Never Bend – a legacy

Here & Elsewhere

Never Bend

Never Bend (left) – 1963 Woodward Stakes, Aqueduct

When the sire Never Bend retired to stud in 1964, he had a lot to recommend him. A champion 2yo who ran second in the Kentucky Derby, Never Bend was a son of one of history’s greatest sires, Nasrullah.

He was a half-brother to Bold Reason, who not only won the important Travers Stakes and Hollywood Derby, but is also the sire of Fairy Bridge, dam of champion sires Sadler’s Wells and Fairy King. Fairy Bridge also produced Perugino (Danzig), sire of leading Australian sire Testa Rossa.

Never Bend was out of Lalun, winner of both the Kentucky Oaks and Beldame Stakes, two of North America’s top races for fillies. Her champion son Never Bend duly headed the sires list in Britain in 1971, when his brilliant son Mill Reef (Epsom Derby, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe) carried all before him.

During his stud career Never Bend sired 61 stakes winners from 361 foals (17%) prior to his death in 1977. These are the statistics of an exceptional sire, even if his stats benefitted from Never Bend covering few mares than his modern day contemporaries do.

Never Bend

Never Bend

A list of Never Bend’s top performers make for impressive reading:

• MILL REEF (Horse of the Year, multiple champion sire)

• RIVERMAN (French 2000 Guineas, champion sire, outstanding broodmare sire)

• FULL OUT (G1 winner, successful sire)

• J O TOBIN (Champion, successful broodmare sire)

• PROUDEST ROMAN (G1 winner, successful sire)

• TRIPLE BEND (World record holder, sire of SA G1 winner)

• STRAIGHT AND TRUE (Champion Steeplechaser)

• TORSION (successful sire)

His sons, Mill Reef and Riverman, obtained four general sires titles between them, and were responsible for combined 187 stakes winners. Mill Reef’s tally included two Epsom Derby winners, Reference Point and Shirley Heights, while the great miler Riverman produced the top miler Irish River and two Arc winning fillies (Gold River and Detroit).

Both Mill Reef and Riverman became outstanding broodmare sires. Mill Reef’s daughters produced stakes winners, from foals, while Riverman’s daughters threw no fewer than 179 feature winners including champions and classic winners Bosra Sham, Hector Protector, Erhaab, Makybe Diva and Carnegie. Riverman himself was champion broodmare sire in France twice.

Among the outstanding winners produced by Mill Reef mares are champion and leading sire Last Tycoon, who left his mark all over the world. Riverman, who had a Timeform Rating of 131, is the broodmare sire of Spinning World, who, like Last Tycoon, won the G1 Breeders Cup Mile. The vile tempered Spinning World sired leading New Zealand sire Thorn Park, sire of this season’s Cox Plate hero Ocean Park.

Riverman is the also damsire of G1 Irish Oaks winner Helen Street – dam of world leading sire Street Cry (also an emerging sire of sires).

Unfortunately, the Never Bend male line itself is fading today. Mill Reef’s top son Shirley Heights was a top-class sire, who produced including Derby winners and successful sires Slip Anchor (Epsom) and Darshaan (French).

While Slip Anchor failed to produce a successful sire son, Darshaan’s two sons Dalakhani and Mark of Esteem have both enjoyed success at stud, with the former the more consistently successful of the pair.

Mark of Esteem had his moments at stud, as the sire of English Derby winner and promising sireSir Percy, as well as G1 winners Ameerat and Reverence, but his overall stud record is a bit patchy.

However, the outstanding miler and 2000 Guineas winner is now making his name as a broodmare sire. Mark of Esteem mares have produced Treasure Beach (Irish Derby), Masked Marvel (St Leger), Kite Wood (2nd St Leger) and Mikhail Glinka (Queen’s Vase).

In contrast, Dalakhani has made an exceptional start to his stud career and has already sired five G1 winners from his first six crops, including current 3yos. His best son Conduit, dual Breeders Cup Turf winner, is standing at stud in Japan.

Aother son of Shirley Heights, Elegant Air, is the sire of former leading German sire Dashing Blade. Champion sire in Germany in 1998, former Dewhurst Stakes winner Dashing Blade sired 52 stakes winners during his stint at stud including 3 G1 winners. Dashing Blade is also damsire of champion filly Stacelita.

Mill Reef son Marooned, winner of the Sydney Cup, is the broodmare sire of world-class sprinter Miss Andretti, while Mill Reef’s Breeders Cup Turf winner, Lashkari, is the damsire of Epsom Derby winner and successful sire Sinndar.

Riverman failed to excel as a sire of sires, but did sire one outstanding sire son in Irish River (sire of 12 G1 winners and 81 stakes winners).

Irish River himself became an outstanding broodmare sire, and is the damsire of such G1 winners and champions as Alhaarth, Arcangues, Spectrum, Priolo Distant View and Dolphin Street.

All of Alhaarth, Distant View, Priolo and Spectrum sired G1 winners, and the latter pair have both become highly successful broodmare sires. Another Riverman horse, Rousillon, sired legendary Vintage Crop – the first Northern Hemisphere trained horse to lift the Melbourne Cup.

Brilliant miler Bahri, one of Riverman’s top sons, was a typical product of his sire. He was not a good stallion, but did come up with one exceptional horse in Sakhee (Juddmonte International, Arc deTriomphe). At stud, Sahkee has sired three G1 winners including promising and prolific winner producing young sire Sakhee’s Secret.

Never Bend was not only a truly great stallion and productive sire of sires, he also sired a number of exceptional broodmares. Never Bend’s broodmare daughters include two mares subsequently named Broodmare of the Year, Anne Campbell and Courtly Dee.

Anne Campbell bred two G1 winning colts, Desert Wine (Damascus) and Menifee (Harlan), and is the second dam of unbeaten champion Fasliyev, subsequently a leading first crop sire in Europe. Courtly Dee produced a staggering eight stakes winners, and is also the ancestress of leading sires Arch and Green Desert.

Arch is the sire of G1 winners including champion Blame, and is also an outstanding broodmare sire (he is the damsire of the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and champion Uncle Mo, among others).

Green Desert, prior to his retirement from stud duties, proved himself sire an outstanding sire of such G1 winners Invincible Spirit, Sheikh Albadou, Markab, Owington, Desert Prince and White Heart, to name a few.

He is also an outstanding sire of such leading stallions Cape Cross, Invincible Spirit, Oasis Dream and Volksraad, while Green Desert daughters have produced the likes of top-class performers Almutawakel (Dubai World Cup), Was (Epsom Oaks), and Makfi (2000 Guineas) to mention a few.

Other daughters of Never Bend include Adlibber (dam of champion Chilean sire Roy), Bendara (dam of G1 winner Ida Delia), Classic Perfection (second dam of G1 winners Tight Spot and Valiant Nature), Fairway Fable (ancestress of champion and leading sire Bernardini), and Unsociable (ancestress of G1 winners and sires El Corredor and Roman Ruler, as well as promising US 3yo Rydilluc).

While the Never Bend male line threatens to fade, his name will be a strong force in the modern day thoroughbred for decades to come.

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