Horses who change hands at the very bottom end of the market seldom amount to much in the racing and bloodstock world, but every now and then something from that tier hits the headlines.
In October 2011, a three-year-old filly of limited talent changed hands for just €800 in Goffs. Llew Law (by Verglas) had made the frame in middle-distance handicaps at Tramore, Killarney and Down Royal but was well-beaten in many of her other dozen starts, including when tailed off in a juvenile hurdle at Thurles – hardly the stuff of dreams.
She was bought that day by Emer McNamara, but sold on again for €5,000 at the same venue 13 months later. New owner Patrick Headon first sent her to Footstepsinthesand (by Giant's Causeway), which resulted in the dual 12-furlong winner Thunder Crash – who was a €37,000 Goffs yearling – and then she went to Zoffany (by Dansili).
The result of that second covering is Who's Steph.
She made €20,000 in Goffs as a foal, was snapped up for €40,000 by trainer Ger Lyons at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale, was a three-length winner of a mile maiden at Naas on her second start last year, and had a winning return to action at Leopardstown today when making most of the running to take the Group 3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes.
She landed that seven-furlong contest by a length and a half from Yulong Gold Fairy, with the initial race leader I Can Fly another half-length back in third. The ground was heavy, she holds an entry in next month's Group 3 Coolmore Mastercraftsman Irish EBF Athasi Stakes over the same trip at Naas, and she is an intriguing member of the current classic generation.
Llew Law is out of Harlem Dancer (by Dr Devious), a dual mile and a quarter winner in the famous Wildenstein colours and who earned her blacktype when finishing third to Shamdala in the Listed Prix de Thiberville over 12 furlongs on good ground at Longchamp 13 years ago.
That mare's only winner is Hototo (by Sleeping Indian), who took the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished third in the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes, both in 2012, and those are the highlights of the first three generations of Who's Steph's distaff line.
What happens farther back in the family history has little bearing on the current member but it would be not be right to ignore the next generation of this filly's pedigree. She represents a weak line that also has a low percentage of winners to foals born – with the notable exception of her dam – but her fourth dam was 1973's French juvenile filly champion Hippodamia (by Hail To Reason).
She won the Group 1 Criterium des Pouliches and took third in the Group 1 Prix Robert Papin that year and then went on to be runner-up in both the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) and Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary.
Eight of her 14 foals were successful, including US Grade 2 winner Globe (by Secretariat), French listed scorer Hoya (by Secreto), and two blacktype-placed fillies, and in addition to Who's Steph's third dam Hymenee (by Chief's Crown), they also include Housatonic (by Riverman).
That one-time scorer is the dam of Group 2 Prix Niel winner Housamix (by Linamix) and of blacktype winner Housa Dancer (by Fabulous Dancer), she is the grandam of Grade 1 Garden City Stakes heroine Alexander Tango (by Danehill Dancer) and of Group 3 Diomed Stakes scorer Bushman (by Maria's Mon), and she is the third dam of an Argentine-bred Grade 2 winner.
Hippodamia's half-brother Bad Conduct (by Stalwart) also deserves a mention as he won the Group 3 Prix de Guiche and finished third in the Group 1 Prix Lupin in 1986.
Who's Steph represents a weak branch of a former Group 1-producing family, which suggests that a lot of the credit for her talent is due to her sire, and it catches the eye that, like her, one of its top-level stars represents a stallion from the Danehill (by Danzig) line.
It remains to be seen how good she will be when she reaches her peak. We already know that she stays a mile, and given the stamina shown by her dam and grandam there is every chance that she too could stay at least 10 furlongs.
Coolmore Stud's Group 1 winner Zoffany (by Dansili) has made an outstanding start to his stallion career. His oldest progeny are three, they have yielded nine individual stakes winners in Europe and one Australian-born pattern scorer, and four others from his Irish-conceived offspring have been blacktype placed, one of them in three classics.
What he was missing on his record until the middle of this month was a Group 1 winner, which was something of a surprise given how many of his progeny have performed with credit at the highest level.
The non-stakes winner noted above is Architecture, who chased home Minding in the Group 1 Oaks at Epsom, was runner-up to Seventh Heaven in the Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh, and third to Serienholde in the Group 1 Preis der Diana (German Oaks) at Dusseldorf.
Foundation was third in last year's Group 1 Racing Post Trophy shortly after winning the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket, Illuminate was runner-up in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes after her Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes victory, and the triple stakes-winning sprinter Washington DC has been placed in each of the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp, Group 1 Commonwealth Cup and Group 1 Phoenix Stakes.
The Marco Botti-trained Knife Edge gave his sire a first classic winner when taking the Group 2 Mehl-Mulhens Rennen (German 2000 Guineas) at Cologne in May, but it is Ventura Storm who has given their sire his first Group 1 star.
The Richard Hannon-trained colt, who won the Group 3 Prix de Reux over 12 and a half furlongs at Deauville in August and was runner-up to Harbour Law in the Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster last month, is only rated 113, which is some way below what you expect of a top-level winner, but he justified favouritism with a narrow score in the Group 1 Gran Premio del Jockey Club over a mile and a half at San Siro 10 days ago.
This was his sixth win from a dozen starts, his tally also includes the Listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton and the Listed Fielden Stakes at Newmarket, and he could become a leading player in the better middle-distance events of 2017.
Ventura Storm was bred by Laurence Kennedy, who sold him for €54,000 in Goffs as a foal. The colt made just €50,000 when re-offered at that venue as a yearling, but Peter & Ross Doyle Bloodstock had to go to 110,000gns to secure him at the 2015 Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up Sale.
A half-brother to the 12-furlong Lingfield winner Bella Varenna (by Lawman), he is the second foal out of Sarawati (by Haafhd) and he is followed by sons of Footstepsinthesand (by Giant's Causeway) and Rip Van Winkle (by Galileo). The former is a €200,000 graduate of last month's Goffs Orby Sale and, like Ventura Storm, he was bought by Peter and Ross Doyle.
Sarawati was trained by John Oxx but did not show much in four starts from eight to 10 and a half furlongs, and her best effort was a fourth-place finish over nine furlongs at Ballinrobe. Several of siblings are winners, however, and one of those is the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks and Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes runner-up Sahool (by Unfuwain), a filly whose best win came in the Listed Chalice Stakes.
That filly's three-parts sister Mathool (by Alhaarth), who was unplaced in five starts, is the dam of this year's Listed Vincent O'Brien Ruby Stakes winner Erysimum (by Arcano), but two of their one-time successful siblings have achieved more notable results at stud.
Nasanice (by Nashwan) is the dam of Maraahel (by Alzao), the dual Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes hero who was placed in each of the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes (twice), Group 1 Champion Stakes, Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Group 1 Coronation Cup and Grade 1 Hong Kong Cup. She is also responsible for Huja (by Alzao), who is the pattern-placed dam of the Group 3-placed stakes winner Tazahum (by Redoute's Choice).
The other sibling is Alikhlas (by Lahib), two of that mare's daughters have produced a pattern-placed juvenile, but it is her own son Gutaifan (by Dark Angel) that made the headlines.
He was one of the leading two-year-olds of 2015, when he won the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin and Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes and was runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Morny, but rather than stay in training and have a go at the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, a race for which he looked a leading contender, he joined his sire at Yeomanstown Stud and covered 203 mares this year.
His speed may sound a bit out of place among the good middle-distance stamina of his aforementioned relations, but this is a family that has a well-established tradition of producing speed horses, in addition to its more stamina-oriented stars.
The third dam of Ventura Storm, and of Gutaifan, is an unraced mare called Manal (by Luthier) and, in addition to being a full-sister to the Group 1-placed Group 3 Grand Prix d'Evry scorer Tip Moss and his classic-placed Group 2 Prix Noailles-winning full-brother Twig Moss, she is a half-sister to the runaway Group 3 John Porter Stakes winner Brush Aside (by Alleged).
One might have expected that her Blushing Groom (by Red God) daughter Muhbubh would, therefore, be a miler or middle-distance filly, but not only did she win the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes and take second place in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes, but she is the dam of the US Grade 2 sprint winner Kayrawan (by Mr Prospector), grandam of Group 2 Rockfel Stakes heroine Sayedah (by Darshaan) and of Group 2 Diadem Stakes scorer Haatef (by Danzig), and third dam of the Group 1-placed, Group 2 Duke of York Stakes star Magical Memory (by Zebedee).
Muhbubh's half-sister Mathkurh (by Riverman) also produced a speed-oriented branch of the family as her son Istintaj (by Nureyev) was a dual six-furlong Grade 3 scorer in Florida and her star daughter Asfurah (by Dayjur), the joint champion juvenile filly in Ireland in 1997, won the Group 2 Cherry Hinton Stakes and was runner-up in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes.
As a classic-placed Group 1 winner it is likely that Ventura Storm will eventually find a place at stud, but although he is related to Gutaifan, who was all about speed and is likely to sire sprinters and milers, his path will be a different one.
Had he inherited the speed elements of his parents' genetics then he would not have come so close to winning the St Leger last month. With the right mares he could, of course, sire some milers or 10-furlong horses, but if he remains in Europe then it seems more likely that his offspring will be middle-distance horses and stayers on the flat, and that he may attract the attention of National Hunt breeders.
German champion and Group 1 Deutsches Derby hero Adlerflug (by In The Wings) has done well with his early crops, and given the family he represents that is hardly a surprise.
Gestut Harzburg's stallion, whose progeny include the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Bayern and recent Group 2 Gerling-Preis winner Ito, is a grandson of the Group 2 Preis der Diana (German Oaks) runner-up Alya (by Lombard), and she was a full-sister to the pattern-placed Allegretta (by Lombard), the mare who gave us Urban Sea (by Miswaki).
That Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine is not only one of the elite few who produced at least four Group/Grade 1-winning offspring, but her two most brilliant sons are also two of Europe's best sires.
Galileo (by Sadler's Wells), who is somewhat closely related to Adlerflug, is a prolific champion sire who appears to be forging a dynasty, while Sea The Stars (by Cape Cross) came up with the classic winners Sea The Moon and Taghrooda in his first crop and has several exciting prospects in his latest batch of three-year-olds, including Cloth Of Stars, Harzand and Mekhtaal.
Urban Sea's three-parts brother Tertullian (by Miswaki) has the Australian Group 1 scorer Mawingo, German Group 1 winner Guiliani, and the millionaire and German Group 2 classic scorer Irian on his roll of honour. Her siblings include the Group 1 2000 Guineas hero and classic sire King's Best (by Kingmambo) and her sons also include Black Sam Bellamy (by Sadler's Wells), the Group 1-winning sire of classic-placed triple Group 1 star Earl Of Tinsdal.
With family connections like these, combined with representing the Danehill (by Danzig) sire line, Monday's Group 2 Mehl-Mulhens-Rennen (German 2000 Guineas) winner Knife Edge may now attract plenty of attention as a prospective stallion. His unraced dam Attalea (by Monsun) is out of Anthyllis (by Lycius), a stakes-placed half-sister to Adlerflug.
The Marco Botti-trained chestnut was bred by the Attalea Partnership and he races in Coolmore colours. He made a winning debut over seven furlongs at Ascot in September, his short-head defeat by Tasleet in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes at Chelmsford last month was his fourth start, and his classic victory was achieved by a nose over a mile on good ground at Cologne.
Knife Edge represents the first crop of Coolmore Stud stallion Zoffany (by Dansili), a horse who won the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes as a juvenile but who is probably best remembered as the one who gave Frankel fans a brief scare in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
With eight individual stakes winners already in his first crop, plus two others who have been blacktype-placed, Zoffany is the standout second-crop stallion in Europe.
His Group 1-placed Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes winner Foundation may go to Epsom for the Group 1 Investec Derby or to Chantilly for the Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club, Waterloo Bridge and Illuminate were Group 2 scorers last summer, Ventura Storm and Group 1-placed Washington DC are listed race winners in 2016, and Dolce Strega took the Group 3 Athasi Stakes at the Curragh a couple of weeks ago.
A €43,000 graduate of the Baden-Baden September Yearlings Sale, Knife Edge is said to be entered in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He still has quite a bit of improvement to make if he is going to win at the highest level, but this victory was a step up on what he had done before, so he is a colt who appears to be on the upgrade.