Nayef (by Gulch) was a top-class middle-distance racehorse and Shadwell's Nunnery Stud stallion notched up his 25th individual stakes winner when Ice Breeze took a slowly run edition of the Group 2 Prix Hocquart over 12 furlongs at Chantilly this afternoon.
This head defeat of Shakeel came on his fourth start and it followed his two-length second to Called To The Bar in the Group 3 Prix du Lys over the same trip at Saint-Cloud last month. He won a maiden over that same course and distance three weeks before, and was a half-length runner-up to Sand Fox on his debut, over a furlong and a half less, at that same venue in April.
Having won a Group 2 so early in his career, the Pascal Bary-trained bay has earned a step up in class – with the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris an obvious potential target – but it is fair to say that, as yet, the level of form he has achieved is still some way short of what would be required to succeed at the highest level.
He should be capable of further improvement, however, and of staying not only a strongly run mile and a half but, potentially, a bit farther too.
His full-brother Snow Sky won the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup and Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, finished third to Kingston Hill in the Group 1 St Leger, and was not disgraced when finishing a four and three-quarter-length fifth to Mongolian Khan in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup.
Snow Sky stands at Ballycurragh Stud and some of his first crop are likely to appear at the foal sales later in the year.
Ice Breeze is out of Winter Silence (by Dansili), who was a stakes-placed middle-distance winner in France. The mare's success at stud is no surprise as she is daughter of the excellent producer Hunt The Sun (by Rainbow Quest), a three-time placed runner who became the dam of six blacktype horses, two of which won at the highest level.
Meteor Storm (by Bigstone) took the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park, the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap and Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap at Santa Anita, and the Grade 2 W L Knight Handicap at Calder. He was also placed in a string of good races, notably the Grade 1 Canadian International Stakes, Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes and Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup.
Polish Summer (by Polish Precedent) won the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba, the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville and the Group 3 Prix Exbury in France, he was runner-up in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, and twice second in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
Their half-brother Host Nation (by Grand Lodge) got his best win in the Group 3 Prix de Barbeville at Longchamp, half-sister Morning Eclipse (by Zafonic) won a listed contest at Chantilly, and the remaining blacktype produce of Hunt The Sun is Winter Solstice (by Unfuwain), the Group 3 Prix d'Aumale runner-up who has two descendants of particular note.
Her son Ice Blue (by Dansili) on the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud and her granddaughter Winsili (by Dansili) won the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
The third dam of Ice Breeze is Suntrap (by Roberto), who finished third in the Group 3 Prix d'Aumale, Listed Lupe Stakes and Listed Atalanta Stakes and whose siblings include the Group 2 Deutsches St Leger scorer Non Partisan (by Alleged).
More notable, however, is that Suntrap is the dam of the multiple Group/Grade 1 middle-distance stars Raintrap and Sunshack who are full-brothers to Hunt The Sun and also to Summer Breeze. That filly earned her blacktype when finishing third in the Group 3 Prix des Reservoirs as a juvenile and she is the dam of the Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes winner Doctor Fremantle (by Sadler's Wells).
In addition to the aforementioned German pattern winner, Suntrap is a half-sister to the Group 1-placed Canadian blacktype scorer Jalaajel (by Alleged), to one-time scorer Bright Spells (by Alleged) – dam of the ill-fated classic-placed Group 3 winner Clearing (by Zafonic) – and to Set Fair (by Alleged), the stakes-placed dam of Listed Cheshire Oaks scorer Valentine Girl (by Alzao) and grandam of the Group 1 Sydney Cup winner Stand To Gain (by Hawk Wing).
Sunny Bay (by Northern Bay), the fourth dam of Ice Breeze, was a Grade 1-placed multiple stakes winner in the USA.
It remains to be seen how Ice Breeze will fare when taking on stronger opposition in a strongly run race, but he has the potential to do well over middle-distances in France and, possibly, within that country's stayers' division.
Last weekend was a good one for horses who got at least one of their earliest wins on an all-weather track, with Hawkbill taking the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, Endless Time winning the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks at Haydock, Silverwave starring in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, and Al Wathna making the breakthrough in pattern company with victory in the Group 2 Prix de Mallaret earlier on that same card.
A three-year-old trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, Al Shaqab Racing's filly was bred by Petra Bloodstock Agency Ltd and she is a €72,000 graduate of the Arqana Deauville October Yearling Sale. She was runner-up over a mile on heavy ground on the first of two starts as a juvenile, got off the mark with a win over 11 furlongs on soft turf at Cagnes-sur-Mer in early February, and then followed-up over 10 and a half furlongs on the polytrack at Chantilly in March.
Her next two outings were on the turf track at that venue, finishing third behind The Juliet Rose in a listed contest and then chasing home that same filly in the Group 3 Prix de Royaumont, and the latter came a month before her neck defeat of Impressionist at Saint-Cloud on Sunday.
Al Wathna is one of 24 stakes winners for the top-class middle-distance performer Nayef (by Gulch). That Nunnery Stud-based half-brother to Nashwan (by Blushing Groom) and Unfuwain (by Northern Dancer) is also responsible for the Group 1 stars Lady Marian and Tamayuz (Group 1 sire at Derrinstown Stud) and for the Group 1-placed Group 2 scorers Forgotten Rules, Mustajeeb (stands at Overbury Stud), Snow Sky (stands at Ballycurragh Stud), Spacious, and Tasaday. His Group 2-winning son Valirann (stands at Whytemount Stud) was lightly-raced and did not get the chance to tackle Group 1 company.
His latest pattern star is the second foal out of Lemon Twist (by Marju), she has an as yet unnamed juvenile full-sister, and her unraced dam had a son of Motivator (by Montjeu) in 2015. The mare is out of the stakes-placed Lia (by Desert King), which makes her a half-sister to the Listed Prix Urban Sea winner Lake Palace (by Nayef), and the next dam is Lisheba (by Alysheba).
That mare was only placed but produced six winners, as did her most notable sibling. Laramie (by Gulch), who was placed just once, is the dam of the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) heroine Latice (by Inchinor), of the Group 3 Prix du Palais Royal winner and Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest runner-up Satri (by Mujadil) and, of course, of the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and Group 1 Prix Jean Prat star Lawman (by Invincible Spirit).
He is a member of the stallion team at Ballylinch Stud and his early crops feature Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas and Grade 1 E P Taylor Stakes heroine Just The Judge, juvenile mile Group 1 scorers Law Enforcement and Marcel, and the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes winner Most Improved, who is a member of the Coolmore stallion team.
The presence of Lawman in the family will look good when it comes to assessing the prospects of any future sons of Al Wathna that might achieve enough on the track to earn a berth at stud. His current three-year-olds include the pattern scorer Dicton, who has been third in both the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) and Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club.
Her fourth dam is the Group 2 Prix de Pomone winner and Group 1 Prix Vermeille third Light The Lights (by Shirley Heights), who was a half-sister to the middle-distance pattern scorers Liastra (by Artaius) and Last Light (by Round Table) and out of the Group 3 Prix de Flore winner and Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary runner-up Lighted Glory (by Nijinsky).
There are plenty of other blacktype horses to be found in the branches of these first few generations of the pedigree, including the Group 2 scorers L'Amour De Ma Vie (by Dansili) and Lights Out (by Crystal Glitters), Group 1-placed stakes winner Fencing (by Street Cry), and last month's Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes third The Black Princess (by Iffraaj).
Al Wathna is a Group 2-winning filly who could be capable of further improvement, she holds an entry in next month's Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks, for which she is available at around 25/1, and with her family relations there is every chance that she could also go on to make an impact at stud whenever her racing days come to an end.