Kildangan Stud's Shamardal (by Giant's Causeway) is just five away from reaching his 100th individual stakes winner, a landmark that few stallions ever achieve. The dual classic star is only 14 years old, his huge tally includes 17 who have won at least once at the highest level somewhere in the world, and it looks entirely possible that his four-year-old daughter Usherette may join that select group by the end of the season.
Godolphin's filly was bred by Darley, she is trained by Andre Fabre and she was unraced as a juvenile. She made a winning debut on the artificial track at Chantilly in late March of her three-year-old season, followed-up over a mile on turf at the same venue but then beat only one home behind Amazing Maria in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild over the same trip at Deauville several weeks later.
She was not seen out again until March 2016, a gap of seven months, but she justified favouritism in a conditions race over seven and a half furlongs on the polytrack at Deauville, followed-up over seven at Chantilly a month later, also on polytrack, and then headed to Newmarket for only her third start on turf.
Her eye-catching defeat of Arabian Queen in the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes over nine furlongs at that venue led to her being sent off favourite for the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes over the mile at Royal Ascot this afternoon, and she won that in style by two and a quarter lengths. She holds an entry in next month's Group 1 Tattersalls 250th Year Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket.
Should she fulfill her promise and win at the highest level then, in addition to joining her sire's string of Group 1 stars, she will also be the latest on a long list of horses in the first few generations of her pedigree who have won or been placed at that grade.
Usherette is the first foal out of Monday Show (by Maria's Mon), a four-times winner in France who earned her blacktype when finishing third in a listed contest in Germany. Her full-sister Show Day, who is trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, has won a nine-furlong maiden and a mile apprentices' race this season, their two-year-old half-brother has been named Powderhouse, and the mare had a Cape Cross (by Green Desert) colt last year.
Monday Show is out of the Group 3 Prix Penelope winner La Sylphide (by Barathea) and that makes her both a half-sister to pattern-placed Vaasa (by Dalakhani) and a full-sister to Expansion. He won the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap over 11 furlongs on turf at Aqueduct and the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap over a quarter-mile less, and the races in which he was placed included the Grade 1 Man O'War Stakes and the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap, both at Belmont Park.
La Sylphide, who was born in Switzerland, is one of six blacktype horses out of Vanishing Prairie (by Alysheba), a mare who won her only two starts for the Michael Grassick stable and by a total of eight lengths. They were a 10-furlong Leopardstown maiden followed by a conditions race over 12 and a half furlongs at Down Royal.
Vanishing Cupid (by Galileo) and Windy King (by Hurricane Run) won listed contests in France, Verdi (by Llandaff) was stakes-placed over a mile, and Purple Moon (by Galileo), who won the Listed Glorious Stakes at Goodwood, was a half-length runner-up in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup, short-headed in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase, and finished third in both the Group 1 Gold Cup at Ascot and the Group 1 Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba.
The remaining member of the sextet is Vespone (by Llandaff) who won the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat and Group 3 Prix La Force, and was runner-up in both the Group 1 Prix Ganay and Group 1 Premio Presidente della Republica.
Vanishing Prairie's progeny include several other successful runners, one of whom is Verzasca (by Sadler's Wells), a one-time scorer in France and dam of the listed race winners Val D'Hiver (by Zafeen) and Vertana (by Sinndar). That pair got their top prize over nine furlongs and 12 furlongs respectively.
The fourth dam of Usherette is the unraced Venise (by Nureyev) and that makes Vanishing Prairie a half-sister to four horses of note.
Vetheuil (by Riverman) won the Group 2 Prix du Muguet and three listed races, he was runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois and third in the Prix d'Ispahan. His unraced half-sister Viking's Cove (by Miswaki) is the dam of the French listed scorer Precious Bunny (by Peintre Celebre), who is inbred 2x3 to Nureyev (by Northern Dancer), while another unraced sibling, Vallee Des Reves (by Kingmambo), is the dam of Group 1 Coronation Stakes winner and Group 1 1000 Guineas runner-up Maids Causeway (by Giant's Causeway).
Most notable of Venise's offspring, however, is Verveine (by Lear Fan). She won the Group 2 Prix de l'Opera and Group 3 Prix du Calvados, she was third in the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks), Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary and Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, and her seven blacktype progeny feature two who have won at the highest level.
Volga (by Caerleon) won seven times from two to five years of age, with her best success coming in the Grade 1 E P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in Canada, and the standout performance among five wins for Vallee Enchantee (by Peintre Celebre) came in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. Volga's full-sister Victory Cry won the Group 3 Grand Prix de Vichy, and the gelded Vesuve (by Green Tune) is a pattern-placed stakes winner. Verveine's two-year-old is a filly named Vila Nova (by Silver Frost).
There is more than enough in these first four generations of the family to show how well-bred Usherette is and the tremendous potential that she has both as a racehorse and as a future broodmare. But, as with many top pedigrees, there is plenty more of note further back, a host of major names that won't appear on the catalogue page of any of her immediate relations or future progeny. They are too far removed from her to be having any direct influence, but are of sufficiently high profile that to ignore their presence would be to leave out an important part of her family's history.
Venise was out of Virunga (by Sodium) who won the Group 3 Prix de Mallaret, was runner-up in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks and in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary, and finished third in the Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks). Only half of her 10 foals became winners, but one of those was the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois victor Vin De France (by Foolish Pleasure), another was the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes scorer Vacarme (by Lyphard), and a third one of note was Vosges (by Youth).
She earned her blacktype when taking third place in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp, her daughter Victoire Bleue (by Legend Of France) won the Group 1 Prix du Cadran, her classic-placed grandson Vertical Speed (by Bering) won the Group 2 Prix Hubert de Chaudenay and Group 3 Prix du Lys, and her great-granddaughter Volume (by Mount Nelson) won a listed race at Newbury before finishing third behind Taghrooda in the Group 1 Oaks at Epsom and a closer third to Bracelet in the Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh.
Virunga's unraced daughter Vahine (by Alysheba) is the dam of Group 2 Prix Hubert de Chaudenay winner and successful young French National Hunt sire Vendangeur (by Galileo), and another of her unraced daughters is Valley Of Hope (by Riverman), a mare from whom several notable performers descend.
That mare's daughter Sister Bella (by Sadler's Wells) was third behind runaway winner Ramruma in the Group 1 Irish Oaks and is a full-sister to Nicola Bella, a minor winner who became a broodmare of note.
Nicola Bella is the dam of the 10-furlong Group 1 scorer and Gestut Hof Ittlingen stallion Neatico (by Medicean), whose first foals arrived this year. She is also responsible for the Grade 2 winner Beautyandthebeast (by Machiavellian) and of Persian Belle (by Machiavellian), the unraced dam of Group 1-placed dual pattern scorer Calvados Blues (by Lando) and of the recent Group 2 Prix de Sandringham heroine Volta (by Siyouni).
Usherette and Volta share a common ancestor – Virunga – but their actual relationship to each other is remote. Each is a filly of considerable potential and it will be fascinating to see how their race records ultimately compare, and to follow their eventual careers at stud.