Often a quick glance will be enough to work out from where a talented horse got its aptitude, but sometimes we have to dig a bit deeper. Just a cursory look at the pedigree of Heshem might lead to surprise that his major autumn target could be the Group 1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, because he is the son of a miler and out of a mare whose parents were sprint stars.
There is no guarantee that he will stay much beyond the 10 furlongs over which he won the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte on Sunday, especially if an emphasis is placed in stamina, but he is unquestionably talented, he is improving, and he could be anything.
The Christophe Ferland-trained three-year-old is an €85,000 Arqana August Sale graduate, he carries the famous colours of Al Shaqab Racing, and his only defeat is his third place finish behind Mekhtaal in a newcomers' event over 10 furlongs on heavy ground at Saint-Cloud in March. The following month he won twice over nine furlongs on the polytrack at Chantilly, and Sunday's three-quarter length defeat of Ultra came on just his fourth start.
The artificial tracks have become a tremendously successful early stomping ground for future pattern winners, and in 2016 the roll of honour includes the Group 1 stars Hawkbill, Seventh Heaven, Silverwave and Zelzal, along with the promising Group 2 scorers Endless Time and Wings of Desire. Last year, both the Group 1 Irish Derby and Group 1 Irish Oaks went to horses who got their early success on all-weather surfaces, Jack Hobbs taking the former and Covert Love the latter.
Heshem, who was bred by Yeguada De Milagro Sa, is a son of Coolmore Stud stallion Footstepsinthesand (by Giant's Causeway), a horse who was bred to stay 10 furlongs, and possibly a little farther, but who did not race again after winning the Group 1 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The stallion's half-brother Pedro The Great (by Henrythenavigator) won the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, his Group 2-placed stakes-winning half-sister Belle D'Or (by Medaglia d'Oro) was unplaced in her sole attempt beyond nine furlongs, and his siblings also include the dam of Group 1 stars Curvy (by Galileo) and Power (by Oasis Dream). The former won the E P Taylor Stakes and was third in the Irish Oaks, and the latter, a leading juvenile, won the Irish 2000 Guineas and is the freshman sire responsible for last week's Group 3-winning juvenile Peace Envoy.
Although there are some other sprinters in his family, there are also middle-distance horses and stayers too, and it is not impossible that he could sire a top-level winner over the Derby and Arc distance.
That said, Footstepsinthesand's best progeny include the Group/Grade 1-winning milers Chachamaidee, Infiltrada, Shamalgan and the horse known both as Steinbeck and Pure Champion. They also include the high-class miler Kaspersky, who won another Group 2 contest in Germany on Sunday, a Peruvian 10-furlong Grade 1 scorer, and even a high-class sprinter in Group 2 Goldene Peitsche winner Giant Sandman. Input from the mare will, therefore, be very important if he is to get a top 12-furlong horse.
Is Doohulla a realistic candidate to be such a mare? It is not impossible, but it does not seem likely.
She won over six furlongs at Lingfield and at Pontefract, she earned her blacktype when finishing a four and a quarter-length third in the Listed Bosra Sham Stakes over the same trip at Newmarket, and she was unplaced on both occasions that the went beyond that distance.
As a daughter of the European sprint champion Stravinsky (by Nureyev) and of the Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene heroine Viva Zapata (by Affirmed), her effective range was in keeping with what one would have expected. Her other talented son has been unplaced on his attempts beyond 10 furlongs and he, the Group 3 Prix Paul de Moussac winner Xanadou (by Peintre Celebre), who races in Hong Kong as Rainbow Chic, is by an Arc hero with plenty of talented middle-distance progeny to his name.
Doohulla's stakes-placed three-parts brother Viva Nureyev (by Nureyev) stayed a mile, and their half-sister Zapata Beauty (by Manila) earned her blacktype with third place in the Listed Prix Imprudence over seven furlongs. Her siblings also include Mexican Hawk (by Silver Hawk), who is the dam of the juvenile five-furlong listed scorer Accipiter (by Showcasing), and grandam of a pattern-placed middle-distance horse. But Regal Hawk is a daughter of Singpsiel (by In The Wings) and out of a Generous (by Caerleon) mare, so was hardly going to be a speed horse.
Viva Zapata's sire will catch the eye, because although he got his best winners over a variety of trips, Affirmed (by Exclusive Native) was the US Triple Crown hero of 1978. Her broodmare sire, Secretariat (by Bold Ruler), swept the same classic series in 1973, culminating in that incredible 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes over 12 furlongs. And somehow they combined to produce a five-furlong Group 2 scorer.
A half-sister to the minor juvenile stakes winner Valleycreek Kid (by Septieme Ciel), Viva Zapata is out of Viva Aviva (by Secretariat), a one-time scorer whose siblings include her multiple stakes-winning full-sister Viva Sec, a six-furlong specialist, who was Grade 3 placed over seven. The next dam, Viva La Vivi (by Royal Note), also showed plenty of speed and the best of her 15 wins were in the Grade 3 Correction Handicap over six furlongs and the Grade 3 Santa Paula Handicap in the last year that it was run over seven.
This is clearly the pedigree of a sprinter or miler, and yet Heshem's first pattern success has come over 10 furlongs, which makes him atypical of the best horses in the most recent generations of his family.
His grandsire, Giant's Causeway (by Storm Cat), stayed 10 and a half furlongs, his paternal grandam Glatisant (by Rainbow Quest) showed more speed that might have been expected of a daughter of her sire, and on the distaff side there are those appearances of Affirmed and Secretariat, who did not seem to extend the family's effective range.
If Heshem has inherited some of the stamina that those stallions can impart, and for a truly-run 12 furlongs it would likely be necessary to come from both the top and bottom half of the pedigree, then there is a chance that he could be effective in over that distance. But it looks something of a long-shot, and it may be that 10 and a half furlongs is as far as he will want to go.