There is always plenty of interest when a very well bred juvenile makes its debut and although he finished only sixth behind Algometer in late October, his only start at two, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ulysses showed potential and earned a Timeform rating of 81p.
That mile Newbury maiden was followed by a 10-furlong contest at Leicester in late April of last year but he was beaten again, this time finishing a half-length runner-up. Three weeks later, however, he was so impressive in scoring by eight lengths over the same trip at Newbury that he was sent off at 8/1 for the Group 1 Investec Derby at Epsom on his next start.
He disappointed there but bounced back to beat The Major General by half a length in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes over 12 furlongs at Goodwood, was short-headed by the front-running Chain Of Daisies in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes over 10 at Windsor, and then advertised his Group 1 potential when finishing fourth to Highland Reel in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in early November.
He finished the season with a Timeform rating of 121, but when he beat Deauville by a length in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown on his four-year-old debut in late April, that figure moved up to 126p which identified him as one of the potential stars of 2017 and a major contender for the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
He put up an excellent performance on the fast ground, and even got his head in front briefly in the final furlong, but had to settle for third to Highland Reel and Decorated Knight, another one-two-three for Coolmore Stud stallion Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) in a top-level event.
Ulysses is owned and bred by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables Ireland Ltd, and in addition to being a son of the prolific champion sire, he has the considerable attraction of being out of the Group 1 Oaks heroine Light Shift (by Kingmambo).
She was trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, her classic victory was by half a length from Peeping Fawn, and it followed defeat of All My Loving in the Listed Cheshire Oaks.
After Epsom she ran three times, chasing home Peeping Fawn in the Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh, finishing third behind that same star in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, and then disappointing as an unplaced favourite behind Satwa Queen in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp.
Light Shift is out of Lingerie (by Shirley Heights) and that makes her a half-sister to the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup heroine Shiva (by Hector Protector), to the French Group 2 scorer Limnos (by Hector Protector), to Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap runner-up Hyades (by Aldebaran), and to Burning Sunset (by Caerleon), a mile Saint-Cloud listed scorer who finished third in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt over 10 furlongs at Longchamp.
The best of Shiva’s offspring is the Francis-Henri Graffard-trained four-year-old That Which Is Not (by Elusive Quality), who won the Listed Prix Zarkava over 10 and a half furlongs at Saint-Cloud in early April and chased home Armande in the Group 2 Prix Corrida over the same course and distance last month.
Burning Sunset, on the other hand, is the dam of the Group 2-placed stakes winner Zhiyi (by Henrythenavigator), of Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt scorer and Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup runner-up Smoking Sun (by Smart Strike), and of Ikat (by Pivotal), the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale runner-up who gave us Group 1 Investec Derby runner-up and multiple US Grade 1 star Main Sequence (by Aldebaran).
Lingerie also has two non-winning daughters who deserve a mention because of what they have achieved at stud, and one of them is Molasses (Machiavellian). She was unraced but her son Magadan (by High Chaparral) won the Group 3 Prix d’Hedouville and finished third in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, both at Longchamp. He stands at Haras de Treban, in France, and is off the mark as a sire.
Strawberry Fledge (by Kingmambo) is the other one. She is a full-sister to Light Shift, she was placed, and her son Cloth Of Stars (by Sea The Stars) won the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Saint-Cloud early last month.
That short-neck defeat of Zarak was his third pattern victory of the year, following the Group 3 Prix Exbury in March and a neck win over Mekhtaal in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt at Chantilly in April.
Last year he won both the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe and Group 3 Prix La Force and finished third in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, and at two he won the Group 3 Prix des Chenes and was placed behind Robin Of Navan in both the Group 3 Prix de Conde and Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and Group 1 Prix Vermeille heroine Northern Trick (by Northern Dancer) is the third dam of Ulysees. She was runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary, chased home Sagace in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and was rated 131 by Timeform.
The only stakes winner among her seven successful runners was the Listed Prix Imprudence scorer Onda Nova (by Keos) and, in addition to Lingerie, she has another daughter who hit the top at stud. That is the placed Creature du Ciel (by Machiavellian), dam of the Brazilian Grade 1 stars Jeune-Turc (by Know Heights) and Nonno Luigi (by Dubai Dust).
With family connections like these, Ulysses is one of the best bred horses in training. He is a top-notch racehorse and, especially given how the Galileo stallions are doing, he also has the potential to do well whenever the time comes for him to go to stud.
Rathbarry Stud’s veteran stallion Acclamation (by Royal Applause) was among the best runners for his sire and, despite not winning at the highest level on the track, he has sired three Group 1 stars. Leading sire Dark Angel is one of them, Group 1 sire Equiano is another, and the third is last year’s Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp heroine Marsha.
The Sir Mark Prescott-trained bay went into that race as a Group 3-placed dual stakes winner ad she earned a Timeform rating of 121 after her three-quarter-length defeat of Washington DC at Chantilly.
She put up an even better performance on that firm’s figures when she defied her Group 1 penalty to beat that same colt by a neck in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes on her seasonal reappearance at Newmarket.
She went into today’s Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes with a Timeform rating of 127, and although she likely did not run up to that same level, she finished an honourable third to Lady Aurelia and Profitable.
Marsha is owned and bred by the Elite Racing Club, she is a half-sister to the eight-time winner Judicial (by Iffraaj) and she is the second foal out of the French listed scorer Marlinka (by Marju). That mare, a half-sister to several multiple winners, is out of Baralinka (by Barathea), which makes her a half-sister to the excellent miler Soviet Song (by Marju).
This means that Marsha is out of a three-parts sister to Soviet Song, the Timeform 126-rated star who won the Group 1 Sussex Stakes, Group 1 Matron Stakes, Group 1 Fillies’ Mile, and two editions of the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes.
Soviet Song has had some well-documented misfortune at stud so far but her winning full-sister Sister Act is the dam of Ribbons (by Manduro), the prolific filly who won the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville and the Group 2 Blandford Stakes at the Curragh. The races in which that James Fanshawe-trained chestnut was placed included the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera and Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes, and both she and Soviet Song were also bred by Elite Racing Club.
Kazatzka (by Groom Dancer), a placed half-sister to Baralinka, Sister Act and Soviet Song, has also done her part for the family as her daughter Miss Marjurie (by Marju) won the Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes and finished third in the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks, both over 12 furlongs at Haydock.
They also have an unraced half-sister called Kalinova (by Red Ransom) and her offspring include Stars Above Me (by Exceed And Excel) who won over six furlongs in England as a two-year-old and later added a five and a half-furlong listed contest at Saratoga.
Kalinka (by Soviet Star), the third dam of Marsha, is out of the Listed Lupe Stakes and Listed Rockfel Stakes heroine Tralthee (by Tromos), a mare whose siblings include Epanoui (by Val De l’Orne), and what makes that one significant is that she is the dam of the the US Grade 3 winners Ask Anita (by Wolf Power) and Club Champ (by Shimatoree).
Marsha is one of the best sprinters in training and it is to be hoped that she will have as successful a career at stud as she has been having on the track.
Darley’s Australian-bred Group 1 star Exceed And Excel (by Danehill) has been a shining light for the reverse shuttle stallions, so far, and he has become well established as a source of high-class sprinters and milers in Europe, as well as in his native land.
One might expect that one of his offspring that was related to horses to who won their Group 1s over 10 furlongs and 15 and a half furlongs would be among his milers, but even families that are noted for producing top winners over middle-distance and staying trips can sometimes have a speedier branch.
The Clive Cox-trained filly Priceless represents such a line, her handicap mark has increased by 12lbs in the past year, and her half-length defeat of Goldream in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock late last month saw it reach a new high of 110.
She needs to improve again if she is to take the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, but it would not be a surprise to see her sneak into the frame.
All of her races were over six furlongs until early September of 2016 when she took a listed contest at Doncaster. She then skated home by five lengths in a similar event at Bath on her seasonal reappearance in April, both over the minimum trip.
Her only other outing between that and Haydock was at Newmarket where she finished a three-length fifth to Marsha in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes, so her record over five furlongs reads as three wins from four starts.
Her racecourse debut was at Haydock in September of her two-year-old season and, although sent off at 20/1, she won by seven lengths. She was favourite for her only two runs that year but was only third to Shaden in the Group 3 Firth of Clyde Stakes at Ayr and then fifth behind Only Mine in a listed contest at Newmarket.
She was unplaced in her first two starts at three but then chased home subsequent Stewards Cup heroine Dancing Star in a valuable heritage handicap at Newmarket in July – only beaten by three-parts of a length. She lost out by a head in another handicap over that course and distance two weeks later and was fourth in a Pontefract listed contest on her final start over six.
Priceless was bred by Biddestone Stud Ltd and she is a 70,000gns graduate of Book 2 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale. She is the tenth foal of her dam, she is a half-sister to a string of winners and they include both the five-time scorer Brazen (by Kyllachy) and the smart Doctor Brown (by Dr Fong), who was short-headed by Excellent Art in the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes on his final start in Europe. He was later a blacktype performer in Hong Kong under the name Helene Brilliant.
Her dam, Molly Brown (by Rudimentary), was trained by Richard Hannon to win two of her 14 starts - one over five furlongs and the other over six - and she was well-beaten the only time she tried farther.
The mare’s siblings include four-time mile scorer The Fun Merchant (by Mind Games) and also the multiple French winner Zilzoom (by Zilzal) whose successes came from five and a half furlongs up to a mile and a quarter.
It may seem a bit surprising that the former, the son of a leading sprinter, might have been a miler but it would appear that he got some of the stamina that prevails in the distaff side of the family. Molly Brown and her daughter, however, likely got the speed passed on through Midyan (by Miswaki), the sire of Molly Brown’s unraced dam Sinking.
When bred to the speedy Statoblest (by Ahonoora), Sinking came up with the prolific Italian winner Stato King, whose double-digit tally includes a listed contest. And Molly Brown’s offspring also include Bright Moll, a dual sprint-winning full-sister to The Fun Merchant and dam of the six-furlong Group 3 Chipchase Stakes winner Aeolus (by Araafa).
That talented gelding has a notable half-sister in Hezmah (by Oasis Dream), a six-furlong Newmarket handicap scorer who earned her blacktype when finishing third in a listed contest, over the same trip, on the polytrack at Lingfield on her final start.
This is clearly an established speed branch of the family.
Sinking’s siblings include Fleeting Rainbow (by Rainbow Quest), who finished third in a 10-furlong maiden before going on the produce the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup heroine Rebelline (by Robellino) and Group 2 Blandford Stakes winner Quws (by Robellino).
Their dam, Taplow (by Tap On Wood), was an unraced half-sister the pattern-placed stakes winner Leipzig (by Relkino) but also to Krakow (by Malinowski), the listed-placed dam of Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak winner and Group 1 Irish St Leger third Braashee (by Sadler’s Wells).
His full-brother Adam Smith was a multiple Grade 3 winner in the USA – a miler who stayed 10 furlongs. Their half-sister Ghariba (by Final Straw) won the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes and finished fourth in the Group 1 1000 Guineas, and she is the grandam of Fantastic View (by Distant View) who won the Group 3 Autumn Stakes and was runner-up in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy in 2003.
But even among this family trend for ability from a mile and upwards – the sires of those horses likely played a major role in determining the distance preferences – there is some speed.
When Ghariba was bred to Green Desert (by Danzig), for example, the result was the pattern-placed prolific sprint winner Reinaldo, and Noirmont (by Dominion), an unraced half-sister to Braashee, is the grandam of the Group 2 Champagne Stakes winner and Group 1 July Cup third Etlaala (by Selkirk).
Again, look at the sires – all are horses associated with producing sprinters or milers.
So given the established pattern of the most recent generations of this family – and its branches – and despite having horses such as Rebelline and Braashee on the page, there is no surprise that sprinting is the game for Priceless – a daughter of Exceed And Excel, out of a Rudimentary mare who was produced from a daughter of Midyan.
Whether she has already hit her peak or can improve further remains to be seen, and it will be fascinating too to see how she gets on later as a broodmare as, if she follows her family’s pattern at stud, the distance ranges of her offspring may depend on the influence of their sires.
Blacktype is an important commodity for any filly or mare and if that comes from winning in pattern company then the boost to her perceived value, and to the opportunities that she may be afforded at stud, is greater.
The popular chestnut Creggs Pipes picked up a Group 2 at the Curragh recently, despite having an official rating that still entitles her to run in handicaps. She had already won six of her 21 starts, including a listed contest over a mile at Killarney last summer and just days before adding a premier handicap at Galway.
She was runner-up to Tanaza in the Group 3 Fairy Bridge Stakes a month later, unplaced behind Alice Springs in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, and the beaten by even farther when out of the frame behind Jet Setting in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes over a half-furlong less at Tipperary in early October.
It would have been entirely understandable if she had been retired to the paddocks then, but the Andy Slattery-trained daughter of Rip Van Winkle (by Galileo) returned to action in April, at the age of five.
She was only fifth to Somehow in a listed contest over nine and a half furlongs at Gowran Park on her seasonal reappearance, beaten by five and a half lengths, but then stepped up to 10 furlongs and took third to Turret Rocks in the Group 3 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Blue Wind Stakes at the Curragh.
It was a fortnight after that when she benefitted from the combination a weak line-up for the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes over a mile and some of her more highly rated rivals performing below expectations, as she made all, under Declan McDonogh, to beat Opal Tiara by three and three-quarter lengths.
Her official rating was raised to 109 after this win, 1lb above her previous career-best figure, and still a long way below what you expect to see in a Group 2 winner.
She has an ambitious list of big-race entries, which includes the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes, Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes, and Group 1 Qipco Irish Champion Stakes. The first-named represents his best chance, but even if she fails to make the frame in any of those prestigious events, she will still go to stud with an eye-catching profile.
Creggs Pipes was bred by John Hayes, she is among the best representatives of her sire and she is the first foal out of an unraced mare called Sophie Germain (by Indian Ridge). Her grandam, Nydrion (by Critique), won the Group 1 Oaks d'Italia and her third dam, Nabila (by Foolish Pleasure), was a winning half-sister to several winners.
Those siblings included the Grade 3-placed multiple stakes winner Forty Weight (by Quadratic), whose stakes-placed daughter Forty Fran (by El Gran Senor) produced the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity winner and Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie (by Smart Strike).
Nabila was also a half-sister to Turn Down The Heat (by Key To The Mint), a three-time winner whose Grade 2-placed and stakes-winning daughter Flying Heat (by Private Account) was the dam of the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap heroine Pompeii (by Broad Brush).
Flying Heat, who won nine times and was placed 19 times from 34 starts, was also responsible for the Grade 3 winner Omi (by Wild Again) and for dual listed scorer Ground Storm (by Summer Squall), she is the grandam of Take The Cake (by Fly So Free), who won the Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes and finished second in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, and third dam of the prolific listed sprint winner Free As A Bird (by Hard Spun).
Some of those horses are remotely connected to Creggs Pipes, but their presence on page shows that this is distaff line that is no stranger to blacktype success and that, combined with being a pattern-winning granddaughter of Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) will make her a very interesting broodmare prospect.
One afternoon in the summer of 1993 I left the press area of the stands at Leopardstown feeling saddened by what I had just seen. A two-year-old filly I'd liked in the parade ring pulled-up, clearly badly injured, in the Listed Rochestown Stakes – her fourth start - and the end result for her seemed inevitable.
Scroll on a year and a half later, to my first morning as a student on the Irish National Stud's famous management course, a cold January day made warmer by what, or rather who I found in the farm's Kildare Yard barn.
The foreman misunderstood my surprise and my question “do you mean the Bluebird filly?” when she gave me the name of the next mare I was to bring out to the teaser, and it was over the next few weeks that I learned what an amazing individual their homebred chestnut Ridge Pool was.
Her injury at Leopardstown was, as it looked from the stands, to her pelvis, but thanks to her wonderful temperament and the dedication of the team at the stud, she made a full recovery after a lengthy period of convalescence that included some considerable restrictions temporarily placed on her ability to move about.
'Ridgey', the sweet-natured live model for practicals on tacking and bandaging, the frequent depositor of partially chewed feed in my jacket pocket – a garment she appeared to favour as an ideal scratching tool – was among the favourites of all of the horses with whom I've worked, and although she is long gone now, she left a lasting impression, both on me and on the racing scene.
Ridge Pool's only sibling was the stakes-placed nine-time winner Captain Le Saux (by Persian Heights), and she had just three foals of her own, but the last of them was Caumshinaun (by Indian Ridge), the top-rated older mare in Ireland in 2001.
That chestnut won five times for the Dermot Weld stable, including the Listed Platinum Stakes over a mile at Cork, and went on to become a prolific producer at stud.
Her finest hour in that role came in 2006 when her daughter Nightime (by Galileo), who was owned and bred by the late Marguerite Weld, ran away with the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh, and she became the grandam of a top-level star when Zhukova (by Fastnet Rock) trounced the boys with a six-length victory in the recent Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park.
Zhukova, who has also won the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes, Group 3 Kilternan Stakes and three listed contests for the Weld stable, is a daughter of Nightime.
She is reportedly being aimed at several major targets in 2017, including the Group 1 Qipco Irish Champion Stakes and Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and with the opportunities she has earned and will be afforded at stud, she could extend the family's Group 1 record to at least one more generation.