Mecca's Angel earned a Timeform rating of 129 after her victory in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York last year, making her the most highly-rated of her sire's offspring (Lethal Force was on 128) and one of the best sprinters of recent years.
Now aged five, the Michael Dods-trained mare was a neck runner-up to subsequent Group 1 Kings' Stand Stakes winner Profitable in the Group 2 Temple Stakes on her seasonal reappearance, was found to be in season when a huge disappointment in that Royal Ascot contest, she but bounced back in style at the Curragh yesterday when beating Brando by three lengths in the Group 2 Kilfrush Stud Sapphire Stakes.
The five-furlong specialist was bred by the partnership of Yeomanstown Stud and Doc Bloodstock, her trainer snapped her up for just 16,000gns in Newmarket as a yearling, and her pedigree was reviewed here several weeks ago after the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes victory of her full-brother Markaz.
So this is a quick recap of her family's achievements, along with a look at what her sire has done in 2016.
Mecca's Angel is the first foal out the stakes-placed six-times sprint winner Folga (by Clantime), Markaz is her year-younger brother, and they have a two-year-old full-sister named Dirayah, who made 825,000gns from Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.
The Group 1 star is on course for an attempted repeat victory in next month's Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, so long as the ground is suitable, while her brother is engaged in both the Group 2 Qatar Lennox Stakes over seven furlongs at Goodwood and in the Group 1 Haydock Park Sprint Cup over six. Their aptitudes are a nice example of how, as with humans, full-siblings can show their talents in different ways.
Their grandam, Desert Dawn (by Belfort), was a quick and precocious juvenile who won the Group 3 Prix d'Arenberg and was placed in both the Group 3 Norfolk Stakes and Listed St Hugh's Stakes, but she was also effective as a three-year-old, when she added a listed sprint at Sandown.
Desert Dawn is also the dam of a mile listed race winner called Desert Kaya, and despite the speed of the mare and her descendants, that filly's comparative stamina was not really any surprise. That is because she was by the Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) winner Bikala (by Kalamoun), a half-brother to runaway Group 1 Irish Derby hero Assert (by Be My Guest) and to Group 1 Irish St Leger winner Eurobird (by Ela-Mana-Mou).
These are the highlights of the first few generations of the pedigree, which makes it likely that its recent notable upgrading is due to the influence of Dark Angel (by Acclamation).
The Yeomanstown Stud stallion raced only as a juvenile, when his best win came in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, and his 30 individual stakes winners include Lethal Force, Alhebayeb, Gutaifan and Heeraat, all of whom are pattern winners standing at stud.
In Europe in 2016, Divine has won the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes and was a head runner-up in the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes yesterday, Persuasive is an unbeaten mile stakes winner, and Nations Alexander a Group 2-placed juvenile listed scorer. Birchwood, who was a Group 1-placed juvenile Group 2 scorer last year, is a listed race winner this term, as are Log Out Island, Easton Angel, and Group 2-placed Gabrial.
Although the multiple blacktype scorer Sovereign Debt has been out of luck so far this year, his half-length second to Gordon Lord Byron in the Group 2 Friarstown Stud Minstrel Stakes over seven furlongs at the Curragh today was his fourth consecutive blacktype second place finish. The David Nicholls-trained seven-year-old, who was bred by Yeomanstown Stud, has more than £420,000 in earnings to his name, and has more than enough ability to add at least one more blacktype win to his record.
But back to Mecca's Angel, one of the two Group 1 stars for her sire.
She has won nine of her 17 starts, to date, and been runner-up four times, with career earnings in excess of £400,000. In addition to her Group 1 and Group 2 prizes, she has won the Group 3 Prix de Saint-Georges at Longchamp, the Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury, and the Listed Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster, in which she beat Reckless Abandon by two and a quarter lengths, and her four lesser wins were achieved by an impressive aggregate of 26 lengths.
It is entirely possible that she will win at least once more at the highest level before eventually going to stud, and as her offspring will have blacktype sprinters for each of their first three dams, there is every reason to hope that at least some of them will be notably talented. And as her own brother stays seven furlongs, and there is a mile stakes winner in the family, it is possible that, depending on their sires, some of her progeny could be potential Guineas-types.
Dark Angel (by Acclamation) was not an obvious candidate to emerge as a force within the industry, as a stallion who would get Group 1 stars, stallion sons and successful broodmare daughters, but although it is still quite early in his career, the early indications are that he could become a stallion of considerable influence.
He raced only as a two-year-old, winning four of his nine starts, and although successful in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes and Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes, he was unplaced against stronger opposition in the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes and in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes and his end of year official rating was only 114. Timeform gave him a 113.
His combination of relatively low ratings, a successful though rather unfashionably bred sire, and a distaff side to his family whose few stakes winners achieved that feat just once in somewhat minor company, made him something of a long-shot to become a major player. Stakes winning progeny and smart handicappers, with the occasional pattern horse thrown in? Yes, all but guaranteed. But anything more than that fairly typical profile was less likely a prospect for him than it was for some of his cohorts.
Now, with his oldest progeny aged seven, Dark Angel is firmly established as a leading European sire, commanding a €60,000 fee at Yeomanstown Stud in Ireland.
His 30 stakes winners include 14 who have won at pattern level, four of those being Group 2 scorers and another pair top-class sprinters. Lethal Force won the Group 1 July Cup and Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and Mecca's Angel is a Timeform 129-rated Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes heroine.
The former is now a popular member of the stallion team at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket and responsible for foals that made 110,000gns, 100,000gns, €135,000, 92,000gns and €120,000 in 2016. The pattern-winning Dark Angel horses Alhebayeb (Tara Stud; first foals), Gutaifan (Yeomanstown Stud; first season) and Heeraat (Mickley Stud; first foals) are also sires, as is Group 1-placed Tough As Nails (Old Meadow Stud; yearlings), and there are others who look likely to be joining them before long.
Markaz is one of those.
The Owen Burrows-trained four-year-old was bred by the partnership of Yeomanstown Stud and Doc Bloodstock, he is a £200,000 graduate of the Doncaster Premier Yearling Sale, and he is a full-brother to the aforementioned sprint star Mecca's Angel.
He was a Group 3-placed winner as a juvenile, won the Group 3 Criterion Stakes and finished runner-up in the Group 2 Park Stakes, both over seven furlongs at three, and at Newcastle today he added a victory in the Group 3 Betfred Chipchase Stakes over six furlongs on the tapeta track. With his looks, pedigree and race record, he seems all but guaranteed to get a place at stud.
Dark Angel's record is strong with sprinters and others who show speed at up to a mile, and also with two-year-olds. Less than an hour after Markaz's latest victory, the Richard Hannon-trained juvenile filly Nations Alexander won the Listed Cambridge Magazine Supporting the AHT Empress Stakes over six furlongs at Newmarket. That, in turn, came an hour before the talented handicapper and previous one-time stakes winner Gabrial won the Listed Sky Bet Midsummer Stakes over eight and a half furlongs at Windsor.
Markaz and his top-class sister Mecca's Angel are out of Folga, a six-times winning daughter of the talented sprinter Atraf (by Clantime). She earned her blacktype when runner-up in a listed sprint at Bath, her celebrity progeny are her first two foals, and her third is a filly named Dirayah (by Dark Angel), who made 825,000gns from Book 1 of the 2015 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale. Number four is their full-sister who arrived in mid-April of last year.
Her dam is the talented sprinter Desert Dawn, one of the best horses sired by Belfort (by Tyrant). She won the Group 3 Prix d'Arenberg as a juvenile, was placed in the Group 3 Norfolk Stakes and in the Listed St Hugh's Stakes that same season, and went on to take the Listed Trafalgar House Sprint Stakes at Sandown.
Her daughters Folga and mile listed scorer Desert Kaya (by Bikala) are the only other blacktype horses in the family until you find a stakes-placed handicapper a couple of generations further back, and although there are high strike-rates of winners to foals born in each layer of the pedigree, this is not a family from which you could have expected horses such as Markaz and Mecca's Angel to emerge.
Yes, their dam and grandam had speed and blacktype ability, but the credit for elevating the family to its current position is largely due to Dark Angel, a stallion who has exceeded all reasonable early expectations and who looks sure to remain a leading sire for years to come.
As for the immediate prospects of Markaz, he holds entries in next month's Group 1 Darley July Cup and Group 2 Qatar Lennox Stakes. But regardless of how he gets on in those, or in any other big-race targets, this dual pattern-winning full-brother to a Group 1 star has probably already done enough to attract interest as a prospective stallion.