The season is still young but it is a fair bet that we will see few performances, if any, as impressive as the official 10-length victory of A Shin Hikari in the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan over nine furlongs at Chantilly on Tuesday.
Heavy ground may have exaggerated the degree of his apparent superiority over Dariyan, Silverwave and Vadamos – the three who chased him home – and certainly New Bay, Mondialiste and Erupt were below par on the day.
Another factor to note is how the underfoot conditions were handled by the winner as the five-year-old had never previously run on going described as being anything worse than good and most of his races have actually been on firm turf. He would appear to be one of those horses who can excel on any type of ground.
He has won eight of his 10 starts in Japan, including Group 2 and Group 3 contests over nine furlongs at Tokyo last year, he disappointed in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) over 10 furlongs at that venue in early November, and then bounced back to spring a 25/1 surprise in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Cup over that same distance at Sha Tin.
A Shin Hikari was bred by K K Eishindo, he is trained by Masanori Sakaguchi, and he appears to better than ever this year. He is the ante-post favourite for the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at next month's Royal Ascot meeting, and if he wins well there then might he be a candidate for the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe?
The big question with regard to that race is his ability to stay 12 furlongs. He is a son of the phenomenal stallion Deep Impact (by Sunday Silence), which gives him every chance, and he is out of Catalina, a daughter of Storm Cat (by Storm Bird). She was a sprinter on dirt in the USA, and if she has passed on a speed influence to her son then his stamina beyond 10 furlongs is in question.
Deep Impact is to Sunday Silence what Galileo is to Sadler's Wells; a mighty multiple champion sire son, who was a top-class racehorse, and who looks set to forge a dynasty that could be at least as powerful as that of his father's.
The best of Catalina's siblings is the ill-fated Sir Beaufort (by Pleasant Colony) who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap over 10 furlongs but died due to colic shortly before he was to start a stallion career in Kentucky. Her grandam is Key To The Saga (by Key To The Mint) who won the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes over nine furlongs and also the Boiling Springs Handicap over a half-furlong less.
Cherokee Benji (by Cherokee Colony), a 10-times winning half-brother to A Shin Hikari's grandam Carolina Saga (by Caro), got his listed race wins over eight and a half and seven furlongs, and the plethora of blacktype winners that can be found in the branches of the first few generations of the family include the Grade 2-winning five-furlong specialist The New Yorker (by Lode).
It is an American family so a mixture of speed horses and those who raced at around nine and 10 furlongs is to be expected.
When thinking of speed horses who produced major winners by Deep Impact the horse who comes to mind instantly is Gentildonna. Her first Group 1 win came in the one mile Oka Sho (1000 Guineas) but then she ran away with the 12-furlong Yushun Himba (Oaks), won the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Arima Kinen and two editions of the Japan Cup. Her dam is the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner Donna Blini, a daughter of the sprinter Bertolini (by Danzig) and from a speedy family.
Of course that superstar, whose career earnings translate to over £12 million, has no relationship to A Shin Hikari. But she is an example of how a speed mare can get a middle-distance horse to Deep Impact.
So what of those bred on similar lines to him? Do any of those by Deep Impact and out of Storm Cat mares stay 12 furlongs? At least some of them would represent similar types of family background to what A Shin Hikari posseses.
Group 1 Oka Sho heroine Ayusan was only fourth in the Group 1 Yushun Himba on her only attempt at the trip, but Lachesis was a Group 1 winner at 11 furlongs, stayed 12, and is out of a nine-furlong Grade 2 winner from the family of juvenile Grade 1 scorer Prayers'n Promises (by Foolish Pleasure) and dual US classic star Little Current (by Sea-Bird).
Arc fourth Kizuna won the Group 1 Tokyo Yushun (Derby) and was almost Group 1-placed at two miles; his grandam is the eight and a half furlong Grade 1 Delaware Oaks and nine furlong Grade 2 Hempstead Handicap scorer Pacific Princess (by Damascus). And then there's Real Steel, a descendant of the great Miesque (by Nureyev) and who preceded his nine furlong Group 1 Dubai Turf victory in March with a neck second in the Group 1 Kikuka Sho (St Leger) at Kyoto in October.
None of this 'proves' that A Shin Hikari would stay the Arc distance, and we cannot know if he will or won't until he actually tries the trip, but at least we do know that the combination of Deep Impact with Storm Cat mares has a history of getting horses who have that capability, and that is encouraging.
If A Shin Hikari really is as good as he looked at Chantilly then this is the horse who could be crowned European Champion Older Male of 2016, if not Horse of the Year.
Ballylinch Stud stallion Lope De Vega (by Shamardal) has made an excellent start to his career and his success augurs well for the future of other sons of his classic-winning sire.
Father and son both won the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) and Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby), 14-year-old Shamardal (by Giant's Causeway) is on track to reach the 100 mark for individual stakes winners some time this year, and the brightest star, so far, among the 14 by Lope De Vega is the now dual Group 1 scorer Belardo.
The Roger Varian-trained colt won the Listed Washington Singer Stakes and Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes as a two-year-old, and although without success in his classic year, he was not disgraced when fourth behind Gleneagles in the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas, showed promise when third to Cable Bay in the Group 2 Challenge Stakes, and then chased home Solow in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.
First time out at four he was an odds-on winner against three rivals in the Listed Doncaster Mile, and although only fourth behind Toormore in the Group 2 Sandown Mile 20 days later, he bounced back in style to beat Euro Charline and Endless Drama (by Lope De Vega) in the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (British Champions Series) over a mile at Newbury this afternoon.
This victory will boost his prospects of attracting plenty of attention when he eventually takes up stallion duties.
Belardo was bred by Ballylinch Stud, he is a half-brother to the dual Scandinavian pattern winner Berling (by Montjeu) and to the lightly-raced Group 2 Debutante Stakes third Diamond Sky (by Montjeu), and the youngest of his registered siblings is a Nathaniel (by Galileo) colt born last year.
His dam is Danaskaya (by Danehill), who was runner-up in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes and third in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, and her siblings include the talented Modeeroch (by Mozart), a triple listed scorer who was second in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes.
Their half-sister Maskaya (by Machiavellian) is the winning dam of Drumbeat (by Montjeu), who was a half-length runner-up to Fame And Glory in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud as a two-year-old, and also of California (by Azamour). That John Gosden-trained four-year-old was unplaced in a listed contest at Goodwood on her seasonal reappearance but was a listed-placed dual winner from just four starts in 2015.
The grandam of Belardo is Majinskaya (by Marignan), who won the Listed Prix des Tuileries and was runner-up in the Group 3 Prix de Psyche, and as that mare was out of the stakes-placed Makarova (by Nijinsky), that made her a half-sister to Mabrova (by Prince Mab), the winning dam of French sprint star Kistena (by Miswaki).
She beat Anabaa by a neck in the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp in 1996, her wins also include the Group 3 Prix de Meautry and Group 3 Prix de Seine-et-Oise, and the best of her progeny is the listed scorer Tompest (by Storm Cat), whose small number of offspring includes the juvenile sprint stakes winner Storm With Flair.
The first three generations of a pedigree make the biggest contribution to a horse, but some of Belardo's more distant relations deserve a mention.
His fourth dam, Midou (by Saint Crespin) was a dual stakes winner in France and placed in both the Prix de Sandringham and Prix de la Grotte, and her progeny included Vallee Secrete (by Secretariat), the winning dam of talented sprinter and successful sire Mujadil (by Storm Bird), and also of Fruits Of Love (by Hansel).
The latter won the Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes and two editions of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, and the string of blacktype events in which he was placed featured the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Grade 1 Canadian International, and the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden. He has sired winners, but his stallion record pales in comparison to that of his speedier brother.
Mujadil, who won the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes and Listed Roses Stakes as a two-year-old, spent his career at Rathasker Stud and his most notable progeny include the popular Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes and Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes hero Kingsgate Native, Group 2 winners Bouncing Bowdler and Galeota, Group 1-placed pattern scorer Lesson In Humility, and addition pattern winners Daunting Lady, Leggy Lou, Masta Plasta, Satri and Show Me The Money.
The fifth dam of Belardo was an outstanding filly whom Timeform rated 130 as a juvenile and 125 as a three-year-old. Midget (by Djebe) won the Coronation Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Prix de la Foret, Prix Maurice de Gheest, Cheveley Park Stakes and Prix de Meautry, she was runner-up to Honeylight in the 1000 Guineas, third to Apollonia in the Prix de Diane, and also placed in the Prix Morny.
In addition to being the dam of Midou, Midget was the dam of Cheveley Park Stakes winner Mige (by Saint Crespin) and grandam of 1983's Group 1 1000 Guineas winner Ma Biche (by Key To The Kingdom).
Belardo is the latest in a long line of talented horses who have represented this family, and although his relationship to Mujadil is quite distant, having a successful stallion in the family boosts his own prospects of success in that role, whenever the time comes for him.
Derby and Champion Stakes hero New Approach (by Galileo) got outstanding results with his first crop. He had three juvenile stakes winners at Royal Ascot, a remarkable feat even though he himself was an undefeated champion at that age, and that first crop did not disappoint when they reached three and four years of age.
Unbeaten juvenile champion Dawn Approach won the Group 1 2000 Guineas and Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes, Talent took the Group 1 Oaks at Epsom and was runner-up in the Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster, and the Group 2 Dante Stakes scorer Libertarian was runner-up in the Group 1 Derby at Epsom.
That same crop also yielded the Group 1 Nassau Stakes winner Sultanina, who got her big win as a four-year-old.
New Approach's tally now stands at 27 stakes winners, seven of whom come from his Australian-born crops, and they include last year's Group 1-placed juvenile Group 2 scorer Herald The Dawn and the notably talented filly Beautiful Romance.
A third-crop daughter of the Dalham Hall Stud stallion, Godolphin's four-year-old is trained by Saeed bin Suroor, she was bred by Rabbah Bloodstock, and her first start of 2016 was in the Group 2 Betfred Middleton Stakes over 10 and a half furlongs at York, which she won by one and a quarter lengths.
She began her career with a nine-length score in a mile maiden at Doncaster on her only start as a two-year-old, she was third behind Osaila in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes first time out at three, easily beat Gospel Choir in an 11 and a half furlong listed contest at Windsor, and rounded off that season with third place to Simple Verse and Journey in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot.
That prestigious 12-furlong contest came a month after her disappointing fifth place finish behind Treve in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille, which was run on very soft ground, and her only other start was in the Group 3 Prix de Psyche over 10 furlongs at Deauville, in which she finished last of six.
Beautiful Romance is the fifth foal out of the Group 3 Princess Royal Stakes winner Mazuna (by Cape Cross) and it is a little surprising that she is one of only two winners for her dam so far, from five runners, especially given the good strike-rate of some of the mare's relatives.
What is no surprise is that Mazuna could produce at least one high-class performer, for not only is she by a regally-related leading sire, but she comes from a family whose first few generations have yielded several Group 1 horses, two of whom became the sires of Group 1 winners.
Mazuna had a first-crop son of Australian-born Darley shuttle sire Sepoy (by Elusive Quality) in 2014 and a first-crop daughter of Group 2 scorer and Yorton Farm Stud stallion Universal (by Dubawi) 13 months ago.
She is out of Keswa (by Kings Lake), who was a stakes-placed dual winner, six of her nine siblings were successful, one was listed placed, and several of them scored at least four times.
One of that latter group was Compradore (by Mujtahid), who won four times in England from five to seven furlongs, and she is the dam of the 106-rated sprinter Beyond Desire (by Invincible Spirit) who won a listed contest over six furlongs at Haydock, another over five at Bath, and the Group 3 Prix de Saint-George at Longchamp, also over five furlongs.
She was runner-up in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes on her second outing as a juvenile, second also in the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes at Leopardstown and in the Group 3 Coral Charge at Sandown, and on her penultimate start, as a five-year-old, was only beaten by three lengths when fifth of 19 in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York, which was won by Ortensia.
Beyond Desire's first two foals are a first-crop Frankel (by Galileo) filly and a yearling daughter of Dubawi (by Dubai Millennium).
The third dam of Beautiful Romance is the triple winner Reves Celestes (by Lyphard). She produced six winners from nine foals, all of whom raced, and although they include Matahif (by Wassl), a juvenile stakes winner in England who went on to become a top-class performer in Scandinavia, her lasting contribution is through the success of her daughters.
Only the afore mentioned Keswa earned blacktype, but one-time winner Rafif (by Riverman) became the dam of Pressing, and the progeny of dual winner Starlight Dreams (by Black Tie Affair) feature four-times Group 1 winner and Group 1 sire Mastercraftsman.
Pressing (by Soviet Star) won 13 times, including the Group 1 Premio Roma and the Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr Bayerisches Zuchtrennen, he was multiple Group 1-placed and he went to stud in Turkey where his oldest progeny are four years old.
Mastercraftsman (by Danehill Dancer) got his Group 1 wins in the Irish 2000 Guineas, St James's Palace Stakes, National Stakes and Phoenix Stakes, his Group 1 placings came in the Juddmonte International Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes, and the most recent of his four Group 1-winning progeny is Valley Girl who took the Herbie Dyke Stakes over 10 furlongs at Te Rapa, in New Zealand, in February.
The other three – Amazing Maria, Kingston Hill and The Grey Gatsby – have notched up six Group 1 wins between them, including two classics, and they represent his first crop.
Mastercraftsman's half-sister Genuine Devotion (by Rock Of Gibraltar) won a Grade 3 handicap in the USA and is the dam of the stakes-placed filly Genuine Quality (by Elusive Quality).
These first three generations of the pedigree are more than enough to show why Beautiful Romance always had the potential, on breeding, to become a high-class racehorse, and the amount of success contained within them also suggests that she could have a notable broodmare career ahead of her whenever her racing days come to an end.
If you go back to the fourth generation of the family then you will find a plethora of other notable individuals as her fourth dam is the Group 3-placed Tobira Celeste (by Ribot), which makes Reves Celestes a half-sister to classic-placed Group 2 Princess of Wales's Stakes winner Celestial Storm (by Roberto) and to Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes scorer Thawakib (by Sadler's Wells).
The latter is the dam of runaway Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero Sakhee (by Bahri), the Derby, Breeders' Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup-placed horse whose wins also included the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes.
He has not been as successful a stallion as one might have hoped of such an outstanding racehorse, but as his progeny include the Group 1-winning sprinter and successful sire Sakhee's Secret, ill-fated Dubai and Hong Kong Group 1 scorer and multimillionaire Presvis, and Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) winner Tin Horse, among various others of note, he has achieved better results than most, and the Nunnery Stud resident, now aged 19, has had his fee listed as private for the past few years.
Sakhee's half-sister Alharir (by Zafonic) has done her part for the family by becoming the grandam of the Group 3 Prix Messidor winner and Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes runner-up Alnadana (by Danehill Dancer).
Tobira Celeste's progeny also included Le Vague A L'Ame (by Vaguely Noble), a thrice-placed mare whose star daughter River Memories (by Riverman) won the Grade 1 Rothman's International Stakes and the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Handicap, and whose descendants include Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes winner Misterah (by Alhaarth) and Grade 1-placed Grade 3 Bay Meadows Derby scorer Blue Steller (by Barathea).
Tobira Celeste's siblings included the classic-placed French pattern winner A Thousand Stars (by Hoist The Flag) and her dam was the 1959 Matron Stakes winner Heavenly Body (by Dark Star), a full-sister to the 1959 Kentucky Oaks heroine Hidden Talent.
Although many notable horses appear in the branches leading from the fifth and sixth generations of Beautiful Romance's pedigree, their connection to her is too remote to represent anything more than academic interest.
She was rated 112 before this latest success, she holds entries in next month's Group 1 Investec Coronation Cup and Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, and she has the potential to play a leading role in the best filly and mare events of the year.
Kildangan Stud stallion Shamardal (by Giant's Causeway) is inching closer to hitting the century for individual stakes winners, a landmark that could be within his reach before the end of 2016, and his lengthy list of progeny with their names in all-caps blacktype includes 17 who have won at least once at the highest level.
Dariyan was the latest of them to achieve that feat, the Aga Khan's homebred four-year-old having won the Group 1 Prix Ganay over 10 and a half furlongs at Saint-Cloud recently. He was out of the frame behind Postponed in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on his previous start, and runner-up to that same rival in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold three weeks earlier. His three-year-old campaign, which featured victory in the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam over 10 furlongs at Maisons-Laffitte, culminated in a third place finish behind Highland Reel in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin in December.
The colt is trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, he may be seen next in the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan, and he has the potential to figure prominently in the top middle-distance events of the year. And being a Group 1 winning son of the sire of young classic stallion Lope De Vega could make him an attractive addition to the covering shed whenever his racing career comes to an end.
Dariyan is the first foal out of Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase heroine Darkayana (by Selkirk), a mare whose wins also include the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu and the Listed Prix des Tourelles, and whose placed efforts feature third in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. She was also third in the Group 2 Prix Corrida, finished fourth (does not count for blacktype) in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, and accumulated around €1 million in prize money.
Her second foal, Darabad (by Dansili), was third in a 10 furlong Saint-Cloud maiden on his debut last month, her third is a juvenile colt named Devamani (by Dubawi), she had a daughter of Redoute's Choice (by Danehill) last year, and was then bred to Dawn Approach (by New Approach).
Daryakana is a half-sister to the pattern-placed stakes winner Daraybi (by Street Cry), to stakes-placed Daryamar (by Machiavellian), and also to Dardania (by Dalakhani), a placed mare whose three-year-old daughter Dourdana (by Exceed And Excel) made a winning debut in a mile maiden at Maisons-Laffitte recently. But the best of her siblings is Daramsar (by Rainbow Quest).
He won the Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris and a 12 furlong listed contest in 2006, the best of his three blacktype placings was when chasing home Best Name and Champs Elysees in the Group 3 Prix du Prince d'Orange at Longchamp, and he has sired some winners from a small number of runners under National Hunt rules in France.
Like his dam, Dariyan's grandam was also a top-class racehorse and she is the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and Group 1 Prix Vermeille heroine Daryaba (by Night Shift). That classic star is, in turn, out of the pattern-placed stakes winner Darata (by Vayrann), her siblings include two who earned their blacktype under National Hunt rules, and one of that pair is Darbela (by Doyoun), dam of the ill-fated Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle winner Darlan (by Milan).
Daryaba's three-year-old is a filly named Dariyba (by Monsun), her two-year-old son has been named Darayem (by Redoute's Choice), and she was bred to Siyouni (by Pivotal) last year.
The fourth dam of the recent Group 1 scorer is Darazina (by Labus) and her string of blacktype descendants include the Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) scorer Darsi (by Polish Precedent), dual US Grade 2 scorer Grandeur (by Verglas), high-class stayer Far Cry (by Pharly), leading sprinter Muthmir (by Invincible Spirit), National Hunt Grade 1 winner Shaneshill (by King's Theatre), and talented Australian runners Gentle Genius (by Danehill) and Ironstein (by Zabeel), to name just a few.
Dariyan's relationship to those horses is remote and what will be more relevant when it comes to assessing him as a stallion prospect is that he is a Group 1-winning son of a leading sire and out of a Group 1-winning daughter of a Group 1 classic heroine.