If you are used to the steady diet of six to nine furlongs fed by racing on the principal surface (dirt) in U.S., the Royal Ascot meeting serves as a refreshing reminder of the diverse fair that thoroughbred racing can offer. On day one, we had the King’s Stand Stakes (gr. I) over five furlongs, and on Thursday, the highlight was the Ascot Gold Cup (gr. I), which is contested over 2½ miles.
This renewal was a perfect riposte to those who would contend that long-distance races are boring, with four horses across the course at the quarter pole, and the eventual winner, Leading Light, getting home by a neck and a head from last year’s heroine, Estimate, and the game seven-year-old mare, Missunited.
Leading Light – who also won last year’s St. Leger – is a son of the late Montjeu, the first truly outsanding European stallion son of Sadler’s Wells (with apologies to Barathea). Leading Light’s dam, Dance Parade, won the Queen Mary Stakes (gr. II) over five furlongs at Royal Ascot, and went on to take four more group/graded events, including the Buena Vista Handicap (gr. II). Dance Parade is by Gone West, so Leading Light is bred on the same cross as Epsom Derby (gr. I) winner, Motivator, also the sire of Treve. Dance Parade is half-sister to Ocean Queen, a filly who defeated colts in the Bay Meadows Derby (gr. III), and who is granddam of this year’s Sunland Derby (gr. III) captor, Chitu. Out of Irish River’s Italian stakes winning daughter, River Jig, Dance Parade is also half-sister to the dam of the Prix de la Foret (gr. I) captor, Toylsome. Leading light’s fifth dam, Monarchy, is a stakes winning sister to Round Table, and his third dam is a three-quarters sister to State, ancestress of such as Pulpit, Tale of the Cat and Johannesburg.
Leading Light’s victory completed a good day for Montjeu, as one race earlier, his daughter Bracelet, a stable companion to Leading Leading, took the Ribblesdale Stakes (gr. I) over 12 furlongs for three-year-old fillies. Bracelet is out of the group placed Green Desert mare, Cherry Hinton, and is a sister to Wading, who took the Rockfel Stakes (gr. II) at two. The second dam is the famed Urban Sea, which means that Cherry Hinton is a three-quarters sister to Sea The Stars, and half-sister to Galileo (by Bracelet’s grandsire, Sadler’s Wells). Consequently Bracelet has a similar background to this year’s Epsom Derby (gr. I) winner, Australia (by Galileo out of a mare by a son of Green Desert), and to his Oaks (gr. I) winning counterpart, Taghrooda (Sea The Stars out of a mare by Sadler’s Wells). With all these Sadler’s Wells/Danzig combinations, one wonders what the next step at stud would be for Bracelet: we’d love to see Dubawi, but that’s probably not on the agenda.
There was more of a familiar cross with Sadler’s Wells in the Tercentenary Stakes (gr. III) at 10 furlongs for three-year-olds. This saw a third straight victory in four starts for the progressive Cannock Chase, who 1½ lengths to spare over Mutakayyef (Sea The Stars) at the line. A brother to Pisco Sour, who won the same race a few years back, Cannock Chase is by Lemon Drop Kid (Kingmambo) out of a mare by Horse Chestnut (Fort Wood), so bred on an extension of the Kingmambo/Sadler’s Wells cross. The dam is half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Lord Admiral (by another Sadler’s Wells line horse, El Prado). The second dam, Lady Ilsley (Trempolino) was black-type placed in France, and is a sister to graded stakes placed Najecam, in turn the dam of Champion U.S. Two-Year-Old Action This Day. The fourth dam, Bitty Girl, was Champion Two-Year-Old Filly of 1973 in England, the year in which she won the Queen Mary Stakes (gr. II) at Royal Ascot. She is ancestress of numerous good horses, including the young sire, Bodemeister, winner of the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
The day had kicked off with the Norfolk Stakes (gr. III) for two-year-olds over five furlongs, which went to Baitha Alga. He is from the first crop of Fast Company, who made only three lifetime starts, all at three, winning two, including the Acomb Stakes (gr. III) and finishing second to New Approach in the Dewhurst Stakes (gr. II). Fast Company is a son of Danehill Dancer, who is having quite an impact at the moment as sire of Mastercraftsman (last year’s leading freshman sire, this year’s leading second season sire) and grandsire of Starspangledbanner (two 2014 Royal Ascot group winners with his first crop of two-year-olds).
Baitha Alga is out of the Fantastic Light mare, Taawaafur, which makes him one of 12 stakes winners bred on a Danehill Dancer/Blushing Groom cross, and one of three out of a Rahy line mare. Tawaafur is closely related to two other stakes winners out her dam, the Danzig mare, Mahasin, the others being the Bowling Green Stakes (gr. II) victor Elhayq (by Nashwan) and the Minstrel Stakes (gr. III) scorer Shibl (by Arazi). The third dam, Icing, won the Ascot Fillies Mile (gr. II), and produced four stakes winner, including the Futurity Stakes (gr. I) winner, Al Hareb. She is ancestress of several other good winners, among them Myboycharlie, Champion French Two-Year-Old Colt of 2007, and The Galaxy (gr. I) hero, Snowland.