The all-weather tracks have been a huge benefit to the racing industry in Britain and in Ireland and in 2015 two classic stars were horses who got their maiden success on one of the artificial surfaces.
Jack Hobbs, who was a three-length winner over eight and a half furlongs at Wolverhampton on his only juvenile start, chased home Golden Horn in the Derby at Epsom before taking the Irish Derby at the Curragh, and Covert Love, whose first start at three was a winning one at Chelmsford, went on to take the Irish Oaks at the Curragh, one of two Group 1 races the now retired filly won that season.
Others have won on the all-weather before going on to pattern success on turf, and at Sandown today, one of those took another leap forward to win the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse (British Champions Series) over 10 furlongs.
Hawkbill began his career with a forgettable effort over five furlongs at Newbury in mid-April of his juvenile season but showed some promise when third over seven furlongs on the polytrack at Kempton two months later. Several weeks after that he narrowly won a maiden at Lingfield, and both his subsequent outings of 2015 were back at Kempton, an easy win in a seven-furlong nursery followed by a narrow defeat of subsequent listed scorer Steel Of Madrid in a four-runner contest over a mile.
Three all-weather wins from a total of five starts, with an official handicap rating of 98, was hardly the profile of a potential Group 1 star, but Hawkbill showed that he had improved over the winter when springing a 14/1 surprise in the Listed Newmarket Stakes over 10 furlongs, on turf, on his reappearance in late April. Last month he took another step up in grade and added the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes over the same trip at Ascot.
The ground was soft that day, as it was at Sandown this afternoon, and the white-faced chestnut extended his winning sequence to six with a half-length defeat of Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) winner The Gurkha, thereby becoming the first Group 1 winner in Europe for his sire Kitten's Joy (by El Prado).
It was only a matter of time before that US champion sire achieved such a feat as the grandson of Sadler's Wells (by Northern Dancer) was not only a top turf horse himself, but he is arguably the premier source of turf horses in North America. His array of stars features Big Blue Kitten, Stephanie's Kitten and Real Solution, each of whom is a multiple winner at the highest level, and the latter, a Calumet Farm stallion whose first foals arrived this year, was a listed scorer in Italy before crossing the Atlantic.
His Grade 1 stars also include Bobby's Kitten, who won a listed sprint at Cork earlier this year, and his current European runners also feature Taareef, who won the Group 3 Prix Daphnis at Chantilly recently.
Kitten's Joy was bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey and he stands at their Ramsey Farm. He is a half-brother to the multiple Grade 1 heroine Precious Kitten (by Catienus) and to Justenuffheart (by Broad Brush), the dam of Grade 1 winner and juvenile champion Dreaming Of Anna (by Rahy). His dam is a half-sister to the Grade 1 scorer Down The Isle (by Runaway Groom) and his grandam's siblings include the Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes winner Road Princess (by Gallant Man).
Of course, many in Europe will remember his sire, El Prado, who was trained by the great Vincent O'Brien and was one of the early Group 1 winners and juvenile stars for his sire, Sadler's Wells. He stood at Adena Springs in Kentucky and his total of 83 stakes winning progeny also includes Grade 1 stars such as Artie Schiller, Asi Siempre, Borrego, Medaglia d'Oro, Paddy O'Prado and Spanish Moon.
As a Group 1-winning son of a champion sire who represents the Sadler's Wells sire line, Hawkbill should now draw plenty of attention as a prospective stallion, especially as he can also boast the attraction of coming from the immediate family of a one whose Group/Grade 1-winning offspring include another winner of the Eclipse Stakes.
Hawkbill, one of three Grade 1 winners for his sire out of mares that represent the Storm Cat (by Storm Bird) sire line, was bred by the Helen K Groves Revokable Trust. The $350,000 graduate of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale is trained for Godolphin by Charlie Appleby, he is the second foal out of Trensa (by Giant's Causeway) and his year-older half-sister Trensita (by Curlin) has won once from a dozen starts.
Trensa, who had a Hard Spun (by Danzig) filly in 2014, was a winner at three, four and five years of age and her multiple blacktype placings included the runners-up spot in a Grade 3 handicap at Del Mar. Her half-sister Batique (by Storm Cat) was also durable, notching up seven wins from two to six years of age, and that triple Grade 3-scorer's credentials also include setting a new course record over nine furlongs at Monmouth Park.
Indeed, multiple successes, above-average form, and an ability to win at the age of four or older, are frequently seen attributes in the family, which could augur well for Hawkbill's prospects of attempting next year to become only the sixth horse to take a second Eclipse Stakes. Only Mtoto (1987 & 1988) and Halling (1995 & 1996) have achieved that feat in the past 90 years.
Tejida (by Rahy), who is out of Batique, won only four of her 23 starts, but she was Grade 3-placed over nine furlongs and over a mile and a half as a five-year-old, and three times Grade 3-placed at the age of six.
The grandam of Hawkbill is Serape (by Fappiano), whom Helen Groves bred and raced, and the best of her five wins, from two to four years of age, came in the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap over seven furlongs at Saratoga. Although her dam did not win at the highest level, she did beat Serape by wins total and accumulated earnings. That mare is Mochila (by In Reality), a nine-times scorer from two to four years of age, a Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap runner-up, and half-sister to the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile hero and Eclipse Award winner Cozzene (by Caro).
He spent his stallion career at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky, was US champion sire in 1996 when his son Alphabet Soup won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic, and his other top-level winners include Mizzen Mast, Tikkanen, Star Of Cozzene, and the popular grey Environment Friend, whom Clive Brittain trained to win the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes in 1991.
Mochila, who was out of the unraced Ride The Trails (by Prince John), was also a half-sister to the Grade 2 Del Mar Oaks winner Movin' Money (by Dr. Fager) and to listed scorer Ivy Road (by Dr. Fager), with the latter being the dam of the blacktype earners Addled (by Foolish Pleasure), Devil On Ice (by Devil's Bag) and Yurtu (by Fappiano), who won 23 races between them.
Her three-times winning half-sister Mesabi (by Minnesota Mac) was the dam of the blacktype-placed eight-times winner Kunjar (by Fappiano), of Wakonda (by Fappiano), a dual blacktype scorer who got the bulk of her dozen wins from four to six years of age, and of their full-sister Funistrada, who was Grade 1-placed at two, won the Grade 2 Fall Highweight Handicap at three, was a Grade 1-placed dual stakes winner at four, and a listed race winner at five.
The talented Conte Di Savoya (by Sovereign Dancer), who missed out on classic placing when fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and the Grade 2 La Prevoyante Handicap heroine Krisada (by Kris S) feature among Funistrada's progeny.
It will be interesting to see what the time analysts made of Hawkbill's performance at Sandown as the 81-rated, 150/1 pacemaker held on for fourth place, which casts an awkward shadow over its reliability. But this talented three-year-old has been improving with every run, he is bred to be both talented and durable, and there is every reason to hope that this will not remain his only win at the highest level.