Some of the star three-year-olds every season are horses who were largely unknown before the campaign began, usually horses who were either unraced at two or whose first term was confined to one or a few outings in maiden, conditions or nursery class.
It is too early to know if Graphite is going to carve out a Group 1 career for himself, but the thrice-raced grey made a winning 2017 debut in the Group 3 Prix La Force over nine furlongs at Chantilly recently, thereby raising awareness of his potential classic candidacy.
Godolphin's son of outstanding Kildangan Stud stallion Shamardal (by Giant's Causeway) is trained by Andre Fabre, he was bred by Haras de Saint Pair, and this was his second win from just three starts.
Graphite was only beaten by a length when fourth in a mile maiden at Maisons-Laffitte in late September, a month before a narrow success over a furlong farther on soft ground at the same venue. The going on 9th April was described as good, he beat Phelps Win by a neck with favourite Franz Schubert a head back in third and Kensai another three-parts of a length away in fourth.
Graphite is a half-brother to the listed race winner Fairly Fair (by Sinndar) and he is a half-brother to Fairly Ransom (by Red Ransom), who was a Group 2-placed stakes winner in France before going on to win the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby and take the runners-up spot in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in California.
Their dam, Fairly Grey (by Linamix), was placed in both the Group 3 Prix d'Aumale and Group 3 Prix de Meautry and she is a full-sister to Group 1 star and successful National Hunt sire Fair Mix, the Shade Oak Stud stallion whose offspring feature the tragically ill-fated Grade 1 star Simonsig.
Fair Mix's top-level score came in the Prix Ganay, his eight wins also included the Group 3 Dubai City of Gold, Listed Prix de Reux, and two editions of the Group 3 La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte, and the races in which he was placed featured the Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly, Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt, Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville, and the Group 1 Prix Ganay.
Triple stakes winner Fairlee Wild (by Wild Again) is the grandam of Graphite, both her dam and a variety of her closest relations were blacktype placed, and one of her siblings was the dam of two stakes winners and grandam of a US Grade 3 handicap scorer.
More eye-catching, however, is that the fifth dam, Raise The Levee (by Raise a Native), was an unraced daughter of Coaching Club American Oaks, Beldame Stakes, and Monmouth Oaks heroine Levee (by Hill Prince) and that made her a half-sister to US Hall Of Fame member Shuvee (by Nashua).
That outstanding filly, a multiple US champion, won 16 times including those same three top events taken by her dam plus the Frizette Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes, Acorn Stakes, Alabama Stakes, and two editions of each of the Top Flight Handicap, Diana Handicap, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, among other races of note.
There are many other top horses to be found in those more distant branches of the family, other descendants of Graphite's sixth dam Levee – including Breeders' Cup stars Sacahuista (by Raja Baba) and Spain (by Thunder Gulch), Group 1 Irish St Leger winner Meneval (by Le Fabuleux), Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks heroine Pleascach (by Teofilo), and Timeform 126-rated Group 1 scorer Ekraar (by Red Ransom) – but their presence on the extended page is of no more than academic interest.
Graphite looks likely to stay the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club distance, and possibly a bit farther, and it will be interesting to see how far up he can climb in the ratings.
Juvenile champion and dual classic star Shamardal (by Giant's Causeway) wasted no time in establishing himself as a top-class international sire and the Kildangan Stud ace gets leading two-year-olds, high-class sprinters, and top-notch milers and middle-distance runners.
His many notable performers in 2016 included Godolphin's good colt Blue Point, and the Charlie Appleby-trained bay ended his season with a third-place finish to Churchill and Lancaster Bomber in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
It is certainly possible that he will prove effective at a mile, but a combination of his overall juvenile record with a reading of the distaff side of his pedigree suggests that his best prospects of success at the highest level may come from six to seven furlongs.
Each of his first five starts was over six furlongs and he won three of them, including a novice event by 11 lengths at Doncaster and, more notably, his three-length defeat of Mokarris in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York, a performance that saw his official rating increase to 115. Timeform have him on 118.
He lost his unbeaten record when a neck runner-up to Mehmas in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood the previous month and lost out again at Newmarket in late September when The Last Lion sprang a 25/1 shock in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, winning by three-parts of a length.
Blue Point, who was raised to a mark of 116 after his Dewhurst performance, was bred by Oak Lodge Bloodstock. He made 110,000gns in Newmarket as a foal and 200,000gns from Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale at the same venue, and he is the best of several winners out of Scarlett Rose (by Royal Applause).
Those siblings include a lowly-rated mile winner, but he is also a half-brother to the Group 2 Railway Stakes winner and Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes runner-up Formosina (by Footstepsinthesand). Indeed, he and Formosina could be described as being three-parts brothers as both are by sons of the prolific Group 1 star and multiple US champion sire Giant's Causeway (by Storm Cat).
Their dam was only placed, as was their grandam Billie Blue (by Ballad Rock), but Scarlett Rose is a half-sister to seven winners, two of whom are of particular note.
The track star among them is Tumbleweed Ridge (by Indian Ridge), a prolific seven-furlong specialist whose 10 wins included the Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes, the Group 3 Prix de la Porte Maillot, and three editions of the Group 3 Ballycorus Stakes.
The other sibling one made her name at stud because she, the lightly-raced triple sprint winner Tumbleweed Pearl (by Aragon), is the dam of Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes heroine Gilded (by Redback) and grandam of the pattern-placed multiple sprint stakes winner Fort Del Oro (by Lope De Vega), a grand-daughter of Shamardal.
Blue Nose (by Windjammer), the third dam of Blue Point, won a listed nursery and earned three other pieces of blacktype, one of which was her fourth-place finish to Monteverdi in the Group 2 National Stakes at the Curragh in 1979. It is, of course, a very long time now since finishing fourth in a listed or pattern event awarded any blacktype.
Blue Point holds an entry in the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh and he is available at between 16/1 to 33/1 for the Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but it would not be a surprise to see him become a leading candidate for the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Ascot the following month.