Last Saturday’s Listed Sun International Summer Juvenile Stakes winner, Buckinghampshire, prompts Sarah Whitelaw to examine the legacy left by failed stallions.
Champion Australian sire Lonhro, sire of Saturday’s Listed The Sun International Summer Juvenile Stakes winner, Buckinghampshire, has a fine strike rate with his South African runners. Lonhro has been represented by nine runners in this country, of which seven have won and three are stakes horses.
This tally includes 2015 stakes winners in the above-mentioned Buckinghampshire and The Conglomerate (Gr3 Julius Baer Politician Stakes), as well as the leading 2yo of last season, Anjaal. Interestingly, Buckinghampshire is out of a mare by champion sprinter Exceed and Excel – and this Lonhro/Exceed And Excel cross has been represented by four runners and four winners, with their tally including Gr1 winner Bounding (Railway Stakes). Clearly a cross to take note of!
When Lonhro went to stud, he had plenty going for him – a fine physique, superb race record, soundness, and a wonderful female line. Perhaps the only thing missing from his stallion brochure page would have been “Lonhro – son of champion sire…” Lonhro’s sire, Octagonal, was a great racehorse, and preceded his son as Australia’s Horse Of The Year. His 14 victories included 10 at Gr1 level and Octagonal retired to stud having won over AUS$5 million (which made Octagonal the then all-time leading money earner in Australian history) and the reputation of being one of the very best Australian racehorses of the 1990’s.
An exceptionally well bred horse (by champion sire Zabeel, out of legendary New Zealand broodmare, Eight Carat), Octagonal, however, failed to live up to expectations at stud. His 25 stakes winners amounted to just 2.2 % of his foal crop, and Lonhro was just one of four Gr1 winners for Octagonal, who covered some of Australia’s very best mares when he first went to stud. Octagonal was eventually moved off the Darley stud’s commercial roster and is allegedly now based at Cootamundra.
Unlike his sire, however, Lonhro has lived up to expectations at stud. To date, the champion has produced 49 stakes winners, with his six Gr1 winners including previous champion 2yo Pierro. Standing at Coolmore Stud in Australia, the former Golden Slipper winner Pierro has been hugely busy since he retired to stud back in 2013. He was Australia’s most popular sire this past breeding season, when the unproven Pierro covered a staggering 220 mares.
Champion Sire in Australia in 2010-2011, and Champion Sire of 2YOs one season later, Lonhro also shuttled to North America in 2012 and will have his first Northern Hemisphere sired foals race later this year. In contrast to his own sire’s woeful statistics, Lonhro is siring 6% stakes winners to foals, and 3% Group winners to foals. With a large number of promising Australian 3yos representing him this season, the odds look good that Lonhro’s already successful stud career will take off further still.
Lonhro is not the first champion sire produced by a less than outstanding stallion. There have been numerous examples of stallions that have well outperformed their disappointing sires, and gone on to earn sires titles all over the world. One of the best recent examples of this is former French champion sire, Linamix. One of the best sires to stand in France in the past two decades, the classic winning Linamix (he won the French 2000 Guineas) was a son of the dismal sire, Mendez. The latter left behind just six stakes winners (or, 1% of Mendez sired foals won black type contests). In contrast to his sire and grandsire, Linamix proved hugely successful at stud –despite never really finding huge favour with breeders outside of France. He headed the list in 1998 and 2004, and his son, Slickly, regularly ranks amongst the top ten sires on the French general list. Linamix also became an outstanding broodmare sire, with his daughters having produced such Gr1 winners as Blue Bunting (1000 Guineas), Clodovil (French 2000 Guineas, sire), Ectot (Criterium International), Most Improved (St James Palace Stakes), Natagora (1000 Guineas) and Valyra (French Oaks). In summary, Linamix sired 73 stakes winners (a more than respectable 8%), despite poor fertility forcing his early retirement from stud.
One of the greatest sires of the 1970’s and 1980’s, and a far greater sire than Linamix, was Vaguely Noble, winner of the 1968 Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe. Despite being a son of the failed stallion, Vienna, Vaguely Noble became an exceptional stallion and broodmare sire. His lengthy tally of Gr1 winners included Epsom Derby winner, Empery, champion racemares Dahlia and Estrapade, the remarkable Exceller, French champion Gay Mecene, US Champion Lehmi Gold and Epsom Oaks heroine Jet Ski Lady –to name but a few. While a poor sire of sires overall, Vaguely Noble did sire one successful stallion in the form of the New Zealand based Noble Bijou. The latter was champion sire in New Zealand on four occasions, and was by far and away the best sire son of Vaguely Noble.
The ill-fated Ahonoora was yet another example of how a son of a less than outstanding stallion can still enjoy great success at stud. By the far the best sire son of the poor stallion Lorenzaccio, Ahonoora was a good if not great sprinter, who recorded the most memorable “win” of his career when promoted to first in the now Gr1 William Hill Sprint Championship (Nunthorpe Stakes), at the disqualification of Thatching. Ahonoora became a rags to riches success, siring some top class thoroughbreds – despite covering less than stellar books of mares early on. His offspring include champion fillies Park Appeal and Park Express – both of whom produced successful sire sons in Cape Cross and Epsom Derby winner New Approach respectively, Epsom Derby winner Dr Devious, 2000 Guineas winner Don’t Forget Me and the highly successful stallions Indian Ridge and Inchinor. Damsire of such champions as Azeri (US Horse Of The Year), Leroidesanimaux (sire of Animal Kingdom) and What A Winter (Champion Sprinter), Ahonoora also represented a rare link to the Byerley Turk – one of the three founding fathers of the modern day thoroughbred. Sadly, he was euthanized at the early age of 14, following a paddock accident in Australia while shuttling from Ireland.
Clearly, as in much else relating to horses, there is no hard and fast rule about a son of a failed sire being unable to make it at stud.