January 12, 2015

A look at the 2014 Leading General Sire List reveals a continuing trend in breeding, namely the powerful influence of foreign horses and sires in America. In fact, five of the Top 10 sires on the list—including CANDY RIDE (ARG), LEMON DROP KID, Giant’s Causeway, Kitten’s Joy and Medaglia d’Oro—either raced overseas or were by sires who did. All but Medaglia d’Oro ran mostly on grass, yet nearly all have proven exceptional sires of dirt horses.

The mixing and re-mixing of domestic and international bloodlines is, of course, as old as Thoroughbred racing itself, but it’s always worth examining again, particularly when a horse like NOBLE MISSION (GB)—the full-brother to Frankel (GB)—becomes available to U.S. breeders.

In many ways, NOBLE MISSION shares similarities to the recent breed-shaping stallion El Prado (Ire), the sire of both Kitten’s Joy and Medaglia d’Oro. Both are direct descendants of the great Northern Dancer through Sadler’s Wells. El Prado is a son of Sadler’s Wells, while Noble Mission is by Sadler’s Wells’ best son, Galileo (Ire). Both were Group 1 winners in Europe, though here NOBLE MISSION has the edge, with three top-level successes to El Prado’s one. And both hail from families of proven Classic performers. El Prado’s dam won the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas (a sibling ran second in the English 2000 Guineas). Frankel, of course, won the 2000 Guineas…and everything else.

It was only natural for breeders to wonder how El Prado’s offspring would handle the dirt when he came to America for stud duty in the 1990s. But there were plenty of clues that the grandson of Northern Dancer would, like most successful sires from that line, throw flat-out runners who could act on dirt, turf or the proverbial broken glass. Those clues included sires like Storm Bird, a European import and son of Northern Dancer who, from his first crop, sired the Grade 1 dirt winner Storm Cat, the best American sire of the final decade of the 20th century. Storm Cat would become maybe the greatest commercial sire in history, primarily because his offspring could act over any surface. El Prado followed in that tradition, siring some top grass horses, but also plenty of great dirt runners, including the dual Grade 1 winners and multi-millionaires Medaglia d’Oro and Borrego.

Just as El Prado’s success was foreshadowed by Storm Bird and Storm Cat, their success was foreshadowed by European imports like Roberto. That great sire, bred in America but sent to across the pond to race, was a dual European champion whose biggest win came in the G1 Epsom Derby on turf. As a sire, however, Roberto’s offspring were as versatile as they were talented, which was demonstrated early on by horses like Dynaformer and Brian’s Time.

Sire sons of Roberto, including Dynaformer and Kris S., rose from modest beginnings by giving breeders a chance to get any kind of horse. Kris S. sired, among others, the dirt champions Hollywood Wildcat and Action This Day and talented Grade 1 winners on dirt like ROCK HARD TEN, Brocco and You and I.

Kris S. also sired the Grade 1 dirt winner Arch, the sire of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Blame. Kris S., incidentally, is the damsire of the horse Blame beat that day, the great Zenyatta, who—you guessed it—was by a European import in Street Cry (Ire). Arch, in turn, became the damsire of the 2012 G1 Kentucky Derby hero I’ll Have Another, while Prized, also a son of Kris S., is the damsire of last year’s pro-tem Champion 3-year-old Filly Untapable.

Dynaformer made just as big an impact with his dirt runners, none more talented than Barbaro, the 2006 G1 Kentucky Derby hero. Like that ill-fated star, Dynaformer’s gelded son Perfect Drift wasn’t able to pass on his brilliant genes, but earned over $4.7 million during his career—almost all on dirt.

And on and on it goes. KINGMAMBO, a champion in Europe and a son of one of the all-time great turf runners in Miesque, sired champion caliber dirt horses like LEMON DROP KID, the sire of scores of talented main-track runners. (The Lane’s End-bred Student Council was another of KINGMAMBO’s top Grade 1 dirt winners.) KINGMAMBO’s Group 1-winning turf performer Thewayyouare recently put himself on the map as the sire of Toast of New York—runner-up in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt.

CANDY RIDE (ARG), who registered three of his four graded wins on turf, has now sired eight Grade 1 winners—all on the main track. Giant’s Causeway, Europe’s “Iron Horse,” has never been short of top dirt performers.

So, what does all this mean? It means, in short, that class prevails, and that the traits that NOBLE MISSION is sure to impart to his offspring—athleticism, size, a superior cardiovascular system and the rare intangible known as “heart”—will give his sons and daughters the tools they’ll need to compete against America’s best. On turf. On dirt. On anything.


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