One star does not make a horse a top sire, but it can be the catalyst he needed to boost his support, thereby improving his prospects of making a real impact. There are many stallions who have just that one Group 1 winner standing out among a handful of career stakes winners, but sometimes that initial one-hit-wonder makes the most of his better mares and goes on to become a sire of real note.
It is too early to know into which group Haras d'Etreham's Wootton Bassett (by Iffraaj) will ultimately fall, but his third-crop son Wootton has shown a lot of promise in his first three starts and could be the next Group 1 winner for him.
Right now the stallion has only three stakes winners to his name, from three crops of racing age, plus three others who have been blacktype placed, but his first crop to benefit from the 'Almanzor effect' are only foals so it could be 2020 and 2021 before we start to see what he can really do. And before then, his blacktype tally will have increased and could include some notable individuals.
The Henri-Alex Pantall-trained Wootton was bred by Ecurie Haras de Quetieville, in whose colours he ran when taking a mile newcomers' race on good ground at Deauville by six lengths in late August, and he now runs in the Godolphin blue. His second race was the Listed Isonomy over the same course and distance two months later, and despite the very soft ground, he won it by five lengths.
Today's race was more challenging, easily the strongest opposition he has faced so far, but he extended his unbeaten record to three with a head defeat of last year's top-rated French-trained juvenile colt Olmedo in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau at ParisLongchamp. The ground was heavy, and this colt's ability to perform on a variety of surfaces should serve him well in the coming months.
He holds an entry in next month's Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and, as you might expect of a colt of such potential, he is also engaged in the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas), Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris.
Wootton is the best of the first four foals out of American Nizzy (by American Post), a juvenile winner who earned her blacktype with placings in the Group 3 Prix du Calvados, Listed Prix Roland de Chambure, and Listed Prix Finlande. Her dam, Quietude (by Woodman), was placed in Belgium, and the next dam is Listed Prix Isola Bella winner Quittance (by Riverman), a daughter of dual US three-year-old scorer Quarrel Over Halo (by Halo).
Those are the highlights of the first four generations of the pedigree, which suggests that much of the credit for the talent and potential shown by this colt can be given to his sire. Wootton Bassett has upgraded the mare.
There are two main reasons why we usually only look at the first three or four generations of a horse's pedigree when trying to analyse its strengths and weaknesses and to highlight its owner's future potential. One is that there is usually more than enough to say about the good horses in those early generations, the other is that any ancestor farther back makes little meaningful contribution.
Each ancestor in the fifth generation only contributes 3.125% of the genetic makeup, each one in the sixth is responsible for only 1.5625% – and that's the direct ancestors. Their offspring and descendants make zero contribution. What they do provide, however, is academic interest and indications of the strength or weakness of that distant part of the pedigree, the roots from which the current horse eventually developed.
In the case of Wootton, an examination of the fifth generation of the pedigree shows us that he comes from a weak branch of what was a successful blacktype family, one that even yielded classic horses.
His fifth dam, Quarrel Over (by One For All), won five times, was runner-up in the Grade 2 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland and fourth in the Grade 1 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes, a placing that counted for blacktype in those days.
She produced 10 winners from 14 foals, of whom Grade 2 Del Mar Oaks winner and Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes runner-up Suivi (by Diesis) was best, and the stakes winners who descend from her include multiple graded sprint scorer Mr Nightlinger (by Indian Charlie) and the smart Waterway Run (by Arch), who won a Grade 3 at Belmont Park as well as the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket as a juvenile.
Sixth dam Quarrel (by Raise a Native), who was out of the track record-setting, stakes-winning sprinter-miler Rhubarb (by Barbizon), was a half-sister to the Grade 1-placed juvenile Grade 3 winner Bottle Top (by Topsider) – the dam of dual classic-placed colt Strodes Creek (by Halo) – and her own siblings included ill-fated Grade 1 Arlington-Washington Futurity star Lets Dont Fight (by Drone), classic-placed Grade 3 scorer Fight Over (by Grey Dawn II) and Group 3 Desmond Stakes winner Wise Counsellor (by Alleged).
These horses have no bearing on the talent or potential of Wootton but there is value in noting their presence in the family history. He represents a weak branch on a tree that has strong roots, and if he becomes a Group 1 star and so earns a good berth at stud, then this son of Wootton Bassett could be the seed from which a new sapling sprouts.
The weekend's European racing saw four classics being held in three different countries and one of them produced something of a surprise result.
Almanzor, a first-crop son of Haras d'Etreham stallion Wootton Bassett (by Iffraaj) won his first three starts as a juvenile, including a mile listed contest, but when he stepped up in grade he was found wanting, finishing only seventh of eight in the Group 1 Criterium International over seven furlongs at Saint-Cloud.
The very soft ground that day may have been a factor, although two of his three outings in 2016 have been on ground described as soft, so clearly he handles at least some ease in the ground. He was only beaten by three-parts of a length when third to Dicton in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau over a mile at Chantilly on his return to action in April, he then scored an odds-on success against three rivals in the Group 3 Prix de Guiche over nine furlongs at the same venue, before springing a 20/1 surprise with his length and a half victory in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) on Sunday.
The ground was soft, the trip 10 and a half furlongs, and there did not appear to be any fluke about the colt's performance. As one expects after a middle-distance classic success, he was given immediate post-race quotes for the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, but if one of the major contenders from Sunday's race is to feature prominently in that end of season test then it may be the runner-up, Zarak.
As with any unexpectedly good effort, it remains to be seen if Almanzor can duplicate the feat or if this was a performance-of-a-lifetime one. His overall record is five wins and one place from seven starts, he was a Group 3 winner already, and so it seems unlikely that he will fail to add to his pattern race tally. We cannot know how he will get on against stronger opposition until he tries it.
Almanzor was bred by Haras d'Etreham and his trainer, Jean-Claude Rouget, secured him for €100,000 at the Arqana Deauville August Yearling Sale. He is the only blacktype horse for his sire, who has a double-digit tally of winners from a small number of runners, and yet Wootton Bassett is the first member of the current batch of European second-crop stallions with a winner at the highest level.
Now that he has a classic victory to his name, Almanzor will be on the radar as a potential stallion. In addition to being the son of a Group 1-winning Iffraaj (by Zafonic) horse, he is from a prolific blacktype family, it includes three others who have won French classics, and one of those took the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club when it was still run over 12 furlongs.
He is the first foal out of the unraced Darkova (by Maria's Mon), he has a two-year-old full-sister named Troarn, and the mare had a Falco (by Pivotal) colt last year. His grandam, Harkala (by Halling), won the Listed Prix des Tourelles and her siblings include Darinska (by Zilzal), the stakes-placed dam of star filly Darjina (by Zamindar).
The Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) heroine of 2007, she also won the Group 1 Prix d'Astarte and the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, she was runner-up in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free, Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan, Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes, Group 1 Prix Rothschild and another edition of the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, she was third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile, and Timeform rated her 128 as a three-year-old. Darjina has been somewhat unfortunate at stud as she has been barren in four of her first six year years. Her only registered foals are the colts Djibi (by Dalakhani), who was born in 2011, and Djidani (by Oasis Dream), born in 2012.
The third dam of Almanzor is Daralbayda (by Doyoun). She earned her blacktype when finishing third in the Group 3 Prix Minerve, a race that her dam Daralinsha (by Empery) won, and all six of her winning siblings were also blacktype horses. Daralimara (by Valanour) and Group 2 Prix de Royallieu runner-up Daraydala (by Royal Academy) won listed contests and the most notable of the others is Darashandeh (by Darshaan).
She won only once, she was runner-up in the Group 3 Prix Penelope, and her son Darsi (by Polish Precedent) won the Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club in 2006. The Beechbrook Stud stallion has sired several multiple winners from his early National Hunt runners.
If you go back another generation of the family then you find that the fifth dam of Almanzor is Darazina (by Labus), the grandam of the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and Group 1 Prix Vermeille heroine Daryaba (by Night Shift). It is that classic star's Group 1-winning daughter Daryakana (by Selkirk) whose son Dariyan (by Shamardal) won the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Saint-Cloud last month. This is a famous Aga Khan family.
Darkova was sold for just €16,000 as a three-year-old at the Arqana December Breeding Stock Sale, which looked like a potential bargain then and a considerable now as she has come up with a classic winner with her first foal. It will be interesting to see how her son's career turns out, both on the track and eventually at stud, and to see if another of her progeny can excel in Group 1 company.