The Group 1-winning sprinter Invincible Spirit was a promising prospect when he took up stallion duties at the Irish National Stud in 2003, but the extent to which his profile has developed could not have been expected. He is now 19 years old, has long been established as one of the very best sires in Europe, and he is building a growing reputation as a source of successful stallion sons.
His tally of blacktype sire sons increased on Sunday when Sea Of Grace won the Group 3 Flame Of Tara European Breeders Fund Stakes over a mile at the Curragh. This was a second win in three starts for the John Oxx-trained juvenile and she is the first stakes winner for Born To Sea.
A listed scorer over six furlongs at the Curragh on his racecourse debut, Born To Sea never quite reached the heights he promised that day, but he chased home Camelot in the Group 1 Irish Derby, was runner-up to Famous Name in the Group 2 Royal Whip Stakes and runner-up also in the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes.
For most similarly talented and well-bred colts you could say that their racing record boosted their prospects of a place awaiting them at stud, but arguably that future was already inevitable for Born To Sea from the moment he was born. All that remained to be discovered, in that regard, was where that home would be and to what degree he would be supported.
Why? Born To Sea is the final foal of the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine Urban Sea (by Miswaki) and so he is a half-brother to the multiple Group 1 stars and outstanding stallions Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) and Sea The Stars (by Cape Cross).
He is also a half-brother to the Group 1 winner and blacktype sire Black Sam Bellamy (by Sadler's Wells), to US Grade 1 star My Typhoon (by Giant's Causeway), to the classic-placed stakes-winning fillies Melikah (by Lammtarra) and All Too Beautiful (by Sadler's Wells), and to Cherry Hinton (by Green Desert), the pattern-placed dam of Group 1 Irish Oaks heroine Bracelet (by Montjeu).
All Too Beautiful is the dam of the dual Oaks-placed stakes winner Wonder Of Wonders (by Kingmambo), and Melikah's pattern-winning sons Masterstroke (by Monsun) and Moonlight Magic (by Cape Cross) are joined by her Group 2-placed stakes-winning daughter Hidden Gold (by Shamardal) and her Group 2-winning descendants Khawlah (by Cape Cross) and Vancouverite (by Dansili).
Simply put, Born To Sea is one of the best-bred horses at stud.
He is a horse whose juveniles were always likely to be late-summer and autumn types, seen to best effect when racing at seven furlongs and beyond. His once-raced seven-furlong winner Star Of Rory (dam by Sadler's Wells) is entered in a listed race over a mile at Haydock on Saturday, and Sea Of Grace is a candidate for the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes.
It is much too early to know what sort of overall record Born To Sea might compile as a stallion, but the emergence of a pattern winner at this stage is an encouraging start for him. He spent his first two seasons at Rathasker Stud and then joined the team at Gilltown Stud, which is also home to his Timeform 140-rated sibling Sea The Stars.
Sea Of Grace was bred by Robert Norton, who sold her for €80,000 in Goffs as a foal. She made €260,000 at the Arqana Deauville August Yearling Sale nine months later and finished third in a seven-furlong Curragh maiden on her debut in June. She then won a maiden over 100 yards farther at Tipperary.
The filly is the third foal and third winner out of Lady Dettoria (by Vettori) and she is the second of them to earn blacktype. Her half-brother Pepparone (by Stormy River) was stakes-placed in Italy as a juvenile and has notched up a double-digit tally of wins. Jumeirah Glory (by Fast Company), in comparison, has 'only' won four times, twice over seven furlongs and twice at around 10 furlongs in Britain.
The mare, who won once in France, does not have a yearling, but she had a Rock of Gibraltar (by Danehill) colt in February. She is a half-sister to Cougar Bay (by Daylami), who was placed in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Handicap, Group 3 International Stakes, Group 3 Solonaway Stakes, Group 3 Kilternan Stakes and Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes, and she is out of the French listed scorer Delimara (by In The Wings).
Mariella (by Sir Gaylord), the third dam of Sea Of Grace, was champion three-year-old filly in Italy in 1980, and this Timeform 123-rated full-sister to Group 1 star and Italian champion colt Scorpio got her top win in the Group 1 Premio Roma. She was also a half-sister to the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, Group 1 Prix du Cadran and triple Group 1 Gold Cup hero Sagaro (by Espresso).
That star stayer was Timeform-rated 131 as a three-year-old, 129 at four and five years of age, and 133 as a six-year-old, the season in which he completed that Ascot treble. Scorpio, who also won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes and Group 2 Grand Prix d'Evry, was rated 120 by the same organisation.
In addition to Delimara, Mariella was also the dam of the Group 3 Prix d'Aumale scorer Mackla (by Caerleon), and that filly's blacktype descendants include her Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary and Group 2 Premio Lydia Tesio-winning daughter Marotta (by Highest Honor). Also earning blacktype when third in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera and in the Group 3 Prix de la Nonette, Marotta was Italy's champion three-year-old filly of 2002, although only rated 115 by Timeform.
Mariella is also the grandam of the listed scorer and Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club third Sestino (by Shirley Heights), and her descendants include Group 2-winning sprinter and recent Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest runner-up Donjuan Triumphant (by Dream Ahead) and 2009's Group 3 Prix Chloe winner Wilside (by Verglas).
Although Born To Sea's pedigree gives him the chance to sire some speedy types, many are likely to be suited to a mile and upwards. With the sort of talent displayed so often in the filly's family, it appears likely that Sea Of Grace will stay at least 10 furlongs as a three-year-old.