Prix Du Cap’s Living Legacy

A breed-shaping race

2009 Gr3 Prix du Cap - MOTHER RUSSIA - finish

Mother Russia – world class galloper

Saturday, 21 February 2015 sees the running of the Gr3 Prix Du Cap, a R250 000 contest for fillies and mares, and a race with an open look to it.

The Prix Du Cap, which provides members of the fairer sex with a valuable opportunity to acquire the all important black type, has been won by a number of exceptional fillies and mares over the years.

From Equus Champion Mother Russia (who earned over R5 million on the track), to Gr1 winner, Nania and subsequent Gr1 C F Orr Stakes heroine, Perfect Promise, to name but a few, the Prix Du Cap has been won by a number of top notch racemares over the years. Inevitably, a number of previous Prix du Cap contenders have gone on to make their mark at stud – this list including Badger’s Gift, Kelly’s Olympics, National Vixen, Siren’s Cove, and Our Table Mountain.

However, arguably the most important winner of the Prix du Cap in recent times was the Fort Wood filly, Secret Heart. Trained by Justin Snaith, Secret Heart was certainly bred to be a top horse. By the now deceased champion sire, Fort Wood (whose 76 stakes winners included five Gr1 winning daughters), Secret Heart was out of the high-class racemare Secret Pact.

Secret Pact, whose dam Soho Secret was Broodmare Of The Year, won four times up to 1200m with her victories including a three length romp in the Listed Jack Patience Stakes, where her victims included subsequent Gr1 Cape Guineas heroine, Little Ballerina (Truely Nureyev). A classy sprinter (who had to contend with the likes of champions Flobayou and Tracy’s Element), Secret Pact was placed in three Gr1 sprints, and put up the run of her career when third to champion Flobayou (Waterville Lake) in the Gr1 Cape Flying Championship of 1995.

The ill-fated Secret Heart and her Kitten's Joy colt in April 2013 (photo:  Sara Fagan of Denali Stud)

Secret Heart and her Kitten’s Joy colt in April 2013 (photo: Sara Fagan of Denali Stud)

As a full sister to Horse Of The Year, London News, great things were expected of Secret Pact when she retired to stud, and she duly delivered. Her eight winners included Equus Champion, Promisefrommyheart (herself dam of the well performed Master Of My Fate), and Gr1 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes victress, Covenant (Western Winter). Her daughter, Secret Heart, while not as accomplished as her Grade 1 winning half sisters, was, nonetheless, a highly talented filly in her own right. She reeled off back to back wins at two, before running a creditable third to champion Paraca in the Thekwini Stakes, and also finished second in the Golden Slipper, stamping herself a likely classic contender in the process.

While the beautifully bred filly failed to capture a classic at three, Secret Heart was by no means disgraced when third to the subsequently disqualified Tara’s Touch and the above mentioned Perfect Promise in the Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas of 2002. The bay followed that good run with a creditable third to subsequent Gr1 Beverly D Stakes winner, Crimson Palace, in the Gr1 Paddock Stakes over 1800 metres. She won the Prix Du Cap, Secret Heart’s sole black type win, in a romp, demolishing an accomplished field to win by four lengths. Runner up, Rambo’s Jewel, was a really smart racemare in her own right, with her seven career victories including the Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes and Gr3 King’s Cup.

A well beaten fourth that day was National Vixen, who has gone on to fame at stud. Her runners include the globetrotting Equus champion Vercingetorix (Silvano), as well as the Gr3 winning filly Trinity House (Captain Al). Among the beaten runners that day were two other mares destined for success at stud – Siren’s Cove (dam of equine millionaire Siren’s Call) and Princess Tobin (dam of Gr2 Sceptre Stakes winner, Badger’s Cove).

Rather unusually for a daughter of her sire, Secret Heart never won over further than 1400 metres, although arguably the two best runs of her career came over 1600-1800m.

Pluck (More than Ready - Secret Heart)

Pluck winning the 2010 Breeders Cup Juvenile

Sadly, Secret Heart was not destined to enjoy a long career at stud – she died last year at the young age of 15. The Team Valor owned mare was in foal to Dynaformer’s multiple Gr1 winning son, Point Of Entry, at the time of her death. Understandably, Barry Irwin was distraught at losing such a high class mare and said, “She was the ideal mare. She had speed, she had size, her pedigree improved every year and her first foal was sensational. This is a hard one to swallow.” However, she lived long enough to make history in the breeding shed. Secret Heart became the first South African bred mare to produce a Breeders Cup winner, when her son, Pluck, (More Than Ready) won the 2010 Juvenile Turf in brilliant first to last fashion. He had previously won the Gr3 Summer Stakes in Canada.

Pluck, whose connections hoped to race him in European classics following his 2yo success, was eventually forced to retire due to a number of health issues and went to stud with earnings in excess of $700 000.  As a son of one of Australia’s most fashionable sires and a Breeders Cup winner to boot, Pluck has proven extremely popular in his first seasons at stud. He stands along his own sire at Vinery, where Pluck covered 150 mares in his first year in the breeding barn. His first yearlings sell in Australia in 2015, and Pluck had first crop yearlings fetch up to AUS $100 000 at the Gold Coast Magic Millions Sale earlier this year. Naturally, South African buyers were interested in his progeny, with bloodstock agent, Kerry Jack, purchasing a colt (out of Nufoos) for AUS$30 000, trainer Paul Lafferty a colt (out of Saigon Moonlight) for $25,000 and Adriaan Van Vuuren a filly for $40 000.

Pluck was not the only US Graded winner produced by his star crossed dam, whose daughter, Three Hearts, (by Hat Trick) won the Gr3 Red Carpet Handicap at Del Mar last year. Interestingly, both Pluck (by Southern Halo’s son More Than Ready) and Three Hearts (by Sunday Silence horse Hat Trick) trace back in male line to the irascible but hugely influential sire, Halo.

One can only wonder if one of the runners in Saturday’s race can enjoy as much stud success as did Secret Heart!

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