Last week Highlands Farm announced the death of one of South Africa’s most successful and influential sires of the past two decades, National Assembly.
The bay son of Danzig died at the age of 30, having spent his final few years at Highlands in happy retirement. National Assem-bly, whose great son National Emblem died nearly exactly one year earlier, defied the odds in becoming an outstanding sire. He would eventually head the leading sires of juveniles on three occasions (according to the website Arion). As an unraced horse, National Assembly was however, an exceptionally well bred stallion.
His sire Danzig (who sired 202 stakes winners) was a great sire of sires, whose top-class sire sons included Danehill, Green Desert, War Front, Hard Spun, Chief’s Crown, Polish Precedent, and Anabaa. He is also the sire of leading South African first crop sire Antonius Pius and G1 local sire Joshua Dancer – all of whom stood at Highlands. National Assembly’s dam Renounce was by the great racehorse and broodmare sire Buckpasser – also broodmare sire of leading sires Woodman, Seeking The Gold, EL Gran Senor and Private Account.
His third dam was the great Grey Flight (dam of nine stakes winners and ancestress of champions Bold Lad, Inside Information and promising young sire Philanthropist), and his fifth dam, La Chica, was the third dam of the once beaten champion, and hugely influential sire, Native Dancer. A $2 500 000 yearling buy, National Assembly (who was rated highly by his conditioner, the legendary Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien but injury prevented him from fulfilling his promise) stood his first season at stud in 1988.
His first crop was instantly successful – from 29 runners in this initial crop, National Assembly had 27 individual winners, and nine stakes horses. This first crop success was achieved without the patronage of exceptional mares. But from that superb start, National Assembly never looked back. His first two crops failed to produce a single Grade One winner, but in 1991 National Assembly produced a magnificent crop of foals. From 34 foals, 25 won, six were stakes horses and three were Grade One winners.
That crop produced one of the stallion’s best sons – National Emblem (only horses superior to National Emblem sired by National Assembly could be Soft Falling Rain and possibly the ill-fated National Currency). National Emblem became a champion on the track (ARCSA Champion Older Male) and at stud (Champion sire of 2yos). His 15 wins netted his owners nearly R2 000 000, and he won three G1 races, while defeating the likes of London News, Teal and Special Preview. At stud, the now deceased National Emblem sired 10 Grade One winners, including champions Nhlavini and Rebel King, as well as Gr1 Al Quoz Sprint hero, Shea Shea.
Another son of National Assembly who has a son at stud is Announce (sire of young KZN sire Call To Combat). A close relative of Danehill, Announce has sired 14 stakes horses to date – despite covering largely moderate books of mares. Announce’s full brother, Sarge, had just five foals in his first crop – but all five won. Despite receiving limited support, Sarge has managed to produce to odd decent performer, including the top-class mare Formation – an 11 time winner who has earned nearly R1 000 0000.
In total, National Assembly sired 16 Grade One winners, seven Gr2 winners and 15 Gr3 winners. His daughter, National Colour, added to her sire’s great legacy when she was named Horse Of The Year in 2005-2006, before embarking on a successful, but somewhat unlucky, overseas campaign. National Assembly’s stock also did very well in Dubai, with his champions National Colour and National Currency both winning there, while Soft Falling Rain (probably the stallion’s finest son) won all three of his starts there last year, culminating in an historic victory in the Gr2 Godolphin Mile.
Another son of the sire to win the Gr2 Godolphin Mile was the well-bred Grand Emporium (who also won the Gr1 Daily News 2000 and Triple Crown 1600). Best known as an outstanding sire of fast, precocious juveniles, and top-class sprinter-milers, National Assembly was responsible for only two Grade One winners over 2000m (National Emblem and Grand Emporium). It could be argued that as outstanding a sire as National Assembly was, his record could have been improved still further were it not for the untimely deaths of two of his finest sons – Flight Alert (Cape Guineas) and National Currency (Champion 2yo Colt).
Remarkably, National Assembly sired four official champion 2yos – Soft Falling Rain, Historic Lady, Forward Filly and National Currency. A remarkably successful sire of top-class and precocious stock, National Assembly’s 38 individual graded stakes winners included a stunning juvenile graded winners. His legacy as a superb sire of 2yos was underlined through his son National Emblem, while National Assembly is also the broodmare sire of exceptional 2yo fillies Happy Valentine (Allan Robertson Fillies Championship) and Laverna (Equus Champion 2YO Filly).
National Assembly is also the broodmare sire of top-class filly Sweet Sanette, who ran third in the Gr1 King’s Stand Stakes of 2011. Sweet Sanette, now retired, had her first foal last year – a colt by champion sire Fastnet Rock. However, the best horse, to date, produced by a National Assembly mare is last season’s Equus Champion 3yo Colt, Vercingetorix. The now Dubai based colt, who twice accounted for L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate hero Capetown Noir last season, is a half-brother to Fillies Guineas runner up, Trinity House. National Assembly built up a great record with daughters of top sprinter Golden Thatch, with that mating producing the likes of Historic Lady (Champion), Bold Thatch (Gilbeys) and Dream Come True (G3 Umzimkhulu Hcp), as well as Gr1 Cape Flying Championship runner up Poly Nation.
The stallion also left his mark on the Cape Flying Championship – the Cape’s only Grade One sprint – despite never siring a winner of the race. No fewer than seven of National Assembly’s offspring placed in the race (Winnetka, Bold Thatch Black Rod, National Currency National Flame, Poly Nation, Mocha Java), with both Poly Nation and Mocha Java running second.
National Assembly’s son, National Emblem, sired two Cape Flying Championship winners Rebel King and Nhlavini. The latter won the race in both 2005 and 2006, and also ran second in 2004. Highlands manager, Mike Sharkey, describes the stallion as having his own idiosyncracies. “He ruled the ranch! He was always the first horse out in the morning, and the first one in. He was not afraid to take you on, and had intense likes and dislikes. He was an exceptionally intelligent horse.”
National Assembly was a horse who got to the top the hard way, and will long be remembered as a tremendous sire, whose stock included some truly outstanding champions.