The 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) was supposed to lie between the undefeated Invincible Spirit colt, Kingman, and Aiden O’Brien’s highly-touted Australia, winner of the last two of his three juvenile starts, the last of which came in the form of a six lengths win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes (gr. III).
In the event, there was very little between the pair, who raced on opposite sides of the course as the field split, Kingman getting the better of the duel by neck. However, the embattled duo hit the line a ½ length behind 40-1 interloper Night Of Thunder, who had been beaten 4½ lengths by Kingman in the Greenham Stakes (gr. III) three weeks earlier, and who scored here despite a swerve (which may actually have carried him to some faster ground) inside the last furlong. There is a good shot that the first two will renew their rivalry in either the Irish 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) and/or the St. James’s Palace Stakes (gr. I). Australia, who performed extremely creditably for a horse with fairly stout breeding – he’s by Galileo out of the great mare Ouija Board – will take all the stopping at Epsom where he will bid to become (if memory serves us well) the first Epsom Derby (gr. I) winner sired by an Epsom Derby winner out of an Epsom Oaks (gr. I) winner.
Night of Thunder is by Dubawi, the most significant individual sired by the short-lived Dubai World Cup (gr. I) victor, Dubai Millennium (by Seeking the Gold). Dubawi, who took the National Stakes (gr. I) and Superlative Stakes (gr. III) as a juvenile, added the Irish 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) and Prix Jacques Le Marois (gr. I) over a mile at three, but failed to quite stay the trip in the Epsom Derby, finishing third to Motivator. Dubawi has gone on to rapidly establish himself as a world-class sire, with 54 stakes winners from 492 first crop foals, and 415 starters, from his first five Northern Hemisphere crops. Eleven of his black-type earners are grade one winners, and they include an earlier 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) victor in Makfi; Poet’s Voice, who took the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (gr. I) over the same trip; Dubai World Cup (gr. I) scorer Monterosso; last year’s three-time English group one winner Al Kazeem; and Hong Kong star Luck or Design/Lucky Nine.
Although his dam is a stakes placed daughter of Galileo, earning black-type with a third in the listed Flame of Tara Stakes, this is not an overly prepossessing female line, and in fact Night of Thunder is the first black-type winner to appear under the first four dams. The second dam, Quiet Storm (by the Green Desert horse, Desert Prince) did run second in the Upavon Stakes and third in the Pipalong Stakes, and although her dam, Hertford Castle ran unplaced in three starts, she was by Epsom Derby (gr. I) winner, Reference Point (by Mill Reef) out of Paul Mellon’s excellent little filly, Forest Flower, a Champion at two, and heroine of the Irish 1,000 Guineas (gr. I) three. Forest Flower’s dam, Nijinsky II’s daughter Leap Lively, was a group winner who ran third in the Epsom Oaks. The family goes back to the 1900 mare Donnetta, a top-class sprinter who is ancestress of two other English 2,000 Guineas winners in Diaphon and Rockavon.
Night of Thunder is TrueNicks rated A on the basis of the cross of Dubawi over mares by Sadler’s Wells, his sons and grandsons, which has so far produced 10 stakes winners, nine group/graded, and three group/grade one, from 68 starters. The sire line of the second dam, Green Desert, has also been a major positive influence for Dubawi, as he is in the dams nine of Dubawi’s stakes winners – including the group/grade one scorers Night of Thunder, Makfi and Lucky Nine – despite appearing in only 45 of his starters. We can also note that Night of Thunder’s paternal grandsire, Dubai Millennium, is a Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer cross, where Night of Thunder’s broodmare sire, Galileo, is a Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector cross, with the respective Northern Dancer through the three-quarters relatives Seeking the Gold and Miswaki.
In the 1,000 Guineas, aptly-named French invader Miss France, narrowly got the better of home defenders Lightning Thunder and Ihtimal. In doing so, she became an overdue first classic winner for her sire, Dansili, who had 16 other group or grade one winners before getting one to join this elite club.
One of five top-class performers by Danehill out of the famed broodmare Hasili, Dansili was the only one of the quintet to not to win a group or grade one event. Despite that he was rated Champion Older Miler in Europe at four, when he captured the Prix du Muguet (gr. II) and Prix Edmond Blanc (gr. III), and took second in the Sussex Stakes (gr. I) and Prix de la Foret (gr.I) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I). He’d also won the Prix Messidor (gr. III), and been three times group one placed the previous year, including when second in the French 2,000 Guineas (gr. I).
At stud, Dansili, who is now 18-years-old, has made a steady climb to the top echelon of European sires, and from his first ten Northern Hemisphere sired crops has 87 stakes winners, 55 group or graded. Although his sons including the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (gr. I) victor Harbinger, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (gr. I) hero Rail Link, was well as two-time Australian grade one scorer Foreteller, at the highest level his daughters, who in addition to Miss France including Proviso, The Fugue, Laughing and Dank, out-represent them 12 to six.
Miss France was foaled when her dam, the Tirol mare, Miss Tahiti was 18-years-old. Miss Tahiti, who was highweighted filly in France at two, after winning the Prix Marcel Boussac (gr. I), was a classic performer in her own right, numbering a second in the French Oaks (gr. I) among her trio of group one placings. The most notable of her previous runners was Sadler’s Wells’ daughter, Mer de Corail, a listed winner and group placed in France, who subsequently produced the English stakes winner Alsace Lorraine. Another of Miss Tahiti’s daughters, Miss Hawai, is dam of Beach Bunny, a High Chaparral listed scorer who was also very unlucky not to win the Pretty Polly Stakes (gr. I), and of Robinson Cruso, a Champion Sprinter in Hungary and Slovakia.
Miss Tahiti is half-sister to the dam of the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. I) captress England’s Legend (by Lure, like Dansili, a Danzig line horse), but that apart, there is no other black-type under either Miss Tahiti’s dam, Mini Luthe, or her granddam, Minifer. The family does have French classic roots, however, as Miss France’s fourth dam, the listed winning Valmarena, is out of Vieille Demeure, a black-type winner who is half-sister to Vieux Manoir, who took the Grand Prix de Paris, as subsequently became Champion Sire in France, and to and to Vieille Pierre, the dam of Hermieres, a French Oaks winner who produced a French Derby (gr. I) winner in the shape of Crystal Palace.
Miss France is TrueNicks rated A++ on the basis of the Danehill/Tirol cross that has produced five stakes winners and a total of eight stakes horses from only 40 starters. Danehill has also done well with mares from the sire line of Tirol’s sire, Thatching (by Thatch, a brother to Special, the dam of Nureyev, and granddam of Sadler’s Wells and Fairy King) in general, but Miss France is actually the starter for Dansili out of a mare carrying Thatching. The pedigree is an outcross at five generations, other than having His Majesty via Danehill, and that horse’s brother, Graustark, via Jim French (sire of the third dam of Miss France).
Unlike it’s English equivalent, the French 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) went pretty much to form, the favorite, Karakontie, scoring by a neck from Orpen’s son, Prestige Vendome. This was the third victory in his last four starts for Karakontie (whose lifetime record is four wins in six starts). He’d been beaten a neck in the Prix de Fontainebleu (gr. III), by last year’s Champion French Two-Year-Old Ectot (who skipped this one) on his seasonal debut, but had ended last year with a win in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere-Grand Criterium (gr. I).
Karakontie is a Japanese-foaled son of the deceased Storm Cat horse, Bernstein. A $925,000 weanling purchase, Bernstein was sent to Ireland to be trained by Aiden O’Brien. He captured his first two starts – a maiden event and the Railway Stakes (gr. III), both over six furlongs – in effortless fashion, and at that stage the superlatives were flying freely. He was compared favorably with King of Kings, O’Brien’s Champion Two-Year-Old and 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) winner of a couple of years earlier, and O’Brien called him “very special” mentioning that “it’s a big problem to get horses to lead him even cantering.” Michael Tabor, joint-owner of both Bernstein and Fasliyev – who ultimate reigned as that season’s undefeated Champion Two-Year-Old – was unhesitating in saying that he preferred Bernstein as his 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) prospect. Bernstein was to start only one more time that year. For the one mile National Stakes (gr. I), he was sent off as 4/11 favorite, but on very soft ground, could do no better than finish a tired fifth behind Sinndar. Perhaps the hard race, which came ten weeks after his previous start, left its mark on Bernstein, for he never subsequently threatened to attain the level of performance that he had once seemed capable of achieving. He debuted at three in the 2,000 Guineas (gr. I), but finished twenty-sixth of twenty-seven runners, more than 40 lengths behind the winner King’s Best. Off the course for over two months, Bernstein returned to capture a six furlongs condition race at Ascot by a neck. Brought back to five furlongs, and equipped for the first time with a visor, Bernstein next challenged for the Nunthorpe Stakes (gr. I), but was never able to go the pace, finishing eleventh of thirteen. Bernstein did return to winning form in the Concorde Stakes (gr. III), finishing well to get home a head to the good of the four-year-old Cobourg Lodge. After this effort, the Breeders’ Cup was initially mentioned as Bernstein’s next goal, but when he did appear stateside, it was in the River City Handicap (gr. III). Here, he finished fifth to another ex-European runner, Brahms, appearing not to get stay the nine furlong trip.
As a stallion, Bernstein suffered from inconsistency in size and quality of his books (he had only 113 foals in his first three crops) in the Northern Hemisphere. Still, he showed himself to be at least useful, with 39 stakes winners, 15 group or graded, and Karakontie being joined at the highest level by the Garden City Stakes (gr. I) victress, Miss World, and Dream Empress, who took the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I). Of course, Bernstein was also a sensation in Argentina with his shuttle crops, getting 43 stakes winners, 31 of them graded, and 15 grade one.
Karakontie’s family is no stranger to Guineas success. His third dam, the great mare Miesque, won both the English and French filly versions of that race, as well as eight other group/grade one events, two renewals of the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) among them. Miesque’s offspring included a French 2,000 Guineas winner in Kingmambo (who is in the dams of five Bernstein stakes winners), and a French 1,000 Guineas (and Oaks) heroine in East of the Moon. Karakontie’s second dam, Moon Is Up, a daughter of Woodman (and a three-quarters sister to Kingmambo) was a listed winning and group placed performer in France. Her only stakes winner, Amanee (by Pivotal), raced in South Africa where she captured the Thekwini Stakes (gr. I) and KRA Fillies Guineas (gr. II). Karakontie’s dam, Sun Is Up, a daughter of Sunday Silence, is also dam of Bottega, a Mineshaft colt who was a listed winner in France, and of U.S. black-type winner Sunday Sunrise (by Kingmambo’s son, Lemon Drop Kid and so inbred to this family).
Karakontie (TrueNicks A++) follows Tale of Ekati as the second group/grade one winner from 17 starters by Storm Cat and his sons out of Sunday Silence mares. Bernstein has also shown an affinity for Sunday’s Silence’s sire, Halo, through Southern Halo, with seven stakes winners on that cross, five of them grade one. The reverse cross, Sunday Silence/Storm Cat, already has a French Guineas winner to it’s name, Japanese-born Beauty Parlor (by Deep Impact out of a Giant’s Causeway mare) winning the filly version in 2012. The cross Sunday Silence/Storm Cat cross has also already provided Deep Impact with Japan Derby (gr. I) victor Kizuna, and Ayusan, who took the Japanese 1,000 Guineas (gr. I), and is out of a mare bred on an identical Storm Cat/Affirmed cross to Bernstein.
There have been a number of French stallions that either on the basis of pedigree or racetrack performance didn’t exactly shape as top commercial prospects when they retired to stud, but have proved to be smart or better stallions. To examples such as Linamix, Chichicastenango, Muhtathir and Kendargent, we might soon be adding the name of Le Havre, who is represented by the French 1,000 Guineas (gr. I) victress Avenir Certain with his first crop of three-year-olds.
There was nothing too much to knock about Le Havre’s race-record. He won four of six starts, and on his last two outings finished second in the French 2,000 Guineas and the scored a decisive victory in the French Derby. Le Havre’s pedigree was less-imposing. His sire, Noverre, a Rahy three-quarters brother to the brilliant juvenile Arazi, was a good two-year-old and miler, winning the Sussex Stakes (gr.I) and Champagne Stakes (gr. II), but made a generally disappointing start, and was exported from Ireland to India, where he died young. Le Havre’s dam, Marie Rheinberg is by the relatively rarely seen Surako, a group three winner who also finished second in the German Derby (gr. I), and who was by one great German sire, Konigsstuhl, out of a half-sister to another, Surumu. On a brighter tack, we can note that Marie Rheinberg was half-sister to Polar Falcon, the sire of Pivotal.
Avenir Certain’s dam, Puggy (by Mark of Esteem) was group placed in England and Scandinavia. She is out of Jakarta, a Machiavellian, mare who is half-sister to Blue Monday (by Mark of Esteem’s sire, Darshaan), a talented middle-distance runner who won four group three events in England and France, and was also three time group one placed at around a ten furlongs. Blue Monday’s brother, Lundy’s Lane, never won a black-type event, but was third in the Italian Derby (gr. I). The third dam, Lunda, is half-sister to several smart runners, including Warrsan, who took two renewals of the Coronation Cup (gr. I); Italian Derby (gr. I) winner Luso; Needle Gun, a multiple group winner who was second in the Italian Derby (gr. I); and Cloud Castle, who won the Nell Gwyn Stakes (gr. III) and who was second in the Prix Vermeille (gr. I).
Le Havre’s connections supported him extensively, and it appears that their confidence is being repaid, as the young sire already has three stakes winners in his first crop, as well as two other stakes placed horses. Le Havre’s own pedigree is very much an outcross one, as far as Avenir Certain’s pedigree is concerned he may have benefitted from a mare who gives some closer inbreeding as we find the three-quarters sister and brother Danseur Fabuleux (dam of Noverre) and Ajdal (broodmare sire of Mark of Esteem) 3 x 4 in the pedigree, and in both cases combined with linebreeding to Halo. This doesn’t appear to be an accident, as one of his stakes placed runners, Suedois, is out of a mare by Rahy’s half-brother Singspiel, with a second dam by Mark of Esteem (and he also has a stakes winner out of a mare by Singspiel’s sire, In the Wings).