Coolmore Stud's prolific champion sire Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) added yet another classic star to his tally when Seventh Heaven won the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh on Saturday.
Although a daughter of one of the world's best sources of top-class middle-distance horses, she was not a guaranteed stayer, bred instead with a strong chance of being another of her sire's mile to 10-furlong performers, but despite the speed in the distaff side of her family, the bottom half of her pedigree has clearly contributed the potential to stay.
We can only guess as to which of her dam's ancestors are responsible, and likely favourites would include Unbridled (by Fappiano) and Devil's Bag (by Halo), who are the maternal grandsire of her dam and grandam respectively, but if you go back a few generations then you find a top-level performer who stayed 12 furlongs, suggesting that a stamina potential may have been passed along more often than has been apparent in the most recent generations of the family, likely moderated, in some cases, by the sires.
Out of the frame on her only two starts as a juvenile, Seventh Heaven made an impressive return to action over a mile at Dundalk, thereby making her yet another Group 1 star who got an early winning start on the artificial tracks, and the second consecutive Irish Oaks heroine to do so, following Covert Love's victory at the Curragh 12 months ago.
All-weather graduates also include last year's Group 1 Irish Derby hero Jack Hobbs, recent Group 1 scorers Hawkbill, Silverwave and Zelzal, and the promising Group 2 winners Endless Time, Heshem and Wings of Desire. The last named runs in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot tomorrow.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained Seventh Heaven followed her Dundalk win with a game neck defeat of Architecture in the Listed Oaks Trial at Lingfield in early May, proving that, despite the speed in her family, she had got its comparatively rare stamina influence, and now she had prospects of middle-distance classic success.
She did not handle the track at Epsom, where she was beaten by a distance behind her winning stable teammate Minding, but the Curragh was likely to suit her better, which would enable her to demonstrate her true ability. She would not have been 14/1 on Saturday had she gone straight from Lingfield to the Irish Oaks, and this time her margin of superiority over Architecture, who had been runner-up at Epsom, was two and three-quarter lengths.
So what was it about her pedigree that suggested the possibility, but certainly not a guarantee, that 12 furlongs could be too far for her?
When Galileo is paired with speed mares from speed families then it can happen that the result is a mile to 10 furlong horse. This was also true of his own great sire, Sadler's Wells (by Northern Dancer). His 59th Group 1 winner is out of the six-furlong Grade 3 scorer La Traviata (by Johannesburg) and her two prior blacktype horses are Crusade and Cristoforo Colombo.
That pair are sons of Mr Greeley (by Gone West) and Henrythenavigator (by Kingmambo) respectively, so both somewhat unlikely to stay beyond nine to 10 furlongs. Crusade won the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, Cristoforo Colombo was fourth in that same contest 12 months later, and that younger colt earned his blacktype when runner-up in the Group 2 Railway Stakes and third in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes.
La Traviata, whose name is on the syndicate that bred her talented trio, is a half-sister to a prolific US gelding called Holy Dreamer (by Holy Bull) and full-sister to a one-time scorer named Ducane. Their unraced dam Piedras Negras (by Unbridled) is among 10 foals out of the minor nine-furlong listed scorer Provisions (by Devil's Bag), and that makes her a half-sister to seven successful runners, including 13-times scorer Visionary (by Silver Ghost) and the six-times winning filly Northeast Harbor (by Northern Afleet).
The most notable member of the septet, however, is Jack Sullivan (by Belong To Me), whose nine wins included the Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton and two editions of the Group 3 Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum Challenge 2 at Nad Al Sheba. His various blacktype placings feature second in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes over seven furlongs at Goodwood, when he was short-headed by the subsequent dual Group 1 star Court Masterpiece.
Their dam, Atzimba was a stakes-placed seven-times winning daughter of Miswaki (by Mr Prospector), making Seventh Heaven inbred 3x5 to that Group 1-winning sire of Urban Sea. And if you go back another generation then you will find that Novara (by Dance Spell), the unraced fifth dam of Seventh Heaven, was a half-sister to the Grade 2-winning 12-times scorer Cycylya Zee (by Knightly Manner) and also to the tragically ill-fated millionaire Southjet (by Northjet). He won the Grade 1 Rothmans International Stakes and Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes in 1986, was runner-up in the Japan Cup the following year, but died before getting a chance at stud.
Seventh Heaven is now a classic star, she may be capable of further improvement, her entries include next month's Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks, and it will be fascinating to find out where she sits in the overall rankings by the end of the year.