She’s One For The Oaks!

They say dynamite comes in small packages...

War Of Athena finally tasted Gr1 success when she put her opponents to the sword in last weekend’s Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic. Based on that scintillating victory, it will take a monumental effort to better her in the Gr2 Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks.

Muzi Yeni gives a Royal Salute! (Pic- Chase Liebenberg)

On delving into her female family, this first-crop daughter of Cape Guineas hero Act Of War boasts a thoroughly classic pedigree which has ‘Oaks winner’ stamped all over it.

Bred at Summerhill Stud, War Of Athena is the sixth and last foal out of Qaphela, a placed daughter of Australian import Requiem.

He was by breed-shaping stallion Danehill out of a full-sister to New Zealand champion sire Grosvenor, while a half-sister to the pair produced the dam of Australian Horse of the Year Lonhro.

A strapping bay, Requiem lacked nothing in stamina, winning the Gr2 Quality Stakes over 2400m over a number of Gr1 winners.

Notwithstanding his credentials, he failed to fire the imagination of local breeders, especially as his progeny generally took time to mature, witness the fine stayers Gr2 Gold Vase winner and Gold Cup runner-up Kolkata and Oaks Trial and SA Oaks second Salutation.

That said, his daughter Scripture was a precocious juvenile Stakes winner of the Listed East Cape Nursery!

War Of Athena’s female family traces its origins at Summerhill from the imported Godille, purchased in France by former owner Mick Goss.

Mick Goss – master breeder

By champion miler Bolkonski, she was a winning half-sister to the high-class filly Dunette, who won the French Oaks at the expense of the then unbeaten French 1000 Guineas victress and subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Three Troikas.

Godille’s grandam Gourabe, a dual stakes winner and third in the Prix Vermeille, also counts amongst her notable descendants the Aga Khan-bred champion Shardari, French Gr1 winner Ajman Princess and the fine stayer Lear White.

“We bought Godille from the partnership of Alec Head and Roland de Chambure’s Societe Aland”, Goss recalls.

“Like the rest of the family, she was smart and well-proportioned, but also tending more towards the small side. I never saw Dunette in the flesh, but at the suggestion of Dr John Chandler, who looked after the late Khalid Abdullah’s bloodstock affairs, John Slade and I flew out to inspect her Gr1 winning son French Glory at Andre Fabre’s yard and he was a slight, athletic type with easy movement, typical of the family, which incidentally, has graced the pedigrees of such top French breeders as The Aga Khan, Niarchos, Quesnay, etc”

Godille, who arrived in South Africa as a ten-year-old, left behind winners in France by Bellypha, Caerleon and Ti King. She immediately made an impact with her first South African foal, the Home Guard filly Selborne Park, winner of the Final Fling Stakes.

Muzi Yeni and War Of Athena head for Tiara glory. (Pic- Chase Liebenberg)

Also third in the Gr2 Majorca Stakes, she returned to Summerhill and to the cover of Kahal, produced Desert Links, who claimed the Gr1 Gold Cup and finished second in the Gr2 Derby at Clairwood.

Godille’s foals by Belmont winner Coastal included the filly Siren Song, the grandam of War Of Athena. She too lacked inches and never raced, but redeemed herself in the paddocks as the dam of the stakes-winning half-sisters Ithala and Mzwili.

Ithala, by Roberto’s grandson Albarahin, won the Listed Syringa Handicap, while Mzwilili took after her speedy sire Muhtafal and captured the Gr3 Pretty Polly Stakes as a juvenile.

A R75 000 purchase from the 2006 Ready To Run Sale, she was trained by Paul Matchett, who returned to the same sale 11 years later and in another shrewd move, snapped up War Of Athena for the bargain basement-price of R30 000.

Goss recalls selling War Of Athena as ‘a very neat, fluent moving filly with an easy temperament. Like Siren Song, Mzwilii, Selborne Park and Ithala, she too was on the small side.”

They say dynamite comes in small packages and that certainly applies to War Of Athena.

What she lacks in size, she has more than made up for in class and ability. Considering that her Gr1 relatives Dunette, French Glory, Shardari and Desert Links all excelled at 2400m and beyond, the Oaks looks well within her scope and she may well be crowned racing’s newest Triple Tiara winner on April 3!

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