When the Francois Rohaut-trained gelding Signs Of Blessing won the Group 1 LARC Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville this afternoon he brought his sire one step closer to what could be thought of as a type of immortality.
There is an internationally agreed list that contains just over 3000 names, none of which is allowed for use again on a registered thoroughbred.
Those who win one of the 11 specified international races (three in Europe, two in the USA, two in South America, four in Asia) automatically have their name added, as do mares and stallions who reach specific qualifying criteria. For the latter, that means siring at least 15 individual Group/Grade 1 winners from those events listed under Part I of the International Cataloguing Standards.
There is also provision for an application to be made on behalf of racehorses whom it is felt deserve inclusion, but who did not win a qualifying race, and the complete list of 34 new additions made earlier this year named four such horses, including the outstanding miler Kingman and the great hurdler Hurricane Fly.
When the next update is published, early in 2017, the names of California Chrome (Dubai World Cup) and Highland Reel (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes) will be there, and if he can get one more new Group 1 winner before the end of this year, then so will that of Invincible Spirit (by Green Desert).
Signs Of Blessing is the 14th individual Group 1 winner for the Irish National Stud's main flag bearer. The aforementioned Kingman is his best son, the prolific Group 1 star and triple Prix Maurice de Gheest heroine Moonlight Cloud is both his best daughter and one of 3000+ horses on the protected list, and the horse who gave their sire his 13th top-level scorer was Profitable, winner of the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Signs Of Blessing, who was only beaten by a neck and a short-head when coming out third best in a five-way photo for the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at that same meeting, had the Group 3 Goldene Peitsche and three listed wins to his name before his one and a quarter-length defeat of Donjuan Triumphant on Sunday. Jimmy Two Times was a neck back in third and he, in turn, was the same margin ahead of Sudeois (fourth) and Dutch Connection (fifth). Tragically, the Hong Kong ace Gold-Fun was fatally injured, so video footage of the race is not included here.
The newly crowned Group 1 star made the unusual price of €102,000 at the Arqana Deauville August Yearling Sale in 2012, he is the third foal and best winner out of an unraced mare called Sun Bittern (by Seeking The Gold), and he comes from a branch of a strong international family that is no stranger to producing high-class horses.
His dam is one on double-digit tally of offspring out of Listed Cheshire Oaks third Sunray Superstar (by Nashwan), yet is a half-sister to just three winners. Although that mare's full-sister Nadia won the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary and chased home Aquarelliste in the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks), she too failed to make an impact at stud: her string of winners includes one listed-placed individual.
Sunray Superstar and Nadia are half-sisters to an unraced mare called Principium (by Hansel), and in addition to the listed scorer and blacktype producer Baroness Richter (by Montjeu), she is the dam of the Group 1-placed dual Group 2-winning Japanese seven to 10 furlong horse Kongo Rikishio (by Stravinsky).
Their dam, Nazoo (by Nijinsky), won the Listed Rochestown Stakes at Leopardstown as a juvenile and was a full-sister to the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes winners Lake Como and Single Combat. Her half-sister Heeremandi (by Royal Academy) won the Listed Silver Flash Stakes, was third in the Group 1 Prix Morny, and later became the dam of the Group 3 Tetrarch Stakes runner-up Emerald Cat (by Storm Cat), among several winners.
Nazoo's half-sister Miznah (by Sadler's Wells) won the Listed Debutante Stakes at the Curragh, was runner-up in the Listed Silver Flash Stakes, and her star son is the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup and Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes winner Zindabad (by Shirley Heights). His multiple stakes-placed half-sister Geisha Girl (by Nashwan) is the dam of the Chilean Grade 2 sprint scorer Genial Boy (by Songandaprayer), and his non-winning half-sister Tithcar (by Cadeaux Genereux) has done her part for the family by coming up with the Group 3 Ballycorus Stakes scorer An Tadh (by Halling).
Nazoo also has another sibling who must be mentioned and that is her one-time winning full-sister La Confidence, dam of the Grade 3 scorer and minor blacktype sire Perfect (by Affirmed) and of his outstanding full-sister Flawlessly.
An inductee to the US Hall of Fame in 2004, prolific Grade 1 star Flawlessly was the US Champion Female Turf Horse in both 1992 and 1993, her 16 wins included multiple editions of the Matriarch Stakes, Ramona Handicap and Beverley Hills Handicap, but she had just two foals and she died at the age of 14.
Her first was Flawlessness (by Storm Cat), who won once from nine starts, but that filly died as a four-year-old. The other was the unraced Dreamlike (by Storm Cat), and she has been having a successful stud career.
Her first foal, Woke Up Dreamin (by Holy Bull), won six of his 16 starts, earned over $578,000 and got his best results at the age of five, when he won the Grade 2 True North Handicap and the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap, both over six furlongs. He began his stallion career in Kentucky, moved to Iowa four years ago, and has sired some blacktype winners.
Denomination (by Smart Strike), born when her talented brother was six, was placed in the Group 3 Prix d'Aumale at two, won the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux at three, and went on to take a trio of Grade 3 contests in the US, best at eight and a half and nine furlongs. She was followed by the Grade 3-winning sprinter Lemon Drop Dream (by Lemon Drop Kid).
These are the highlights of the first four generations of the pedigree of Signs Of Blessing, a Group 1-winning gelding who is related to the Group/Grade 1 stars Nadia and Flawlessly, and there is more than enough there to show why his dam was worthy of going to one of Europe's top stallions.
The contribution made by ancestors in the fifth (3.125% each) and sixth (1.5625% each) generations are too remote to have any meaningful influence on the current horse, beyond academic interest, but in the case of Signs Of Blessing it is worth commenting on who those ancestors are.
His fourth dam, La Dame Du Lac (by Round Table), was an unraced half-sister to the Grade 1 winner and hugely influential stallion Halo (by Hail To Reason), to triple US champion Tosmah (by Tim Tam), and to Queen Sucree (by Ribot), who was the dam of 1974 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby hero Cannonade (by Bold Bidder).
This means that the fifth dam of Signs Of Blessing is the multiple blacktype scorer Cosmah (by Cosmic Bomb), daughter of the talented Almahmoud (by Mahmoud) and so a half-sister to Bubbling Beauty (by Hasty Road) and Natalma (by Native Dancer). The former was the unplaced dam of Group 1 star and influential multiple French champion sire Arctic Tern (by Sea Bird II), and the latter was, of course, the dam of Northern Dancer (by Nearctic) and third dam of Danehill (by Danzig), founders of bloodstock dynasties.
Signs Of Blessing was bred by Serge Boucheron, he carries the colours of Isabelle Corbani, and he holds entries in both the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock and the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot. With the current crop of sprinters appearing to lack a standout performer, it is hard to rule out any of its prominent members in the top events, and so it is certainly possible that this gelding could win again at the highest level before his career eventually comes to an end.