The 2017 turf season is just beginning – its first pattern event was held in France this afternoon - and during its early weeks the talk of classics will be mostly focused on the mile events: Derby discussion often does not get much coverage until after the Guineas meeting at Newmarket.
Such has been the emphasis on producing speed that, in recent years, it has often been hard to identify serious Derby candidates among the leading juveniles, colts about whom you could say with confidence 'he will definitely stay the mile and a half.'
Last season's leading two-year-olds did include a horse who looks sure to stay and who has already got a major win to his name. His connections are no stranger to classic success, so could he be the one?
The Andre Fabre-trained Waldgeist made a winning debut over a mile at Chantilly in early September, finished third to Frankuus in the Group 3 Prix de Conde over nine furlongs at the same venue a month later, and then advertised his classic potential with a promising performance in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 10, on soft ground, in which he beat Best Solution by a length.
The chestnut is a son of dual Derby hero and prolific champion sire Galileo (by Sadler's Wells), but what all but guarantees his stamina is the input from the distaff side of his family, a line that has already yielded two Group 1 classic stars, over 12 furlongs and farther, in recent years.
Waldgeist is out of the Group 3 Prix Penelope winner Walderche (by Monsun), that mare is a half-sister to the middle-distance listed race winner Waldnah (by New Approach) and, more notably, also to 2011's Group 1 St Leger hero Masked Marvel (by Montjeu).
Europe's champion three-year-old stayer of that season, he also won the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy and Listed Cocked Hat Stakes, he stands at Haras d'Etreham, in France, and his first crop are now yearlings.
Their dam, Waldmark (by Mark Of Esteem), was runner-up in the Group 2 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and in a 10-furlong listed contest at Newbury, and she is a half-sister to the Group 1 Deutsches Derby star Waldpark (by Dubawi), who stands at Haras du Thenney and also has yearlings now.
Waldmark's siblings also include the pattern-placed middle-distance pair Waldvogel (by Polish Precedent) and Waldjagd (by Observatory) and her dam is the twice joint-champion German runner Wurfaube (by Acatenango). Her string of blacktype successes featured the Group 2 Gerling Preis over 12 furlongs and the 14-furlong Group 2 Deutsches St Leger, in which she beat Night Petticoat by 11 lengths.
In addition to being a half-sister to the dual Group 3 scorer Wurfscheibe (by Tiger Hill), Wurftaube is also a half-sister to Wurfspiel (by Lomitas), who is the stakes-placed dam of Wake Forest (by Sir Percy).
That now seven-year-old entire was a multiple Group 3 scorer in Germany before crossing the Atlantic, he won the Grade 1 Man O'War Stakes over 11 furlongs at Belmont Park last May, was only beaten a neck when runner-up to The Pizza Man in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes over 12 furlongs at Woodbine in September, and is already off the mark in 2017 with victory in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes over 11 on firm turf at Gulfstream Park two weeks ago.
It remains to be seen just how good Waldgeist will be at his peak, but so far everything points towards him being a top-class middle-distance horse in the making and it is possible that this 114-rated chestnut could become one of the brightest stars of 2017.