Horses who change hands at the very bottom end of the market seldom amount to much in the racing and bloodstock world, but every now and then something from that tier hits the headlines.
In October 2011, a three-year-old filly of limited talent changed hands for just €800 in Goffs. Llew Law (by Verglas) had made the frame in middle-distance handicaps at Tramore, Killarney and Down Royal but was well-beaten in many of her other dozen starts, including when tailed off in a juvenile hurdle at Thurles – hardly the stuff of dreams.
She was bought that day by Emer McNamara, but sold on again for €5,000 at the same venue 13 months later. New owner Patrick Headon first sent her to Footstepsinthesand (by Giant's Causeway), which resulted in the dual 12-furlong winner Thunder Crash – who was a €37,000 Goffs yearling – and then she went to Zoffany (by Dansili).
The result of that second covering is Who's Steph.
She made €20,000 in Goffs as a foal, was snapped up for €40,000 by trainer Ger Lyons at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale, was a three-length winner of a mile maiden at Naas on her second start last year, and had a winning return to action at Leopardstown today when making most of the running to take the Group 3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes.
She landed that seven-furlong contest by a length and a half from Yulong Gold Fairy, with the initial race leader I Can Fly another half-length back in third. The ground was heavy, she holds an entry in next month's Group 3 Coolmore Mastercraftsman Irish EBF Athasi Stakes over the same trip at Naas, and she is an intriguing member of the current classic generation.
Llew Law is out of Harlem Dancer (by Dr Devious), a dual mile and a quarter winner in the famous Wildenstein colours and who earned her blacktype when finishing third to Shamdala in the Listed Prix de Thiberville over 12 furlongs on good ground at Longchamp 13 years ago.
That mare's only winner is Hototo (by Sleeping Indian), who took the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished third in the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes, both in 2012, and those are the highlights of the first three generations of Who's Steph's distaff line.
What happens farther back in the family history has little bearing on the current member but it would be not be right to ignore the next generation of this filly's pedigree. She represents a weak line that also has a low percentage of winners to foals born – with the notable exception of her dam – but her fourth dam was 1973's French juvenile filly champion Hippodamia (by Hail To Reason).
She won the Group 1 Criterium des Pouliches and took third in the Group 1 Prix Robert Papin that year and then went on to be runner-up in both the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) and Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary.
Eight of her 14 foals were successful, including US Grade 2 winner Globe (by Secretariat), French listed scorer Hoya (by Secreto), and two blacktype-placed fillies, and in addition to Who's Steph's third dam Hymenee (by Chief's Crown), they also include Housatonic (by Riverman).
That one-time scorer is the dam of Group 2 Prix Niel winner Housamix (by Linamix) and of blacktype winner Housa Dancer (by Fabulous Dancer), she is the grandam of Grade 1 Garden City Stakes heroine Alexander Tango (by Danehill Dancer) and of Group 3 Diomed Stakes scorer Bushman (by Maria's Mon), and she is the third dam of an Argentine-bred Grade 2 winner.
Hippodamia's half-brother Bad Conduct (by Stalwart) also deserves a mention as he won the Group 3 Prix de Guiche and finished third in the Group 1 Prix Lupin in 1986.
Who's Steph represents a weak branch of a former Group 1-producing family, which suggests that a lot of the credit for her talent is due to her sire, and it catches the eye that, like her, one of its top-level stars represents a stallion from the Danehill (by Danzig) line.
It remains to be seen how good she will be when she reaches her peak. We already know that she stays a mile, and given the stamina shown by her dam and grandam there is every chance that she too could stay at least 10 furlongs.