Heavy-ground juvenile maidens in the French provinces in April are not the source from which you would expect to find a potential Group 1 contender, but Spain Burg made a winning debut at Bordeaux Le Bouscat, springing a 9/1 surprise to score by a short-neck over five furlongs.
A month later she ran over the same course and distance, but this time was beaten by one and a half lengths on soft ground. She then went to Toulouse in mid-June, winning over six furlongs, but still she was not on the radar as a potential star in the making.
Her trainer, Xavier Thomas-Demeaulte, clearly thought of her as a bright prospect as her next start was in listed company, but the mild surprise of her three-quarter-length victory in the Criterium du Bequet, over six furlongs on good ground at La Teste de Buch, was still some way short of what would be expected of a filly on the verge of Group 2 success.
It was no surprise, therefore, to see her sent off at 14/1 for the Group 2 Shadwell Rockfel Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket on Friday. Only two others started at longer odds, and although the odds-on favourite Fair Eva clearly failed to run up to her best, there was a lot to like about the way Spain Burg ran past her rivals to score by one and a quarter lengths.
The favourite was second, pattern-placed stakes winner Miss Infinity was a neck further back in third, ahead of Glitter Girl and the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes winner Nations Alexander. The time was faster than that of the two juvenile maidens on the card, as you would expect, and it will be interesting to see what the sectional times analysts have to say about the race.
Spain Burg was bred, in France, by Pedro Perez Fernandez de la Puente, and she is a daughter of the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan scorer Sageburg (by Johannesburg). He didn't run at two, he was a listed scorer over 10 furlongs at three and hit his peak at four, so, like his dam, grandam and 'uncle' was not precocious.
He is out of the Group 2 Prix de Mallaret winner Sage Et Jolie (by Linamix) and that full-sister to Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero Sagamix is out of the Group 1-placed Group 2 Prix de Royallieu scorer Saganeca (by Sagace). If he has passed on any speed to his young daughter, then it comes from his sire and not his distaff side.
Sageburg began his stallion career at Haras de la Gatine but moved to Garryrichard Stud, in Co Wexford, in 2015. Spain Burg is his third stakes winner, he has six others who have been blacktype placed on the flat, and his older star pair are the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes winner Si Sage and the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham scorer Peace Burg. Both also won at Group/Grade 3 level, and Peace Burg was third to Integral in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket two years ago.
Spain Burg is the second foal out of Spain Blues (by Anabaa Blue) and her half-brother Spain Bowl (by Turtle Bowl), who won over a mile at Bordeaux Le Bouscat in May, was beaten by less than five lengths when out of the frame in a listed contest over that same trip at Toulouse two and a half weeks ago.
The mare won thrice and was placed 14 times from two to five years of age, she is out of the one-time scorer Strike Alight (by Gulch), and that mare, dam of the stakes-placed prolific winner Cyber World (by Robin des Pins), is a full-sister to Flame Valley.
She won the Listed John Musker Stakes in England, she was runner-up in the Grade 2 E P Taylor Stakes in Canada, and she is a half-sister to the Grade 2 All Along Stakes winner Beyrouth (by Alleged). Their dam, Lightning Fire (by Kris), won the Listed Prix Imprudence and earned placings in each of the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux, Group 3 Prix du Calvados and Group 3 Prix d'Arenberg, and it is at this point in the family that the first of the Group 1 stars appear.
That is because Lightning Fire was a full-sister to the Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre scorer Common Grounds, one of the few sons of Kris (by Sharpen Up) who did well as a stallion. His best progeny included the Group/Grade 1 winners Bad As I Wanna Be and Earl Of Barking, and those produced from his daughters include the Group 1-winning G Force (by Tamayuz) and multiple Group 1 star and leading German sire Soldier Hollow (by In The Wings).
Their half-sister Angel In My Heart (by Rainbow Quest), who won the Group 3 Prix de Psyche, was runner-up in each of the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes, Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Invitational Handicap and Grade 1 Santa Ana Handicap, and she became the dam of Kris Kin (by Kris S).
He won the Group 1 Derby at Epsom in 2003, a month after beating Big Bad Bob in the Group 3 Dee Stakes at Chester, he was third to Alamshar in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and to Dalakhani in the Group 2 Prix Niel.
He spent the early years of his stallion career in Ireland, then moved to Italy where he was in his second year at the time of his death, aged just 12. He failed to make an impact, but it catches the eye that one of his few blacktype horses was Altair Star, the pattern-placed stakes-winning grandson of the aforementioned Flame Valley.
There is more than enough in these first few generations of the pedigree to suggest that Spain Burg is a filly with the potential to be a high-class performer at around a mile, and that the distance of the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) may also be within her compass. The amount of speed she has shown, however, makes it less likely that she will show the 12-furlong stamina of her classic-winning distant relation.
Those recent generations are the ones that are making the greatest contribution to her genetics and potential, but given what appears in the branches of the next one it would be remiss to move on without comment.
The fourth dam of Spain Burg, the triple US winner Sweetly (by Lyphard), was a full-sister to the French listed scorer Leaf Fall, but her siblings also included the listed race winners Sabbathien (by Val De Loir) and Super Dan (by Dapper Dan), stakes-placed Savora (by Hard Sauce), plus the notable broodmares Swanilda (by Habitat) and Gay France (by Sir Gaylord).
Savora was the dam of the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay winner Solaro (by Dike), Swanilda gave us the talented sprinter Midhish (by Green Desert) and Group 3 scorer and Brazilian champion sire Ghadeer (by Lyphard), and Gay France's major contribution is her daughter Lucayan Princess (by High Line).
That filly won the Listed Sweet Solera Stakes in 1985, she was third in the Listed Cheshire Oaks the following year, and then went on to become broodmare of rare value, dam of the multiple Group 1 stars Luso (by Salse) and Warrsan (by Caerleon), Group 2 scorer Needle Gun (by Sure Blade), and the Group 1-placed pattern winner Cloud Castle (by in The Wings).
The string of pattern-winning descendants of Lucayan Princess include the dual classic star Avenir Certain (by Le Havre) and the just-retired Group 1-placed dual Group 2 scorer Mehmas (by Acclamation), who is to join the stallion team at Tally-Ho Stud in 2017.
These horses are remotely connected to Spain Burg, but they show that hers is a family that has a long-established association with producing top-class racehorses. It remains to be seen just how good she is, but all of the indications, so far, are that she could a serious contender for the mile fillies' classics of 2017, and possibly also the Group 1 Prix de Diane.