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.