Gilltown Stud stallion Sea The Stars has rapidly established himself as one of the best sires in Europe and the Timeform 140-rated champion recorded an important double at the weekend. It's not just that his sons Zelzal and Mutakayyef respectively won their first Group 1 and Group 2 contests that is notable, but the distance over which they achieved the feat.
A half-brother to the dual Derby hero and prolific champion sire Galileo (by Sadler's Wells), Sea The Stars was not guaranteed to stay beyond 10 furlongs during his glittering career. Yes, his dam Urban Sea (by Miswaki) stayed further than expected by winning the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and yes, some of the progeny of ace miler Cape Cross (by Green Desert) stay a mile and a half, but if what he had inherited from his parents was the speed influences in their pedigrees, instead of a blend of speed and stamina, then his distance range would have been limited.
As we all know, Sea The Stars stayed 12 furlongs just fine, winning both the Derby and the Arc over the trip, and many of his 28 stakes-winning progeny, almost two-third of whom are pattern winners, also handle middle-distances. Sea The Moon and Taghrooda, from his first crop, won classics over a mile and a half, this year's dual Derby hero Harzand is currently the brightest star from his third crop, and of his eight pattern winners in 2016 six have achieved the feat over 10 or 12 furlongs.
His Group/Grade 3 scorers Afternoon Sunlight, Casual Smile and My Titania have got their top wins over shorter, but all too often we focus more on a stallion's Group 1 and Group 2 stars when assessing him, sometimes overlooking his lesser stakes and pattern horses.
Doing so with Sea The Stars might have led one to presume that all of his offspring will automatically stay at least 10 furlongs and prove best over that trip and farther, and for anyone who may have been sliding into that way of thinking, those big wins on Saturday and Sunday will be a wake-up call.
The older of the pair has proved his ability to stay a little farther, and the younger colt may get 10 furlongs if asked, but their most recent performances show us that Mutakayyef and Zelzal are milers.
The former, a five-year-old gelding trained by William Haggas, is a first-crop son of his sire and he easily beat Dutch Connection by two and a quarter lengths in the Group 2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile Stakes on fast ground at Ascot on Saturday, earning a Timeform rating of 123. The following afternoon the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained three-year-old Zelzal broke the track record when beating Stormy Antarctic by two lengths in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly.
Zelzal made a six-length winning debut over seven and a half furlongs on the polytrack at Deauville in early March and followed-up by four lengths over a mile at Chantilly a month later, also on polytrack, thereby making him yet another recent Group 1 star to have graduated from early experience on the artificial tracks.
Recent Coral-Eclipse and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winners Hawkbill and Silverwave are others, as are last year's classic stars Jack Hobbs and Covert Love. The Group 2 scorers Endless Time and Wings of Desire, both of whom have been reviewed here, are all-weather graduates with Group 1 potential.
Zelzal's turf debut proved very disappointing and it is the one blot on his record. He was one of the favourites for the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Deauville in May, but beat just two home, finishing a dozen lengths behind impressive winner The Gurkha. He bounced back from that to take the Group 3 Prix Paul de Moussac over a mile at Chantilly a month later, and now he has won in style at the highest level.
Zelzal was bred by Viktor Timoshenko, and Al Shaqab Racing secured him for €180,000 at the Arqana October Yearling Sale. He is the second foal out of the mile winner Olga Prekrasa (by Kingmambo), which makes him inbred 4x3 to Mr Prospector (by Raise A Native), he has an older half-sister called Vejer (by Dalakhani), and his dam had a Redoute's Choice (by Danehill) filly in 2014.
The grandam of Zelzal is Opera Aida (by Sadler's Wells), who was unplaced on her only start. The mare is a half-sister to the Listed Cheshire Oaks third Crystal Curling (by Peintre Celebre) and to the dams of listed scorer Sparkling Portrait (by Excellent Art) and Group 3 Minstrel Stakes winner Three Rocks (by Rock Of Gibraltar).
She is out of State Crystal (by High Estate), the Group 3 Lancashire Oaks winner who was runner-up in the Group 2 Sun Chariot Stakes and third in both the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks and Group 1 Prix Vermeille, and that mare is, in turn, one of seven winners from 11 foals out of the one-time scorer Crystal Spray (by Beldale Flutter). That makes her a half-sister to four runners of particular note plus an unraced filly who went on to be represented by a big race winner abroad.
Dubai Success (by Sadler's Wells) won the Group 3 John Porter Stakes at Newbury and the races in which he was placed included the Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes, the Group 2 Geoffrey Freer Stakes, the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes and Group 3 St Simon Stakes. His full-brother Tchaikovsky picked up third place in the Group 1 Irish Derby, beaten by a total of 10 and a half lengths behind Montjeu.
Solar Crystal (by Alzao) won the Group 3 May Hill Stakes and was third in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, but her younger sister Crystal Music (by Nureyev) was better, winning the Group 1 Fillies' Mile at Ascot as a juvenile and placed in both the Group 1 Coronation Stakes and Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas the following year. She also has the better record at stud, with three blacktype earners among her progeny and the Group 1-placed Group 2 scorer and young Beeches Stud stallion Ocovango (by Monsun) for a grandson.
Crystal Melody, a year-younger full-sister to Crystal Music, did not race, but her daughter Grande Melody (by Grand Lodge), a stakes-placed winner in France as a three-year-old, went to California later and was a narrow winner of the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap over eight and a half furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park.
Like several of her talented relations, she was bred by Watership Down Stud. (Solar Crystal and State Crystal were bred by Michael Poland.) That top-class operation sold her for €200,000 as a yearling, she raced in the well-known Joseph Allen colours, and it is he who bred her smart son Broadway Boogie (by Distorted Humor), whose more recent piece of blacktype was when placed in a nine and a half furlong listed contest at Bordeaux Le Bouscat in late May.
It is these first few generations of the pedigree that make the most important contribution to Zelzal's genetic make-up and they present us with more than enough evidence to show why he always had the potential to become a good horse, and also that there is a chance that he will stay at least 10 furlongs. We won't know the limits of his stamina until he tries farther than the mile, and it will depend on the mix of speed and staying elements that have been passed on to him.
If you go back further into his family then you will find branches that lead to an array of stars, all of which are only remotely connected to Zelzal, but interesting nonetheless.
His fifth dam is the unraced Crystal Fountain (by Great Nephew), and in addition to being the dam of the 10-furlong Group 2 scorer Crystal Hearted (by Broken Hearted) and grandam of the 12-furlong Grade 2 winner Always First (by Barathea), she was a half-sister to the brilliant Royal Palace (by Ballymoss). This is, therefore, the family of top-level stars such as Fairy Footsteps (by Mill Reef), Light Cavalry (by Brigadier Gerard), Welsh Pageant (by Tudor Melody), Desert Prince (by Green Desert), and even further removed, Dubawi Heights (by Dubawi) and her classic-winning three-parts brother Make Believe (by Makfi), who is in his first season at Ballylinch Stud.
Zelzal, a son of Sea The Stars and from the immediate family of the classic-placed Group 1-winning miler Crystal Music, is a leading candidate for the best mile races in the second half of the season, and with some of the good horses in the first four generations of his family being ones who stayed 10 and 12 furlongs, it is possible that he too will be effective at beyond a mile.