAVAGGIO.

by David Betts_13886484_10206464806931037_7882653896451692570_n

Through his female family, CARAVAGGIO carries some distinctive features of IN REALITY. Photo and copyright, David Betts. Used with the permission of David Betts.

Not a stretch to see why the decision was made to campaign Caravaggio as a sprinter, market preferences apart. His pedigree abounds with them, top and bottom. But Holy Bull won dominantly at distances over a mile, making it exciting to see whether or not Caravaggio carries this trait and expresses it to at least some of his offspring once he retires.

In the meantime, Caravaggio launched his three year-old season in May at Naas, after a layoff of ten months to heal an injured muscle in his ribcage. Colts coming off such a lengthly break often need a race just to get themselves back into the game:

Aidan O’Brien was well pleased with Caravaggio’s win, letting it be known that the colt would train on as a sprinter,“He’s showed nothing to say he wouldn’t get a mile. We worked him seven furlongs and the petrol gauge never shifted, but I was afraid that he was so quick that it would be the wrong thing to do. We could train him for a mile and go back, but we didn’t want to lose the brilliance.” (QIPCO British Champions Series website)

Appearing at Royal Ascot in June in the Commonwealth Cup, Caravaggio reared up in the stalls just before the start, making his win from mid-pack even more remarkable. It made for a thrilling race, what with Ryan Moore’s tactics as he brilliantly managed Caravaggio and Harry Angel vying for the lead:

But in the Darley July Cup, Caravaggio appeared not to really fire, breaking decidedly flat-footed from the stalls after again rearing up. For a sprinter, a clean break is all and without it, Caravaggio’s chances were compromised right from the start. The colt made an effort to catch the eventual winner Harry Angel near the line, but it was too little too late.

It was his first defeat of his career.

READIES for 3 YO campaign_C777qY8XUAA-D0g.jpg-large

CARAVAGGIO at work at Ballydoyle in 2017. NAAS Racecourse photo.

Prior to the July Cup, the plan was to ship Caravaggio to Australia for the the 10 million (AUS) Everest at Randwick in October, the world’s richest turf race. The Maurice de Gheest on August 6 at Deauville — in which Caravaggio has been entered with a string of other Ballydoyle colts — may be a real possibility, but at this writing has yet to be confirmed. Depending on how the colt fares in the Maurice de Gheest, a decision will be made about shipping him to Australia and, possibly, to California for the BC Mile.

It only adds to the drama of the sport that Caravaggio lost the July Cup. For trainer O’Brien and Coolmore, losing is as much a part of racing as winning; it’s the mental strength and ability of their champion colts and fillies that count most.

“It was one of those days, they are only flesh and blood and we’ll look forward to him the next day,” O’Brien reflected, following Caravaggio’s loss.

Newmarket_July 2017_20374219_10155493105214242_5940887425068674360_n

CARAVAGGIO being cooled down after the Darley July Cup.

There is nothing to indicate that Caravaggio hasn’t trained on into his three year-old season: if anything, he’s a stronger and more confident colt. The acting up in the stalls will be addressed at Ballydoyle and once that’s corrected, he should be back to his best form in a sport that abounds with talented sprinters worldwide. To take the crown, Caravaggio will need to be the best of them and, as his connections know, that is no small feat.

If Caravaggio has indeed been kissed by an American legend, he won’t disappoint. In fact, he should fly over any turf under any conditions, powered by a grandsire whose heart never quit:



“Here he is … the immortal Holy Bull” Retired from stallion duties, Holy Bull parades at Darley in July 2012 for his many fans:

Darley’s stallion promo for Holy Bull:



¹ Haskin, Steve. The Blood Horse (online): Farewell To A Friend: RIP Holy Bull. June 8, 2017.

² Jones, Kathleen. “At Home With Holy Bull” in Thoroughbred Champions: For the Fans of the Horse in Racing, March 1996, Vol.3, No.2

³–¹ Durst, Joseph. Horse Racing: “Holy Bull Is Retired After Injury To Leg.” The New York Times, February 12, 1995.

³–² Durso, Joseph. Thoroughbred Racing: “Well Wishes For A Retiree In Barn 3.” The New York Times, February 13, 1995.

Aidan O’Brien Fan Site: http://www.aidanobrienfansite.com

Betts, David. Photography: https://www.facebook.com/davidbettsphotos/?fref=ts

Hunter, Avalyn. American Classic Pedigrees. http://www.americanclassicpedigrees.com

A special thank you to Tom Durkin, for giving me a title for this article; to David Betts, for permission to feature a few of his fabulous photos; to Paul Rhodes of the Aidan O’Brien Fan Site for his support. 

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Using history as a guide, if I was shopping for a potential champion, I’d be looking for an “ugly duckling.”


NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr. The colt was royally bred, but so tiny that E.P. Taylor failed to sell him as a yearling. In fact, potential buyers laughed when he was paraded out with the other yearlings!

Of course, none of the thoroughbreds discussed in this article were ugly. Not literally. But metaphorically, there was something about each one of them that hearkens back to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale: they seemed to be ugly ducklings but what no-one saw at the time was that they were not ducklings at all. Some weren’t good-looking enough. Others took too much time to come into their own. And still others were waiting for a special someone to come along, someone who looked into their eyes and saw who they really were.

The individuals whose stories appear here are only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” — VAULT readers will certainly be able to name many others who fall into this category.

And it all adds up to this: If there’s any “secret” to finding yourself another Frankel or American Pharoah or Black Caviar or Treve, it has to do with looking “under the feathers.”


Perhaps we can’t help it. Horses are beautiful animals and thoroughbreds can be exquisite. And no matter how often horse folk remind us that beauty and talent don’t necessarily go hand in hand, it’s all too easy to ignore when you’ve got a plain bay standing next to a magnificent chestnut…….


KINCSEM (filly, 1874-1887)

This lovely print of KINCSEM shows off her lustrous liver-chestnut coat, massive chest and powerful hindquarters.

This lovely print of KINCSEM shows off her lustrous liver-chestnut coat, massive chest and powerful hindquarters. But it was painted in hindsight, when the world already had learned that she was incomparable, making one doubt its absolute accuracy.

She may well have been the greatest thoroughbred of them all, winning 54 times in as many starts on two different continents. Kincsem took on all comers and was so devastatingly good that she also ran in 6 walkovers when no-one would run against her.

But at her birth, she was declared by her owner-breeder, Ernest Von Blaskovich, to be the ugliest foal that he had ever seen — and most agreed with him. When Von Blaskovich offered the majority of that year’s crop of foals to Baron Orczy, the latter purchased all but two — and one of the rejects was Kincsem.

Here is one fairly accurate description of a thoroughbred that was so brilliant she actually paused to graze before taking off after the others, only to win going away:

She was as long as a boat and as lean as a hungry leopard … she had a U-neck and mule ears and enough daylight under her sixteen hands to flood a sunset … she had a tail like a badly-used mop … she was lazy, gangly, shiftless … she was a daisy-eating, scenery-loving, sleepy-eyed and slightly pot-bellied hussy …” (Beckwith in “Step And Go Together”)

As a broodmare, Kincsem was pretty decent, although she never duplicated herself. But through one of her daughters, she comes down to us today in the bloodlines of Coolmore’s fine colt, Camelot. In her native Hungary, Kincsem is a national hero and a film based on her life (although it appears that the mare isn’t its central protagonist) is due for release in 2016.

For more on this remarkable thoroughbred:


And on the film:



IMP (filly, 1894-1909)

IMP in 1898, going to post at Hawthorne Race Track.

IMP in 1898, going to post at Hawthorne Race Track.


She was the 1899 HOTY and twice won the honours for Champion Handicap Mare (1899 & 1900). She had her own theme song (below): “My Coal Black Lady.” And she was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.

But when she came into the world, the tiny daughter of Fondling (1886) by the stallion, Wagner (1882) was looked upon poorly by her owner-breeder because she wasn’t pretty and her conformation showed not the slightest hint of promise. But her owner-breeder, D.R. Harness of Chillicothe, Ohio kept her anyway, perhaps because the fact she was bred in the purple overrode his misgivings. Her ancestry included direct descent from the Darley Arabian, Eclipse and Lexington.

Imp raced an unthinkable number of times: 171. But she won 62 times, with 35 seconds and 29 thirds and raced more against the boys than those of her own sex. She set track records from 1 3/4 to 1 1/16.

By the time she was retired, at the age of eight, she was a national figure.

For more about Imp:



PHAR LAP (gelding, 1926 – 1932)

“Bobby” as he was called by those closest to him, arrived in the stable of trainer Harry Telford looking like a very, very sorry excuse for a racehorse. Which, in turn, precipitated the first crisis in Phar Lap’s biography, unbeknownst to the scrawny, dishevelled colt who had been born in New Zealand and was a son of the promising sire, Night Raid. Trainer Telford had bought Bobby for owner, David J. Davis, who rushed over excitedly to see his latest acquisition. After a moment of silence, Davis went ballistic. The compromise was that Bobby would be leased to Telford for a period of three years, the trainer covering all costs and the owner getting one third of the colt’s earnings. Assuming he could run.

How big was PHAR LAP? Have a look at these figures! Photo and copyright, Victoria Racing Museum, Australia.

How big was PHAR LAP? Have a look at these figures! Photo and copyright, Victoria Racing Museum, Australia.

The rest, as they say, is history: Bobby aka The Red Terror aka Phar Lap (meaning “lightning/bolt of lightning/lights up the sky” in the Thai language) was a champion. His great heart, together with his victories, moved Australia and New Zealand — and the racing world– to fall in love. And, in 2016, we are still in love with him:

Bobby’s risky run @ The Melbourne Cup in 1930 should have been a movie:



WAR ADMIRAL ( colt, 1934-1959)

“Sons of Man O’ War ought to look different,” Mr. Riddle decided, as he looked at Brushup’s new foal. It was a bay colt with no real pizzazz to it …. and it was tiny. Riddle found it impossible to hope for much from the little fellow, who much-resembled his dam. And Brushup had been hopeless as a runner, pretty as she was. Riddle tried, in vain, to hand the colt over to his partner, Walter Jeffords Sr., but when Jeffords refused, it was decided that Brushup’s boy would stay in the Riddle stable until he showed what, if anything, he had as a runner.

War Admiral [2006 Calendar, Nov]


By the time he was a three year-old, Riddle had learned that even though The Admiral was the size of a pony (15.2h) he did, indeed, carry his sire’s blood.

And that blood would show in not only in War Admiral’s Triple Crown, but also in the breeding shed. As a sire, his contribution to the breed was as definitive as was the impact of sons and daughters like Busanda, Busher, Bee Mac, Searching, War Jeep and Blue Peter on the sport itself. War Admiral led the general sire list in 1945, the 2 year-old sire list in 1948 and the broodmare sire list in 1962 and again in 1964.

Although The Admiral’s sons were not influential as sires, both Busanda and Searching made a huge impact. Their descendants include the likes of Swaps, Buckpasser, Numbered Account, Iron Liege, Hoist the Flag, Gun Bow, Striking and Crafty Admiral, as well as two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Other descendants of note from the War Admiral line include Dr. Fager, Alysheba, Cigar and, most recently, Zenyatta.

To this day, breeders point with pride to War Admiral in the lineage of their thoroughbreds. What the name connotes is timeless, synonymous with the very essence of the thoroughbred.

For more on War Admiral:



ZENYATTA (filly, 2004)

As the tale is now famously told, the yearling daughter of Street Cry did not look her best in the sales ring as a yearling, due largely to a case of ringworm. But David Ingordo could see beyond all that. And Ann Moss has recounted how she and the filly seemed to “just click” at first meeting at Keeneland, just as though Zenyatta had chosen her.

When the hammer fell, the filly had been acquired by the Mosses. But she was not their only purchase that year and shortly after their yearlings arrived at Mayberry Farm, they received a call from Jeanne Mayberry. Jeanne had this to say,”Either you bought yourselves some very slow yearlings or else that Street Cry filly is very, very good. Because when they’re out together running, she leaves them all behind as though they aren’t even moving.”

Prophetic words.

But fast as Zenny was, it took time and patience to “get her right,” as the Mosses’ Racing Manager, Dottie Ingordo Sherriffs, has said. But when trainer, John Sherriffs, did get her right, the result was the birth of an American racing legend:

Retired with a record of 19 wins and 1 second place in 20 starts, Zenyatta’s fans have not diminished in the slightest. At this writing, Zenyatta is the only filly/mare to have ever won two different Breeders’ Cup races and the only filly/mare to ever have won the BC Classic.



In any institution, whether a school or a sport like horse racing, it works out a lot better if everyone develops in the same, linear way. Couple that with our love affair with speed — intelligence being linked to quickness and, in the case of thoroughbreds, ability with running fast enough to win, preferably at two — and you have the “cracks” through which genius and greatness all-too-frequently slip ……..


EXTERMINATOR (gelding, 1915 -1945)



EXTERMINATOR. Copyright The Estate of Bob Dorman.

EXTERMINATOR. Copyright The Estate of Bob Dorman.

The story of “Old Bones” is famous. He’s as legendary a figure in American thoroughbred racing as Man O’ War — and some say he was the best of them all. High praise for a big, coarse gelding who was bought as a rabbity for a flashy colt named Sun Briar, the hope of  Willis Sharpe Kilmer for the 1918 Kentucky Derby.

The man who first saw under the surface of the lanky chestnut with the deep, dark eyes was trainer Henry McDaniel. It was he who studied Bones and Sun Briar as they worked, noting the intelligence of the former at dealing with his moody running mate. And when Sun Briar couldn’t run in the Derby — and after considerable lobbying by McDaniel and Colonel Matt Winn, the President of Churchill Downs — Kilmer agreed to let the ugliest of his horses run instead. And so it was that Exterminator stepped on to a muddy track and transformed, in three minutes, from an ugly duckling to a Swan King.

To read more about Exterminator: https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/a-collectors-mystery-exterminator-and-bob-dorman/


DISCOVERY (colt, 1931- 1958)


Discovery, a brilliant runner and outstanding broodmare sire, won Horse of the Year in 1935 over Omaha. Discovery appears 4X5X4 in Ruffian's pedigree.

DISCOVERY on the track. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

The son of Display had a brilliant, dazzling chestnut coat and lots of chrome. Born at Walter J. Salmon’s Mereworth Farm and owned by Adolphe Pons, the colt was impressively bred and ran head-first into the accompanying expectations. Predictably, he disappointed, winning only 2 of 13 starts as a two year-old.

At three he appeared again, looking fit enough. However, among the 3 year-olds that year was a colt named Cavalcade, who had already beaten Discovery the year before. In the Derby, Discovery chased Cavalcade home; in the Preakness, he finished third to High Quest and Cavalcade.

But Discovery was just getting going. He went on that same year to win the Brooklyn and Whitney Handicaps, and then set a world record time for 1 3/16 miles in the Rhode Island Handicap.

But his finest years were at four and five. In 1935, the colt won 11 of 19 starts, carrying an average of 131 lbs., gaining him the nickname “The Iron Horse.” Retrospectively named 1935 Horse of the Year (over Triple Crown winner, Omaha) and throughout 1936, Discovery’s winning ways continued. Of his Whitney win, the New York Times wrote that the chestnut ran “…the most decisive victory to be scored in a big American stake in many years.”

DISCOVERY was named Horse of the Year for 1935. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

DISCOVERY was named Horse of the Year for 1935. Photo and copyright, The Chicago Tribune.

As a sire, it was Discovery’s daughters who gave him purchase on immortality, producing the great Native Dancer, Bold Ruler and Bed O’ Roses.


SEABISCUIT (colt, 1933-1947)

Rejected outright as a colt foal because of his size and conformation, the little son of Hard Tack languished as a runner until he hooked up with trainer Tom Smith, who could see right through the disguise. In Smith’s hands, “The Biscuit” blossomed into a horse with fire in his blood. It was the Depression Era: a good time for a hero to come along. Especially one who had once been “not good enough,” through no fault of his own. He battled back from defeat. He battled back from injury. And he taught America how to look a setback straight in the eye — and vanquish it.

Enjoy this rare footage of The Biscuit at work and play:


RED RUM (gelding, 1965- 1995)



RED RUM at work on the beach. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun

RED RUM at work on the sands of Southport, England. Photo and copyright, The Baltimore Sun


“Beloved”  is probably the first response when someone speaks his name. Or “Immortal.” Something like that.

In its long, distinguished history the National Hunt has known many great horses, but none who rose to the standard of Red Rum. He was, quite simply, the greatest steeplechaser who ever lived.

By the time Donald “Ginger” McCain got his hands on the bay gelding, he had won a few one-mile races over the flat before being passed from one training yard to another. The horse who had descended from the great St. Simon, and whose name originated from the last three letters of his dam (Mared) and sire (Quorum) was never going to amount to much, running in cheap races with modest purses.

GINGER McCAIN WITH RED RUM PICTURED AT HIS STABLES BEHIND SECOND HAND CAR SHOWROOM. SOUTHPORT 1975. pic by George Selwyn,119 Torriano Ave,London NW5 2RX.T:+44 (0)207 267 6929 M: 07967 030722 email: george@georgeselwyn.co.uk Vat no:3308110 05

Ginger McCain with RED RUM, pictured at his stables behind his used car dealership in Southport, 1975. Photo and copyright, George Selwyn.

The first thing that McCain set out to do was to rehabilitate the gelding, who suffered from the incurable disease, pedal osteitis, a disease of the pedal bone. (This was discovered after the trainer paid a goodly sum for “Rummy” on behalf of owner, Noel le Mare.) The “cure” was swimming and long works on the beaches of Southport. And it worked miracles. Red Rum blossomed into a tough, rugged individual. (It should be noted that Ginger adored Rummy and the horse was never put at-risk in any of his races, unlike the situation when he was running on the flat.)

The result was not one, but three, wins in the Aintree Grand National, arguably the greatest test of any horse’s courage and stamina in the world. His first win came at a time when the Grand National was flirting with extinction. It needed a hero and it got one, in the form of a thoroughbred once-destined to run on the flat until he could run no more, and a used car salesman who “also” trained National Hunt horses — and saw something quite different in his Champion’s eye:


JOHN HENRY (gelding, 1975-2007)

“For the first two years of his life, John Henry had been peddled like a cheap wristwatch.” (Steve Haskin, in John Henry in the Thoroughbred Legends series)

JOHN HENRY at work.

JOHN HENRY at work.

To say he was “difficult” doesn’t even come close: for what ever reason, John had a nasty disposition, despite his workmanlike performances on the track. It would take trainers (and there were many) like Phil Amato and Ron McNally to work their way around temperament issues to gain the gelding’s trust before the John Henry we now know and admire emerged.

In his 3 year-old season, there were glimmers of ability. But from 1980 to his final win, at the ripe old age of nine, John Henry turned out to be the stuff of greatness. And not only was it his “arrival” as a turf star: John’s rags-to-riches story captivated fans who even today, almost nine years after his death, still revere his memory. Indeed, for many, John Henry is one of a pantheon of superstars, right up there with Exterminator, Man O’ War, Secretariat, Ruffian and American Pharoah.

By the time he was retired to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, John had twice won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year (1981, 1984), with 39 wins in 83 starts and earnings of over six million dollars USD. His 1981 election as Horse of the Year was unanimous and at the time, unprecedented for a nominee to receive all votes cast. In addition, John was inducted into the American Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1990.


ISTABRAQ (gelding, 1992)

Unlike John Henry (above), whose bloodlines were blue collar, Istabraq came from a royal line: a son of Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer) whose dam, Betty’s Secret, was a daughter of Secretariat. Owned by E.P. Taylor, the Canadian thoroughbred breeder and owner of Northern Dancer, Betty’s Secret was sent to Ireland in 1987 to be bred to some of Northern Dancer’s British sons. Taylor died two years later and the mare, in foal to Sadler’s Wells was purchased by Hamdan Al Maktoum.

The foal she was carrying was Istabraq.

ISTABRAQ as a foal with his dam, Betty's Secret (Secretariat).

ISTABRAQ as a foal with his dam, Betty’s Secret (Secretariat).

The colt foal seemed to understand from the very beginning that he was “someone special.” And indeed he was destined to be — but it took time.

The colt’s name was Sindhi for “brocade” but the weave of him proved inferior on the flat, where he managed only 2 wins. His jockey, the great Willie Carson, described the youngster as a “slow learner” who “…also lacked speed and was not at home on fast ground…I came to the conclusion that the reason he was struggling was because he had no speed. In fact, he was one-paced…”

As a three year-old, he developed foot problems. He was, in fact, flat-footed, making shoeing him a problem. When Istabraq refused to quicken in his last race as a three year-old, despite Carson’s aggressive ride, Sheikh Hamdan let trainer John Gosden know that it was enough: Istabraq was to be sold.

John Durkan started his career as a jockey.

John Durkan started his career as a jockey before becoming an assistant trainer to the great John Gosden.

When John Durkan, Gosden’s assistant trainer, heard that Istabraq would be listed in the 1995 Tattersall’s sale he resolved to acquire him. He saw possibilities for Istabraq, but not on the flat — as a hurdler. Having informed Gosden that he would be leaving to go out on his own, Durkan began searching for a possible buyer for Istabraq and found one in J. P. McManus, a wealthy Irishman who had made a fortune as a gambler. Following the sale at Tattersall’s, McManus shipped Istabraq back to Ireland with the understanding that the colt would be trained by Durkan. In his young trainer, Istabraq had found someone who believed in him.

“He is no soft flat horse. He is the sort who does not get going until he’s in a battle. He has more guts than class and that’s what you need, ” Durkan told McManus, “He will win next year’s Sun Alliance Hurdle.” Prophetic words.

"No soft

“He is no soft flat horse…” Durkan counselled J. P. McManus. And you see it here, in the power as ISTABRAQ launches, even though he’s a good distance from the hurdle.

But the young Durkan would soon be beset with tragedy, although not before watching his beloved gelding take ten hurdle races in a row from 1996-1997. Durkan was battling cancer and was shipped to Sloane Kettering Hospital in New York City; Aidan O’Brien took over training duties. By 1998, John was dying and moved home to Ireland, succumbing on the night of January 21, 1998.

Charlie Swan wore a black armband in John’s memory on the day of Istabraq’s first start in 1998, the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle. The gelding, who was now 6 years old, was a national hero and thousands turned out to watch him begin his 6 year-old season in grand style at Leopardstown:

And then this gallant thoroughbred just went on and on and on, beginning with a win two months later at Cheltenham in what would be the first of three wins in the Champion Hurdle:

Retired in 2002, Istabraq is now in the fourteenth year of a happy retirement at his owner, J.P. McManus’ Martinstown Stud. There, the horse who was voted in 2009 the favourite of the last 25 years by the Irish people, hangs out with his BFF, Risk of Thunder, and continues to greet fans who visit from all over the world:

For more about Istabraq, one of Secretariat’s greatest descendants: https://thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/secretariats-heart-the-story-of-istabraq/



NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.


Together,we saved over 20 horses from going to slaughter in Canada or Mexico in 2015. And every donation counted in this effort because no donation is too small. Hale, Trendy Cielo, Maya Littlebear, Felicitas Witness and 16 others, including two mares and their foals, thank you.

Please consider making a donation to a worthy cause so that we can help more rescue efforts in 2016.

Thank you.






















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My idea to collect photographs of the progeny of Northern Dancer, our King of Thoroughbred Racing here in Canada, led to the discovery of just how influential this tiny thoroughbred stallion really was — and continues to be today, particularly in Great Britain, Ireland, Europe and Australia.


It was the last Kentucky Derby my ailing grandfather and I watched together. He sat, wrapped in blankets, in his favourite armchair and I sat cross-legged near him on the carpet, the rest of the family ranged in chairs around the black and white television console. When the little colt hit the wire, the room erupted with gasps, followed by delight. Here he was, the very first Canadian bred and owned 3 year-old to win the Kentucky Derby and he had done it in record-breaking time.

As we watched EP Taylor leading his fractious champion into the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, my grandfather exclaimed, “Well I never……just look at him ….he’s only a pony!”

I had been born with Grandpa’s “horse gene,” as my mother liked to say. Shortly after the Derby win, I bought a copy of Sports Illustrated magazine, carefully removed a photo of “The Dancer” winning the Florida Derby and glued it onto a sturdy sheet of blue cardboard, under which I wrote: ” ‘He’s all blood and guts and he tries hard.’ Northern Dancer: first Canadian owned-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. Time: 2:00:00 flat.”

The photo and the memory stuck. Today, as I write this, the faded blue cardboard with The Dancer’s photo and my round printing sits in a frame just above the computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

Punctuated as he was by the love of a grandfather who was gone only a year later, as well as that festering horse gene of mine, it was predictable that by 1990 I had decided to collect original press photos of Northern Dancer and some of his progeny. What I had in mind was a project: to collect some photos and then mount them in an album, together with a little research on The Dancer’s most prominent progeny.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

I started out in earnest, shopping on places like the newly-opened EBAY. But little did I know what I was going to uncover. The search for original photos of Nijinsky and The Minstrel connected me to a number of UK sellers — and it was here that the proverbial “floodgates” flew open. My career and family had necessitated a lengthy sabbatical from all things thoroughbred, leaving me somewhat amazed to discover that through the aegis of the great trainer and horseman, Vincent O’Brien, Canada’s tiny Dancer had, in fact, gone viral. 


NORTHERN DANCER by Allen F. Brewer, Jr. The artist’s exquisite portrait belies the temperament of Canada’s King of Thoroughbreds which was, to quote E.P. Taylor’s daughter, “Not very nice at all.”


I had bought a few albums to house the photos and had started mounting them together with text. But as the sheer number of photos mounted, I could see that I was making myself a project that would take a lifetime to complete. It wasn’t that I had no criteria for acquiring a photo…..it was that truly great thoroughbreds kept coming and coming, like an enormous tidal wave, prompting the question: Where do I draw the line?

Think about it. Out of the “Danzig connection” alone, another galaxy of superstars in England, Ireland, Europe and Australia have emerged. And this is only one of many Northern Dancer sire lines.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.





DANEHILL'S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

DANEHILL’S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.


DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

Juddmonte’s DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.


Among the remarkable thoroughbreds who descend from a bewildering galaxy of Northern Dancer sire lines and families, and who have recently retired are the champions: Rachel Alexandra (USA), America’s sweetheart and 2009 Horse of the Year, is a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and granddaughter of Sadler’s Wells; Black Caviar (AUS) whose sire, Bel Esprit, is the grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Helsinge, is the granddaughter of the late Green Desert (by Danzig); the incomparable Frankel (GB) a son of Galileo (by Sadler’s Wells) whose dam, the Blue Hen, Kind, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); America’s two-time Horse of the Year and turf star, Wise Dan (USA), who carries Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer) and Lyphard (by Northern Dancer) on both sides of his 4th generation pedigree; the 2014 and 2013 Investec Derby winners Australia (IRE) by Galileo and Camelot (IRE) by Montjeu; Arc winner Danedream (GER), whose sire Lomitas is a grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Danedrop, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); the brilliant Nathaniel (IRE), a son of Galileo and only one of two horses to seriously challenge Frankel, the other being Zoffany (IRE) by Dansili, a son of Danehill and grandson of Danzig; the mighty Igugu (IRE), winner of the SA Triple Tiara and a daughter of Galileo; the immortal Hurricane Fly (IRE) whose sire Montjeu is a son of Sadler’s Wells; the undefeated Arc winner Zarkava (IRE) whose sire, Zamindar, is a grandson of The Minstrel and whose dam, Zarkasha, is by the superb Kahyasi, a grandson of Nijinsky; the ill-fated and brilliant St. Nicholas Abbey (IRE) a son of Montjeu; the Australian champion All Too Hard (AUS), the half-brother of Black Caviar, and a grandson of Danehill (by Danzig); the wonderful mare, The Fugue (IRE), a daughter of Dansili (by Danehill) whose dam, Twyla Tharp, is by Sadler’s Wells; Canada’s Inglorious, winner of the 2011 Queen’s Plate, who is a granddaughter of Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer); and last but hardly least, Goldikova (IRE) whose sire, Anabaa is a son of Danzig and whose dam, Born Gold, is a granddaughter of Lyphard (by Northern Dancer).

It’s impossible to think of thoroughbred racing or the National Hunt without these individuals — but even they are the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the ongoing genetic dance of The Dancer.

Below, a video of the American turf superstar, Wise Dan, winning the 2013 Breeders Cup Mile for the second straight year:

“The bird has flown” — the fabulous Nathaniel winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot:

The “sensational” Canadian filly,Inglorious, winning the 2011 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, Toronto, Canada:

Stallions — so many names that one gets dizzy just trying to keep them in a kind of chronological order. Among the best-known: Giant’s Causeway, Medaglia d’Oro, Elusive Quality, Animal Kingdon, Big Brown and War Front in the USA; Galileo, Sea The Stars, Yeats, Invincible Spirit, Cape Cross (sire of Sea The Stars, Ouija Board and Golden Horn), New Approach, Oasis Dream, Kingman, Mastercraftsman, Dansili and Dubawi in Great Britain, Ireland and Europe; So You Think, Exceed and Excel, Sepoy, Redoute’s Choice, Fastnet Rock, More Than Ready, Bel Esprit and Snitzel in Australia; and in Japan, the great Empire Maker and leading sires by earnings, Deep Impact and King Kamehameha ( a son of Kingmambo who is inbred 2 X 4 to Northern Dancer through his sons, Nureyev and Lyphard, and carries Nijinsky’s son, Green Dancer, in his 4th generation).

A look back at the late Bart Cummings’ great champion, So You Think:

And in 2015?

Well, let’s see.

There’s America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah (whose brilliance, I will continue to insist, owes at least as much to Empire Maker and his Blue Hen dam, Toussaud, a daughter of Northern Dancer’s El Gran Señor as to any other in his pedigree), the Investec Derby winner Golden Horn, Shadwell’s brilliant Muhaarar, Coolmore’s Gleneagles, the up-and-coming sire, Mastercraftman’s The Grey Gatsby and Amazing Maria in Great Britain. And it’s impossible to overlook the incomparable Treve, who now has her own theme song!

This year, they all look like him, carrying his bay coat and dark mane and tail into a future he never saw. But the familiar colours of my “tiny Dancer” always take me back to that last Kentucky Derby my grandfather and I watched together. And as for my collection of photographs, it’s tailed off considerably since it arrived at 500 + images. I’m well behind in recording them all, so the considerable overflow are now housed in an archival file.

But then along came 2015.

And I can see that my collecting is not yet done…….




Since I began THE VAULT’S rescue fund, $1,542.00 CAD has been raised, allowing THE VAULT readers and yours truly to rescue Hale, as well as a Standardbred gelding and a beautiful blue roan QH mare, in foal, from slaughter. Too, donations have been made to Our Mims and RR Refuge. I continue to work to save horses, one horse at a time: this week, it was a granddaughter of Secretariat.

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

Here’s some footage of Hale, a mere month after VAULT readers, his new owner and yours truly rescued him:

If you love THE VAULT, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I write it for you.

And please consider making a donation:


Together we can make a difference.



NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.




















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Royal Ascot is about to open and in 2014 will host a veritable who’s-who of the British and European turf. An exciting twist for American racing fans is provided by the entry of Rosalind, trained by Kenny McPeek, in either the Ribblesdale Stakes on June 19 or the Coronation Stakes on Friday, June 20.  In addition, Verrazano, now in training with Aidan O’Brien, will be starting in either the Queen Anne (June 17) or the Prince of Wales (June 18) Stakes. 

ROSALIND, trained by Kenny McPeek, is set to make her UK debut in the Coronation Stakes on June 20.

ROSALIND is set to make her UK debut in either the Ribblesdale or the Coronation Stakes. Both of these races are designed for fillies.

Impossible as it is to focus on every horse entered at Royal Ascot, there are several who have become familiar names to racing fans worldwide. Keeping our readership and their needs in mind, we have focused on a few of the star-studded cast who will assemble at Royal Ascot next week. At the time of this writing, the fields were still not quite set and since several of the entries described below remain co-entered in two different races, readers are encouraged to go to the Racing Post site for Royal Ascot to check the racing cards early next week: http://royal-ascot.racingpost.com/horses/cards/


Arc winner, Treve, is set to kick off in the Prince of Wales Stakes on Wednesday, June 18 in what will be her first start on British soil. Last seen in neck-to-neck combat with the outstanding Cirrus des Aigles in April at Longchamps in the Prix Ganay (below), which Treve lost by a whisker in her first-ever defeat, trainer Cricket Head-Maarek’s champion seems ready to add another jewel to her crown next week.

As satisfying as it will be for Head-Maarek to see her great mare return to the winner’s circle at Ascot, the Prince of Wales is thought to be a prep race for Treve who’s real objective is likely to be the 1 million purse in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in July, where it is very possible that she will meet up with Derby winner, Australia. From there, if all goes well, Treve will defend her title in the 2015 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. If anyone can get her through this arduous campaign it is Head-Maarek, a trainer of no small merit who hails from the family of Freddie Head, trainer of the brilliant Goldikova. Here is Treve in-training prior to the Prix Ganay, with commentary from the distinguished jockey, Frankie Dettori, who has ridden some of the greatest thoroughbreds of the last twenty years.

The Prince of Wales is shaping up to be a solid race including Aidan O’Brien’s 2013 Epsom Derby winner, Ruler of the World, John Gosden’s globetrotting mare, The Fugue, the William Haggas-trained Mukhadram, second in last year’s Dubai World Cup, and Dank, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, last seen by North America in her record-setting run in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November 2013 (below). (NOTE: Ruler of the World is co-entered in the Hardwicke Stakes, Saturday, June 21st. Check on Monday, June 16 to see where he is going.)

Of particular interest to American racing fans will be the entry of Verrazano, last year’s winner of the Wood Memorial, who is now being trained by Aidan O’Brien. O’Brien reports that he is pleased with Verrazano’s progress to date. The 4 year-old made his first start for O’Brien at Newberry in May, where he finished a very respectable third to champion Olympic Glory in the JLT Lockinge Stakes (below). (NOTE: Verrazano is co-entered in the Queen Anne Stakes which will run on Tuesday, June 17. Verrazano fans should check at on the weekend or Monday, June 16 when the entries should be finalized for June 17.)


Mike de Kock’s Soft Falling Rain is getting set to take on Olympic Glory in the Queen Anne Stakes, on the first day of racing (June 17th) at Royal Ascot. The last time he tried this on Ascot turf, Soft Falling Rain ran the worst race of his distinguished career, coming in 11th behind the winner (Olympic Glory). But don’t be fooled: Mike de Kock’s champion has only ever finished out of the money twice in his 12 starts, winning 8. A son of Canada’s National Assembly, a champion sire in South Africa who was trained by Vincent O’Brien but never raced due to injury, Soft Falling Rain is a grandson of the prepotent Danzig and Giant’s Causeway is his BM sire. So this 5 year-old is “bred in the purple” and always gives his best. His last start was in March in the Godolphin Mile, where he narrowly lost out to stablemate Variety Club:

Olympic Glory (shown in video above in connection with Verrazano) is another champion who has won very consistently over 13 career starts for trainer, Richard Hannon. A son of Choisir, the first Australian-trained horse to win at Royal Ascot (2003) who became almost as famous for his weird headgear, Olympic Glory carries “the Danehill gene” that never seems to disappoint. Accordingly, the colt has won seven times in France and England, and was seen last year at Royal Ascot winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (below).  Despite coming in 4th at Longchamps to the mighty Cirrus des Aigles, expect Olympic Glory to be well in the mix on opening day.

CHOISIR, the sire of OLYMPIC GLORY, shown here winning the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2003. A handsome devil, CHOISIR was as memorable for his headgear as he was for his immense talent.

CHOISIR, the sire of OLYMPIC GLORY, shown here winning the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2003. CHOISIR was as famous for his headgear as he was for his immense talent.


Perhaps the most heartwarming moment of last year’s Royal Ascot was the delight of HM The Queen as she greeted her filly, Estimate, in the winner’s enclosure after the Gold Cup.

Estimate was the product of an arrangement involving her dam, Ebaziya, owned by the Aga Khan Studs and HM’s Royal Stud. The latter sent Ebaziya to the super German stallion, Monsun (sire of Novellist, Shirocco and Stacelita, among others) and the result was a beautiful mare who has done her 88 year-old owner-breeder proud. Although lightly raced, the 5 year-old has won 4 of her 8 starts. Given HM’s passion for thoroughbred racing, it would be a thrill to see Estimate defend her title with another win in the 2m 4f Gold Cup on June 19. But she will have to be at her absolute best to vanquish her competition.

It’s a fair guess that Aidan O’Brien’s Leading Light will push Estimate to the limit if he can get the distance. Successful at Navan in May, the son of Montjeu has only lost twice in 8 starts. Out of the Gone West mare, Dance Parade, Leading Light was the brilliant winner of the St. Leger last year as a 3 year-old, and at Royal Ascot 2013 showed true grit in winning the Queen’s Vase.

A sentimental favourite is the hardy Simenon, whose problem won’t be the distance. Rather, it will be his age. At seven, with 38 starts under his belt, Simenon may be getting past his best but he’s one of the most honest horses in the race. Too, there is Richard Baldwin’s Whiplash Willie, who ran a very decent third at Sandown last time out to the favourite, Brown Panther.


Certify was brilliant as a juvenile at 2 and as a 3 year-old, but her career was cut in half by the drug scandal that beset Godolphin’s trainer, Mahmood Al Zarooni in 2013. Certify returned in 2014 where she won her first race, followed by a fourth at Meydan in what was her first ever defeat. Her story is a heart-breaker because the daughter of Elusive Quality is Frankel-esque in her abilities and bringing her back to form after an enforced break of 469 days is a challenge of epic proportions. Switched to trainer Charlie Appleby, Certify is listed to run against fillies and mares in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday, June 18. One can only hope to see her regain the brilliance of her 2012 season. Either way, she is a superstar gracing the turf of champions. Here is Certify winning the Shadwell Fillies Mile in 2012, followed by her win in the Cape Verdi at Meydan in January 2014:



Another serious contender for the Gold Cup will be Ted Dascombe’s Brown Panther, a son of Shirocco and grandson of Monsun. As of this writing, Brown Panther has won his last two races decisively and with 20 starts and 9 wins under his belt, appears to be peaking at just the right moment. The Dascombe-trained 6 year-old is currently listed as the favourite going in to Royal Ascot week, given that his last win came at the Gold Cup distance over a soggy track at Sandown. Although it has taken him some time to get there, Brown Panther deserves the attention he’s getting.

Bred by his owner, Michael Owen, a British and international soccer (football in the UK) star who now does football commentary for the British media, Brown Panther represents the zenith of his owner’s career in horse racing. And he’s come along very nicely under Ted Dascombe’s patient tutelage, since his male family have a tendency to come into their own rather slowly by today’s standards and Dascombe understands this.

As footage of his most recent win at Sandown was not available, here is Brown Panther (turquoise shirt) winning the Artemis Goodwood Cup at Glorious Goodwood a year ago, where he beat the likes of Colour Vision soundly.  By all accounts, he’s an even better distance runner this year.


America’s Rosalind will have her work cut out for her, making her first start on grass at Royal Ascot in either the Ribblesdale (June 19) or the Coronation Stakes (June 20). Either way, she will be in heady company, including a contingent from Ballydoyle that includes Wonderfully, John Gosden’s Criteria, Roger Varian’s excellent Sea The Stars filly, Anipa, Godolphin’s Ihtimal, John Oxx’s talented filly My Titania (another by Sea The Stars), Andre Fabre’s Miss France, together with lightly-raced fillies like Wonderstruck, Dermot Weld’s Edelmira or William Haggas’ Cape Cross filly, Token of Love.

Still, Rosalind will have a huge fan following from America, where she is a favourite and they will be rooting for her all the way. The daughter of Broken Vow whose BM sire is Theatrical has several excellent grass runners in her pedigree, including Britain’s last Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II, as well as Sassafras and Nureyev, who was born and raced in France where he got Champion 3 year-old honours. Her owners, Landaluce Educe Stables and trainer, Kenny McPeek have little reason to doubt either her quality or her determination. Having only finished out of the money twice in 8 starts, Rosalind is shown here in a gutsy win over Room Service in April at Keeneland:


It would be fair to say that next to the emotion of HM’s Estimate taking the Gold Cup, last year’s Royal Ascot was punctuated by the thrill of 2 year-old War Command’s victory. As his white-blazed faced streaked across the finish line his sire’s (War Front) reputation grew even more in the minds of British and European thoroughbred owners and breeders. They had to be asking themselves, “Have we got another Northern Dancer on the rise?” since The Dancer really made his legacy through the loyalty of Coolmore-Ballydoyle, specifically Vincent O’Brien, to his progeny. Most of whom proved to be brilliant. Cross-entered in both the prestigious St. James Palace Stakes (June 17) and the Diamond Jubilee (June 21), Coolmore-Ballydoyle will be dreaming of a performance that repeats War Command’s brilliance of almost a year ago:

However, a little-publicized truth (according to Ballydoyle) is that the “War Fronts can be quite lazy” and War Command pulled that card in his most recent outing in May at Newmarket, where he finished a dismal 9th in the 2000 Guineas, failing to pick up the pace when it counted most. If he does this again at Royal Ascot, he’ll likely be pummelled by either the brilliant Night of Thunder or Kingman.

Night of Thunder, a 3 year-old son of Dubawi, is trained by the eminent Richard Hannon. Having won 3 of his 4 lifetime starts, the colt has never been out of the money. More importantly, Night of Thunder is this year’s winner of the Quipco 2000 Guineas, taking it despite hanging out very far as he and jockey Keiron Fallon came to the finish. But he beat War Command, the subsequent Derby winner, Australia, as well as a very good colt in Kingman despite what could have been a disastrous error:

Kingman and Night of Thunder have been challenging each other throughout the season. While Juddmonte’s Kingman lost to his rival in the Quipco 2000 Guineas, he went on to subsequently take the Irish 2000 Guineas in devastating fashion. The son of Invincible Spirit has only ever lost once in his 5 lifetime starts. Accordingly, Prince Khalid Abdullah and trainer John Gosden’s champion has been accorded the status of favourite to take the St. James Palace next week:


The War Fronts make up a small army, with newcomers War Envoy and The Great War running in the prestigious Coventry Stakes for 2 year-olds on June 17; Guerre and Due Diligence running on the same day in the King’s Stand; Giovanni Boldini joining War Command in the St. James Palace Stakes; and a filly, Peace and War is running for  Sheikh Suhaim Al Thani/QRL/M Al Kubaisi in the Queen Mary Stakes  (June 18).

Elusive Quality is represented in the St. James Palace Stakes (June 17) by Michaelmas who runs for Ballydoyle; Great White Eagle in the Jersey Stakes for Ballydoyle (June 18); Elusive Guest for John Guest Racing runs in the Jersey Stakes (June 18); and the fabulous mare Certify is due to run in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (June 18) for Godolphin.

Big Brown is represented by the very good colt, Darwin, who runs in the King’s Stand (June 17) for Ballydoyle.

Bluegrass Cat is represented by Biting Bullets who runs for Mrs. Joanna Hughes in another 2 year-old race, the Windsor Castle Stakes (June 17).

Quality Road has a 2 year-old colt, Hootenanny, running in the Windsor Castle Stakes in the colours of Tabor, Magnier and Smith (June 17).

Street Cry has Street Force running in the Jersey Stakes (June 18) for Saeed Mañana.

Dynaformer is represented by Somewhat who runs in the colours of  Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in the King Edward VII Stakes (June 20).

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NOTE TO READERSHIP: THE VAULT will be taking several weeks off. I just hate not writing new articles but have a family member who is critically ill. I’ll get back to THE VAULT as soon as I can with a bunch of new writing, but for now, it’s difficult to give you a precise date. However, once I’m back you’ll be notified on your Facebook, Twitter or other accounts. Thanks for your understanding, Abigail Anderson (February 4, 2014)


The tiny chestnut foal could hardly have known that he was born into a story, would be named after a national treasure and would grow into a legend. But that is exactly the story of Giant’s Causeway.

MARIAH'S STORM (1991), the dam of GIANT'S CAUSEWAY had already gained notoriety for her recovery from a fracture to her front left cannon bone in 1993 that should have ended her career.

MARIAH’S STORM (1991), the dam of GIANT’S CAUSEWAY had already gained notoriety for her recovery from a fracture to her front left cannon bone in 1993 that should have ended her career. But the daughter of RAHY healed to race again and did not disappoint, winning the Arlington Heights Oaks and the Arlington Matron Handicap. She then went on to defeat champion SERENA’S SONG in the 1995 Turfway Park Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Stakes.

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY'S sire was the prepotent STORM CAT, who counted in his pedigree the grandsires NORTHERN DANCER and SECRETARIAT.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY’S sire is the prepotent STORM CAT (1983), who counted in his pedigree the grandsires NORTHERN DANCER(1961) and SECRETARIAT (1970).

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY gets a bath as his young trainer, Aidan O'Brien (back to camera) helps out. The gorgeous colt stands out as one of the greatest that O'Brien ever trained.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY gets a bath as his young trainer, Aidan O’Brien (back to camera) helps out. The gorgeous colt would go on to become a stunningly handsome stallion, but in O’Brien’s mind and in the hearts of his devoted following he is less remembered for his beauty and more for his racing heart. He remains one of the best horses to ever grace the UK turf. Photo & copyright: HorsePhotos.

Bred by Bill Peters and campaigned in the name of his Thunderhead Farms, Mariah’s Storm wove herself a story of guts, courage and heart. Breaking down in the Alcibiades with a fracture to her left front cannon bone in 1993, the filly’s racing career would have ended had it not been for the faith of owner Peters and her trainer, Don Von Hemel. It was decided that she would be rehabilitated, but even after the fracture healed, the question remained: Would the filly ever race again? Starting back in 1994, Mariah’s Storm showed the racing public what she was made of, winning the Arlington Heights Oaks, the Arlington Matron and defeating the great mare Serena’s Song in the Turfway Park Budweiser Breeders Cup Stakes in 1995.

Although she faded to finish ninth in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (won by over a dozen lengths by the impressive Inside Information with jockey Mike Smith in the irons), Mariah’s Storm retired with a career record of 16-10-2-1 and earnings of $724,895 USD. She had done enough to inspire a movie (“Dreamer”) and to get the attention of savvy horsemen beyond the shores of North America. So it was that in 1996, at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, Mariah’s Storm was sold, in foal to Storm Cat, to Coolmore’s John Magnier for 2.6 million USD.

The foal she was carrying was imprinted with the genetic data of Northern Dancer (1961), Secretariat (1970), Blushing Groom (1974) and Roberto (1969), as well as Halo (1969), Hail To Reason (1958), Nasrullah (1940), Nashua (1942), Bold Ruler (1954) and an important son of Man O’ War, War Relic (1958). Further, the Storm Cat-Mariah’s Storm mating called upon the known affinity between the Northern Dancer and Blushing Groom sire lines.

It was fair to expect great things from this yet unborn descendant of some of the greatest thoroughbreds of the last century. But, as history has shown, great genes don’t always beget great horses.

WAR RELIC (inside) shown beating FOXBROUGH in the The chestnut son of MAN O' WAR was thought to be his best son at stud.

WAR RELIC (inside) shown beating FOXBROUGH in the 1941 Massachusetts Handicap. The chestnut son of MAN O’ WAR, whose temper was so fierce he killed a groom, also carries the distinction of being the most influential sire of all of BIG RED’S sons. His remains lie next to those of WAR ADMIRAL and MAN O’ WAR in the Kentucky Horse Park. WAR RELIC appears on the bottom of MARIAH’S STORM’S pedigree in the fifth generation.

NORTHERN DANCER, depicted here in a stamp released in 2012 by Canada Post.

NORTHERN DANCER, depicted here in a stamp released in 2012 by Canada Post.

BLUSHING GROOM, whose sire lines work well with NORTHERN DANCER.

BLUSHING GROOM, whose sire lines work well with NORTHERN DANCER.

As Aidan O’Brien tells it (in Pacemaker, July 2001), the Storm Cat-Mariah’s Storm colt was already the talk of Ashford Stud (Coolmore America) long before he arrived at Ballydoyle.

” ‘…Before he set foot in the yard, a lot of people were talking about him,’ O’Brien related. ‘Anyone who saw him as a yearling said he had great presence from the start. He had a lovely physique, and when we started to get to know him it was obvious that he had a temperament to match. He looked well, he walked well, and we were fairly sure he was going to be a real racehorse.’ ”

"A very special horse," said Aidan O'Brien of GIANT'S CAUSEWAY after he broke his maiden at first asking in  1999. Above, shown winning the Prix Salamandre at Longchamps with Mick Kinane riding that same year.

“A very special horse,” said Aidan O’Brien of GIANT’S CAUSEWAY after he broke his maiden at first asking in 1999. Above, shown winning the Prix de la Salamandre (G1) at Longchamps that same year in what would be the final race of his 2 year-old season.

The handsome colt with the crooked blaze needed a name and the one chosen for him was Giant’s Causeway. So it was that before he had even set foot on the turf, the youngster had the distinction of carrying on his solid shoulders another story, this one pertaining to one of Ireland’s greatest legends. The site of Finn McCool’s great feat remains a place of mystery and magic, warmed by the ghosts of a well-remembered past. While it continues to fascinate all who see it, on the global stage The Giant’s Causeway has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As he would throughout his racing career, Giant’s Causeway did honour to his bloodlines, his dam’s grit and the country that had embraced him. In his juvenile season, the colt raced three times, capping off the year with an easy win in the 1999 Prix de la Salamandre (G1) at Longchamps, France. The ground was soft that day, but Ballydoyle’s colt made all the running under the skilled guidance of master jockey, Mick Kinane.

The colt ended the year a Group One winner and, if the Master of Ballydoyle was concerned about him at all, it was that his juvenile season had been perhaps a bit too easy. “… I felt that if he was going to be ready for the Guineas he was going to have to learn things in a hurry at the start of the season. In the spring he worked regularly with the Gimcrack winner Mull of Kintyre and they were both so good that we could hardly believe it. ” As the colt had had no experience being among horses having done all the running in his three starts as a 2 year-old, O’Brien started him at three in the Gladness Stakes, where he would meet horses of all ages for the first time. Said O’Brien, ” The Gladness can be a tough race for three year-olds…Physically, he had always been very mature but mentally he hadn’t really been tested. I told Michael Kinane to drop him in, educate him and hope that he would be good enough.”

Giant’s Causeway was indeed “good enough,” beating an experienced Tarry Flynn (1994) as well as John Oxx’s Namid (1996), who would go on to take the Prix  l’Abbaye later in the season.

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY as a three year-old, with Mick Kinane up.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY as a three year-old, with Mick Kinane up. Photo & copyright The Racing Post.

In his next two starts, the 2000 Guineas and the Irish 2000 Guineas, Giant’s Causeway battled all the way but ended up second to King’s Best (1997) and Bachir (1997), respectively. The losses took nothing away from him in O’Brien’s eyes. The colt had shown courage and talent even in defeat. As well, the trainer had learned that Giant’s Causeway was determined and fiercely competitive, if inclined to ease up once he had passed all of the other horses in the field, a factor that had played against him in his two defeats. Next up was the St. James’s Palace Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot 2000. A new millennium had dawned and the chestnut-red colt was going to make it his own. He had matured and learned a good deal from three tough races when he and Kinane stepped into the starting gate at Royal Ascot:

He may have won it by a nose, but Giant’s Causeway stamped himself as Mariah’s Storm’s son, showing a tenacity that became a signature. In winning the St. James’s Palace he had beaten some excellent colts in Bachir and Medicean (1997). And he had won off a slower pace than he liked. Although it was tempting to give the colt the summer off, O’Brien felt that he could step up the pace of Giant’s Causeway’s campaign by entering him in the Coral-Eclipse (G1) a mere eleven days later. The changes in the three year-old from just before and after the St. James’s Palace made it an interesting risk to take. Giant’s Causeway had come into his own just before his appearance at Royal Ascot and came out of it well into himself and in great form.

With veteran jockey George Duffield in the saddle, he went to the post in the Coral-Eclipse. Also entered were champions Sakhee (1997), Fantastic Light (1996), Shiva (1995) and Kalanisi (1996).

Aidan O’Brien’s take on the drama of the finish was that once Giant’s Causeway had gotten to the front, he idled a little, waiting for Kalanisi to get up to him. But whether by a length or a whisker, his game colt had gotten the job done. It was this race that would earn the Ballydoyle colt an enduring nickname, “The Iron Horse,” since Giant’s Causeway became only the second horse –and the first since Coronach(1923) in 1926 — to capture both the Coral-Eclipse and the St. James’s Palace Stakes in the same year.  In winning the Coral-Eclipse he had beaten a future winner of the 2001 Prix du l’Arc de Triomphe (Sakhee), the 2000 European Champion Horse and Champion Turf Male in the USA (Kalanisi), the 2000 & 2001 UK Horse of the World (Fantastic Light) and the winner of the Tattersall’s Gold Cup and 1999 European Champion Mare (Shiva).

Duking it out with KALANSI  at the wire.

Duking it out with KALANSI
at the wire. Photo & copyright, The Racing Post.

A delighted George Duffield rides in the Coral-Eclipse winner, GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, after the colt's gutsy win over KALANISI. The only other horse to have won the St. James's Palace and Coral-Eclipse in the same year was CORONACH, in 1926.

A delighted George Duffield rides in the Coral-Eclipse winner, GIANT’S CAUSEWAY, after the colt’s gutsy win over KALANISI. The only other horse to ever have won the St. James’s Palace and Coral-Eclipse in the same year was CORONACH, in 1926. Credit: Pacemaker.

As if this weren’t enough, the Iron Horse went on — and on — annexing the Irish Champion Stakes (G1), the Sussex Stakes (G1) and the Juddmonte International (G1) in rapid succession, vanquishing older champions like the German Group 1 winner, Greek Dance (1995), Juddmonte’s champion, Dansili (1996), and the valiant Kalanisi along the way.

Giant’s Causeway ran himself into the hearts of Irish and English racing fans, showing the steely determination and heart of a champion who showed up each and every time. By the time he arrived for the Breeders Cup Classic he was a national hero who had chalked up five successive Group 1’s in a single racing season (matching the record held by UK Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II) and completed a Group 1 double that had only been accomplished once before in the history of UK horse racing. He was a new face to most North Americans but the colt and his entourage were followed enthusiastically by the press as Ireland’s national treasure readied for his final start. The HOF American trainer D. Wayne Lukas was on hand to support the Ballydoyle team and doubtless felt proud for another reason: Giant’s Causeway was the progeny of Storm Cat, who was owned by Lukas’ friend and mentor, William T. Young of Overbrook Farm. And Storm Cat was, in turn, the best son of the filly who had launched Lukas’ career: Terlingua (1976) aka “The Secretariat Filly.”

Followed by a hoard of media, GIANT'S CAUSEWAY makes his way to the track accompanied by Aidan O'Brien and American HOF trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.

Followed by a hoard of media, GIANT’S CAUSEWAY makes his way to the track at Churchill Downs, accompanied by the Master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien and American HOF trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. The two trainers would begin an enduring friendship at the Breeders Cup.

Giant’s Causeway was coming to Churchill Downs off a long, hard and brilliant campaign: in twelve career starts (nine of them in his three year-old season), he had won nine and placed in three.

Getting to the Breeders Cup meant that the champion colt had to endure lengthly air travel followed by quarantine. And he would race on dirt for the first (and only) time in his life. The field was a strong one, featuring the Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus (1997), Lemon Drop Kid (1996), Albert The Great (1997), Captain Steve (1997) and a California invader named Tiznow (1997).  If any of this worried the Ballydoyle team they didn’t show it. And when it was all over, an elated Aidan O’Brien would say, “The Breeders Cup Classic was always the plan for him. He had nothing left to prove in Europe and we wanted to see exactly what his limits were. I was very apprehensive about how he would get on, but in the end he really covered himself in glory. ”

Retired to stud in 2001,Giant’s Causeway ended his career with a record of 13-9-4-0 and earnings of 2,031,426 BPS.

Not surprisingly, his stud career has been as successful as his career on the turf. Standing his first year at Coolmore Ireland and his second season at Coolmore Australia, The Iron Horse came to rest in the country of his birth for his third season at stud and has never left. In a dozen or so years, the flashy chestnut who never seems to take a bad photograph has sired enough winners to earn him USA Champion Sire rankings in 2009, 2010 and again in 2012. Granted, his book is large and he continues to attract very fine mares, making his chances of showing himself a superior sire greater. But the fact remains that his progeny have won on dirt, synthetic and turf in six different countries and on four continents, at distances from 5 – 14 furlongs. Giant’s Causeway may also be on his way to garnering “Sire of Sires” status, given the success of sons like Shamardal (2002) , Footstepsinthesand (2002), Frost Giant (2003) and First Samurai (2003) already, with other promising progeny like Eskendereya (2007) and Canada’s Mike Fox (2004) in the wings. As a broodmare sire, Giant’s Causeway has also been successful, much in the pattern of his sire and grandsires. Recent examples are millionaires Evening Jewel (Jewel of the Night, 2002) and Planteur (Plante Rare, 2002).

The late Tony Leonard's profile of ARAGORN.

The late Tony Leonard’s profile of ARAGORN. Photo and copyright, the estate of Tony Leonard.

The gorgeous ESKENDEREYA who many thought would be a powerful Triple Crown contender before injury abruptly ended his career.

The gorgeous ESKENDEREYA who many thought would be a powerful Triple Crown contender before injury abruptly ended his career.

Steve Roman’s data indicates that Giant’s Causeway is indeed a pre-potent sire of Classic stamina which would indicate, in turn, that he passes on little of the Storm Cat line’s tendency to produce speedy, short distance juveniles who frequently are unable to show the same form at three. The Classic influence clearly owes more to the Blushing Groom/Nasrullah sire line that was passed down to him by the plucky Mariah’s Storm. All of which would explain why, at the age of seventeen, Giant’s Causeway owns the reputation of being Storm Cat’s best producing son, even though Storm Cat may well have had little to do with it.

Does he ever take a lousy photo? GIANT'S CAUSEWAY posing at Ashford.

Does he ever take a lousy photo? GIANT’S CAUSEWAY posing at Ashford.

the Richard Hills' trained GHANAATI shown here winning the 1000 Guineas.

The Richard Hills’ trained GHANAATI shown here winning the 1000 Guineas.

MAID'S CAUSEWAY was an early champion of her then-juvenile sire.

MAID’S CAUSEWAY (inside) was an early champion of her then-juvenile sire.

Ireland’s Iron Horse has a veritable stable of champions to his credit. Other than those mentioned, the list includes millionaires Aragorn (2002), Cowboy Cal (2005), Eishin Apollon (2007), Fed Biz (2009), Creative Cause (2009), Giant Oak (2006), Irish Mission (2009), Heatseeker (2003), My Typhoon (2004) and Red Giant (2004). Sons who won at the Grade/Group 1 level with Classic designation: Intense Focus (2006), Footstepsinthesand, Rite of Passage (2004), Our Giant (2003), Heatseeker, First Samurai, Eskendereya, Red Giant, Shamardal, Frost Giant (2003) and Aragorn. Daughters who won at the Grade/Group 1 level with Classic designation: Internallyflawless (2006), Swift Temper (2004), Juste Momente (2003), Maid’s Causeway (2002), My Typhoon (2004), Ghanaati (2006) and Carriage Trail (2003). Other very good progeny include Await The Dawn (2007), Bowman’s Causeway (2008), Caroline Thomas (2010), Imagining2 (2008), Sunshine For Life (2004), Viscount Nelson (2007) and Winning Cause (2010).

Fan favourite, MY TYPHOON, a half-sister to GALILEO was out of the Blue Hen, URBAN SEA, herself a winner of the Prix du l'Arc de Triomphe

Fan favourite, MY TYPHOON, a half-sister to GALILEO was out of the champion and Blue Hen mare, URBAN SEA, who had won the Prix du l’Arc de Triomphe in 1993.

Although, in these fickle times, Giant’s Causeway is no longer considered a “hot” sire, he blasted into 2013 to top the Sire’s List with 12 GSW’s, the most spectacular of which was arguably the champion filly, Dalkala (2009), winner of the prestigious Prix de l’Opera in 2013.

The stallion has opened 2014 with a victory by the champion mare, Naples Bay, a half-sister to Medaglia d’Oro, in the Marshua’s RiverStakes (G3) at Gulfstream, in what was likely her final start.


So the thrilling narrative of a great racehorse and an astoundingly good sire continues. Surely Finn McCool is rejoicing at an equine who has built a causeway that girths the world.

At Ashford Stud, 2014.

At Ashford Stud, 2012.


The Blood-Horse magazine: Stallion Register; MarketWatch (May 27, 2011); article on Naples Bay by Myra Lewyn (January 4, 2014)

Pacemaker magazine, January 2001

Chef-de-race: Giant’s Causeway (September 18, 2010)

The Racing Post (UK): Giant’s Causeway/Record by Race Type

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission. Please contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns.

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SPECIAL NOTE: Part III of THE VAULT’S Royal Ascot coverage will be posted Friday, June 21st and cover the closing day. (The fields are still unconfirmed for several races on the Saturday, making the addition of a third article prudent. AA)

This second of a three-part series covers some of the top races and horses on DAY THREE, Thursday, June 20 and DAY FOUR, Friday, June 21. Please note that the fields in each race covered below are still shifting somewhat, but every effort has been made to focus on top thoroughbreds confirmed in the running at this time, with a particular emphasis on those who are likely to be less-familiar to non-UK viewers.

WHERE TO WATCH: HRTV is covering the key Royal Ascot races, beginning at 9:00 A.M. (approx.) over each of the 5 days.

FOR RACE CARDS and COMPLETE RACE SCHEDULE, please visit LET’S GO TO THE RACES at http://www.letsgototheraces.blogspot.ca

AT THE RACES (UK) at http://www.attheraces.com/ascot/list.aspx?lid=pa+news also offers complete Royal Ascot coverage and will post all races on its YouTube channel by the end of each day.

RACING POST (UK) hosts its own Royal Ascot site, complete with race cards for each race and articles: http://royal-ascot.racingpost.com


The following Royal Ascot races are reviewed below:


FRIDAY, JUNE 21 : the ALBANY STAKES featuring FRANKEL’S half-sister JOYEUSE and a host of other precocious 2 YR. OLD fillies; the KING EDWARD VII STAKES featuring BATTLE OF MARENGO, MUTASHADED, BRASS RING and DYNAFORMER’S son, ESHTIAAL; and the CORONATION STAKES featuring another anticipated battle between two fabulous files, JUST THE JUDGE and SKY LANTERN.


THE RIBBLESDALE STAKES (3 yr-old fillies, Fillies Grade 2. Distance: 1 m  4 f)

This race might be a real corker because, despite the apparent superiority of Alive Alive Oh (2010), all of the contenders do best over soft-yielding turf. At present, it looks as though the turf will be firm-hard, leading several trainers to flirt with withdrawing their fillies from Ascot altogether.

ALIVE ALIVE OH wins for trainer Tommy Stack and enters the Ribblesdale as the filly to beat.

ALIVE ALIVE OH wins for trainer Tommy Stack. She enters the Ribblesdale as the filly to beat.

What makes Tommy Stack’s filly a prohibitive favourite is that she’s managed 2 impressive wins in her 3 starts, beating Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s  Magical Dream most recently and running third to their very good colt, Magician, in her maiden almost a year ago. Of course, a lot can change in a year, but Alive Alive Oh only seems to be getting better. The dark bay daughter of The Duke of Marmalade (see coverage of him in Part 1, under St. James Palace Stakes) walked away from the field to win brilliantly over Magical Dream in her last outing on May 7th over yielding turf.

The Lark, trained by Michael Bell, is a daughter of the outstanding world-class sire, Pivotal (1993) who had 100 SW in 2012, both fillies and colts. She arrives at Ascot with 4 races under her belt and a record of 4-1-0-2, although her only win came back in October 2012.

Coolmore-Ballydoyle has 2 confirmed entries and may run a third. Definitely in the mix for the Ribblesdale are Magical Dream and Just Pretending. The former, a daughter of Galileo(1998) has a record of 6-2-1-1 but hasn’t chalked up a victory since September 2012. Giant’s Causeway (1997) is the sire of Just Pretending, who has won twice in her 4 starts to date, running third to a superstar in Just The Judge in her last start, the 1,000 Irish Guineas. However, on May 12th (2013) in the Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Trial, under Joseph O’Brien, she came home first in a close finish. Say, another Galileo filly, may also contest the Ribblesdale but we will need to wait until mid-week to know for certain.

Lady Cecil, who has been extended a trainer’s licence in light of the recent death of her husband, Sir Henry Cecil, comes into the Ribblesdale with a lovely Juddmonte filly, Riposte. Sir Henry was still nominating horses to Royal Ascot in the last days of his life and there can be no doubt that Riposte is here because she deserves to be. The daughter of another super sire, Dansili (1996) is, of course, trained by Sir Henry and she will have Tom Queally to guide her home. The filly comes into the race with a record of 2-1-1-0, but the fact she’s been so lightly raced ought to be subscribed to her trainer’s illness and not to her abilities. And: Riposte is the only other serious contender other than Alive Alive Oh to have won over firm – hard ground.

RIPOSTE under Tom Queally shown here beating the filly MUTHMERA

RIPOSTE under Tom Queally shown here beating the filly MUTHMERA at Newmarket this May. The ground was listed as Firm, making her a particularly strong contender in the Ribblesdale.

THE GOLD CUP ( 4 yr-olds & up, Group 1, part of the British Champions Series. Distance: 2m 4f)

The Gold Cup is a marathon of a race and this year’s version sees some really good horses entered. Winners here will shout stamina, as did the most famous of all Gold Cup winners, the mighty Yeats (2001) who won it an unprecedented 4 years in a row.

Aidan O'Brien's magnificent YEATS has set the Gold Cup standard. Now retired, he performs the dual function of siring both jump and flat thoroughbreds.

Aidan O’Brien’s magnificent YEATS has set the Gold Cup standard. Now retired, he performs the dual function of siring both jump and flat thoroughbreds.

Simenon (2007), a 6 yr. old campaigner and son of Marju (1988), has raced 21 times with 4 wins, one being in the Ascot Stakes over good-soft ground at Royal Ascot a year ago. This fellow is bound to be the sentimental favourite, although he will get some play at the betting pools as well. Interestingly, the gelding has raced over fences too. His last time out, Simenon finished 4th of 17 in the Stan James Chester Cup (over fences). This is one hard-working, talented and gutsy thoroughbred and Yeats would have loved him for it. Fittingly, Simenon stands at current odds of 7-1. Here he is, winning the Ascot Stakes in 2012:

The Gold Cup will also be graced by an entry from Her Majesty the Queen in the form of the filly, Estimate (2009), who is currently the favourite. She was a gift from Prince Khalid Abdullah to Her Majesty as a baby and was selected from Juddmonte’s top breeding stock that year. The daughter of the late great German sire, Monsun (1990) won the Longines Sagaro Stakes her last time out, but also took home the Queen’s Vase at Ascot last year. In 6 starts, Estimate has only been out of the money once, chalking up 3 wins and 2 shows (3rd). No question that this talented lady will be another sentimental choice to take the honours, it being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

ESTIMATE poses with HM The Queen after winning the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot in 2012.

ESTIMATE poses with HM The Queen after winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in 2012.

After Simenon and Estimate, the other really good horses running in the Gold Cup seem to pale by comparison. However, expect the 9 yr.old Rite of Passage to run in very good form. Currently the second favourite, the chestnut gelding by Giant’s Causeway is another sturdy character, having started 9 times on the flat(record of 6-0-2) and 3 times over jumps (record of 2-0-1). Versatile as well as talented, Rite of Passage has already won the Gold Cup once — at Royal Ascot in 2010. His last start, in October 2012, was on British Champions Day, where he walked off with the Group 3 Long Distance Cup beating Saddler’s Rock, Colour Vision and Fame and Glory in the process. However, that was over soft-yielding ground and the conditions at Ascot look to favour hard-firm this year.

Co-favoured at 7-1 with Simenon is Saddler’s Rock (2008). Even though he hasn’t had a win since last August, the 5 yr. old son of the fantastic Sadler’s Wells is trained by John Oxx, the man who took Sea The Stars to racing glory. Oxx was already a leading Irish trainer before Sea The Stars, having trained the brilliant filly Ridgewood Pearl, as well as Sinndar, winner of the Investic Derby, Irish Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for Oxx’s main client, the Aga Khan. If the turf plays good-firm, look for Saddler’s Rock to run a blinder.

SADDLER'S ROCK won't appreciate soft ground, but if the Ascot turf plays good-firm, look to see this son of Sadler's Wells run possibly his best race to date.

SADDLER’S ROCK won’t appreciate soft ground, but if the Ascot turf plays good-firm, look to see this son of Sadler’s Wells run his best race to date.

Last but not least is Godolphin’s Colour Vision (2008), last year’s Gold Cup winner. And even though the grey son of Rainbow Quest(1981) hasn’t scored since Frankie Dettori left Godolphin, he’s a versatile horse who has won over good to soft ground, making him a serious contender in this year’s field.

An elated Frankie Dettorri rides back to the winner's enclosure after COLOUR VISION'S win in the 2012 Gold Cup.

An elated Frankie Dettori rides back to the winner’s enclosure after COLOUR VISION’S win in the 2012 Gold Cup.


THE ALBANY STAKES ( 2 yr. old fillies, Group 3. DISTANCE: 6 f)

Excitement will be in the air as Day Four of Royal Ascot kicks off with Frankel’s little half-sister, Joyeuse, taking on a field of fairly accomplished babies. Of course, these are juveniles and have only just gotten started, making the task of choosing a winner pretty demanding.

Joyeuse, by Oasis Dream (2000), broke her maiden at first asking at 6f over ground labelled “good.” Meaning that neither the distance nor the probable state of the Ascot turf should bother her. Joyeuse was trained by Sir Henry Cecil for owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah and will have her big brother’s jockey, Tom Queally, back to guide her. Here’s a look at the compact and feminine-looking filly on her very first time out. Quite apart from the race, the hijinks at the gate and Queally’s struggles keeping Joyeuse on-track — a little like his early battles with Frankel who, like this young lady, just wanted to run — provide a great insight into what it’s like when babies first race!

As much as the fans will be behind Joyeuse and Queally, there are a number of other good fillies running against the pair. From Godolphin comes Fire Blaze, a daughter of Dubawi (2002) and Wedding Ring, a daughter of Oasis Dream (2000), both of whom also won their maidens and like the turf good-firm. In the case of the latter, her win came at 6f and she will be under the excellent tutelage of Mikhail Barcelona. Lady Kristale is undefeated and has started twice; like the previous 3 fillies, she has won at 6f and will like the good to firm going at Ascot.

SANDIVA and Pat Smullen race home in the Coolmore Stud Fillies Sprint for trainer, Richard Fahey.

SANDIVA and Pat Smullen race home in the Coolmore Stud Fillies Sprint for trainer, Richard Fahey.

Trainer Richard Fahey’s Sandiva is by Footstepsinthesand (2002), a son of Giant’s Causeway(1997). Sandiva has been very impressive in her 2 winning starts to date, her most recent win coming in the Coolmore Stud Fillies’ Sprint Stakes at 6f. Expect this baby to be right there in the thick of it. Coolmore-Ballydoyle have entered Wonderfully, as well as Bye Bye Birdie, but it is the former who seems a better bet. By Galileo (1998), Wonderfully’s BM sire is the great Danehill (1986); she comes in off a maiden win at 6f and is still another filly who will appreciate good-firm footing. Last but not least is Princess Noor, By Holy Roman Emperor(2004) who is a maiden winner at 6f on an all-weather surface. Princess Noor will be ridden by William Buick, another fabulous young jockey and one in the same league as either Joseph O’Brien or Tom Queally.

The Albany appears to be a very evenly-matched field and should be a thrilling race.

Jockey William Buick, shown here in 2010 at Meydan aboard Sheema Classic winner Da Re Mi, gets the ride on the talented Princess Noor.

Jockey William Buick, shown here in 2010 at Meydan aboard Sheema Classic winner DAR RE MI, gets the ride on the talented Princess Noor.

KING EDWARD VII STAKES (3 yr. olds, Group 2. Distance: 1 m 4f)

Fourth in the Investic Derby to Ruler of the World, but undefeated in 3 starts prior to it, including the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes in May (above) there is no question that Coolmore-Ballydoyle’s Battle of Marengo is the colt to beat in this year’s running of the King Edward VII at Ascot. In his 7 starts, the son of Galileo (1998) has only ever been out of the money in his recent Derby run and has 5 wins to his credit. But the handsome bay won’t be left all alone at the wire.

Roger Varian has confirmed the undefeated Mutashaded, a lightly-raced but competent son of the mighty Raven’s Pass (2005), winner of the 2008 BC Classic. Mutashaded’s 2 wins have come over firm and heavy (wet) turf, showing his versatility. Two other colts that are only getting better are Brass Ring and Eshtiaal. Both have won their last 2 races and Brass Ring seems to do best over good-firm going. Trained by the winning John Gosden for Prince Khalid Abdullah, Brass Ring’s last win came at the King Edward distance, but his competition is a distinct step up for the son of Rail Link(2003), a sire who won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as a 3 yr. old.

RAIL LINK, Juddmonte's Arc winner of 2008, shown here with his ecstatic jockey. The stallion is represented by Brass Ring and

RAIL LINK, Juddmonte’s Arc winner of 2008, shown here with his ecstatic jockey. The stallion is represented by Brass Ring and SPILLWAY in the King Edward VII.

Eshtiaal will be of particular interest to North American racing fans. Racing for Hamdan Al Maktoum, the colt is a son of Dynaformer(1985) and his BM sire is Kingmambo(1990). Eshtiaal has won on both soft and good ground, something that bodes well for him. But like Brass Ring, he is taking a huge step up in company in the King Edward.

All in all, this race looks like a romp — albeit a prestigious one — for Battle of Marengo.

We lost him in April 2012, but Three Chimneys' much-loved DYNAFORMER will be represented by ESHTIAAL in the KIng Edward VII Stakes.

We lost him in April 2012, but Three Chimneys’ much-loved DYNAFORMER will be represented by ESHTIAAL at Royal Ascot in 2013.


THE CORONATION STAKES ( 3 yr. old fillies, GROUP 1, part of the British Champions series. DISTANCE: 1m)

For hard-wired racing enthusiasts, the Coronation is shaping up to be a modern Battle of the Titans between two brilliant fillies: Just The Judge and Sky Lantern.

The Charlie Hills-trained Just The Judge, won the Irish 1,000 Guineas last time out, running the mile on turf that was good-firm. Her career record stands at 5-4-1-0 and she has also handled soft ground with aplomb. Her sire, Lawman (2004), winner of the Prix Matchless at 2 and of the Prix de Jockey (G1), Prix Jean Prat(G1) and Prix de Guiche (G3) at 3, is a son of the great Invincible Spirit (1997).  Just The Judge is his second highly successful filly in earnings, after Forces of Darkness (2009) who began her career in France like her sire before moving to the USA this year.

Sky Lantern, trained by the excellent Richard Hughes won the QUIPCO 1,000 Guineas, beating Just The Judge by a nose, in her last start. Piloted by the talented Richard Hughes, the grey filly has a career record of 7-4-3-0. She prefers the ground to be good-firm, but has also won over a soft surface. Her sire, Red Clubs (2003) is a son of the late, prominent sire Red Ransom (1987) who produced more than 100 SW’s. Red Clubs continues the Roberto bloodline in style, having won the Cartier European Champion Sprinter in 2007; at stud, he has also sired two other champion fillies, The Gold Cheongsam (2010) and Vedelago (2009), who races in Italy.

But why say more? Below are Just The Judge and Sky Lantern in each of their winning 1,000 Guineas races. Clearly, their encounter at Royal Ascot will bring the kind of suspense and drama that makes thoroughbred racing so thrilling.

NOTE: Part III of THE VAULT’S Royal Ascot coverage will be posted Friday, June 21st and cover the closing day. 

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