Classic trial season is under way and one of last year's leading juvenile fillies made a winning return to action in the Group 3 Ballylinch Stud 1000 Guineas Trial Stakes over seven furlongs at Leopardstown yesterday afternoon.
Hydrangea (by Galileo) ran seven times at two with only a seven-furlong Curragh maiden to show in the wins column, but she was runner-up in each of the Group 2 Debutante Stakes, Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, and Group 1 Fillies' Mile before coming home in last place behind New Money Honey in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on firm ground at Santa Anita in November.
Rhododendron beat her by a head in the Debutante and by two and a quarter lengths at Newmarket, and the margin was a short-head when pipped by Intricately in the Moyglare. That latter rival was again in opposition yesterday, carrying a 3lb penalty for her Group 1 win, and was not disgraced in finishing fourth.
For a few strides is looked as though Hydrangea was about to end up with another pattern-race second to her name as her stable companion Winter stayed on strongly, but the line came in time for the Aidan O'Brien-trained bay, who won by a head.
Hydrangea was bred by the Beauty Is Truth Syndicate and, as one might expect, she holds an entry in both Group 1 Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh. She is also engaged in the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks and so the question of how far she might stay holds added interest.
Many will remember her dam, Beauty Is Truth (by Pivotal), who was a notable sprinter at both two and three years of age and who won the Listed Prix Yacowlef, Group 3 Prix d'Arenberg, and Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene.
The mare is out of the Group 2-placed, Group 3-winning sprinter Zelding (by Warning), who is a half-sister to the five-furlong pattern winner Nipping (by Night Shift) and to Zipping (by Zafonic), who was joint-champion three-year-old sprinter in Europe in 2002.
He won the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin at two and Group 3 Prix de Ris-Orangis at three, he was runner-up to Johannesburg in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes and fourth to Rock Of Gibraltar in the Group 1 2000 Guineas, and his dam, Zelda (by Caerleon), is a winning half-sister to a sprint champion.
At first glance, this might suggest that Hydrangea will be one of those Galileos who excel at a mile, may get 10 furlongs, but would find the Oaks trip a reach too far. That could be exactly how she turns out, and the exploits of her half-sister would support that position, but she also has a notable full-brother and he stays 12 furlongs.
Fire Lily (by Dansili) is her sister, and although she was runner-up in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes and in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at two, her best wins came in the Anglesey Stakes, Ballyogan Stakes, and Phoenix Sprint Stakes – all Group 3 and all over six furlongs.
Hydrangea's full-brother is the Australian-based former Ballydoyle entire The United States, who finished fourth to Winx in the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 10 furlongs at Randwick yesterday. This seven-figure earner's seven wins include the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill, also over 10, and the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup over 12 and a half furlongs in which he beat the subsequent Group 1 Melbourne Cup winner Prince Of Penzance (gave 3lbs) by half a length.
That horse does, however, stand out alone among the plethora of blacktype winners in the first four generations of the family, one high-class middle-distance winner among a sea of sprinters and milers.
The aforementioned but to now unidentified sprint champion half-brother to Zelda is the influential Last Tycoon (by Try My Best), the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes winner who rounded off that season with victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
He went on to become a leading sire in both hemispheres, some of his progeny were middle-distance stars, and his stallion sons include Derby runner-up Marju and New Zealand's multiple champion sire O'Reilly, a dual Group 1 star who stood at Waikato Stud up to his death in December 2014.
His half-brother Astronef (by Be My Guest) won the Group 2 Premio Melton and two editions of the Group 3 Goldene Peitsche – one of the best sprints in Germany – and Last Tycoon's full-sister The Perfect Life got her best wins in the Group 3 Prix du Bois and Listed Prix Imprudence.
Their half-sister Side Of Paradise (by Sadler's Wells) won a mile listed contest at Saint-Cloud and finished second in the Group 3 Prix Fille de l'Air over 10 and a half furlongs, and she is one of three daughters of one-time scorer Mill Princess (by Mill Reef) to hit the Group 1 jackpot at stud.
She is the dam of 2011 champion Immortal Verse (by Pivotal), a mile star whose wins featured the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois and Group 1 Coronation Stakes, and who is bred on similar lines to Hydrangea.
Stakes-placed Save Me The Waltz (by Kings Lake) is the dam of both one-mile US Grade 1 Matron Stakes winner Sense Of Style (by Thunder Gulch) and of Valentine Waltz (by Be My Guest), who won the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas), and that classic is also on the CV of Tie Black (by Machiavellian), daughter of one-time winner Tender Is Thenight (by Barathea).
There is one other horse who deserves mention and that is Glorious Sight (by Singspiel), a stakes-winning half-sister to Beauty Is Truth. She is by a middle-distance star and classic sire whose best winners came at pretty much every distance from five furlongs (e.g. Take Cover) to two and a half miles (e.g. Papineau), and she was placed in both the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks).
The odds are stacked heavily in favour of Hydrangea being a miler who may stay up to the 10 and a half furlongs of that latter classic, but the record of her full-brother raises the possibility that she might also get a little bit farther.