(By Avalyn Hunter)
Calling it a trend might be premature, but Australia may be on the verge of reversing the shuttle sire market that for years had the island nation receiving visiting sires from North America and Europe. This year, we were treated to Lonhro being sent to Kentucky, courtesy of Darley. A group I winner from 1,400 to 2,000 meters (about seven to 10 furlongs) with a blistering turn of foot, Lonhro was the Australian Horse of the Year for the 2003-2004 racing season and was crowned the Australia's leading sire in 2011.
Coolmore had already made a top Aussie horse available to European breeders, having shuttled crack sprinter Choisir between Ireland and Australia. Now leading Australian breeder Arrowfield Stud is getting into the act by sending multiple group I winner Redoute's Choice, the highweighted Australian 3-year-old miler of 1999, to the Aga Khan's stud in France. From a breeding point of view Redoute's Choice offers even more impressive credentials than does Lonhro, having earned Australian sire championships in 2006 and 2010.
Redoute's Choice and Choisir are actually treading a familiar path as they are a son and grandson, respectively, of Danehill, who came to Coolmore Ireland and broke the stranglehold of Sadler's Wells at the top of the European sire list in 2003 after earning nine sire championships in Australia. (He would earn three more sire championships in Europe posthumously.) But both offer an outcross to European breeding through the distaff sides of their pedigrees, which offer top Australian strains not easily found elsewhere in Europe.
As a male-line descendant of Sir Gaylord's son Sir Ivor (whose male line has flourished in Australasia as it has nowhere else in the world) from a New Zealand-based female family, Lonhro is far more exotic in the American market than Redoute's Choice and Choisir are to Europeans. But therein, perhaps, lies the opportunity. Other than a cross of Mr. Prospector at his third generation, Lonhro is free of the predominant strains in North American breeding, making him a potential vehicle for the international outcross beloved by Claiborne Farm's legendary Bull Hancock. (Lonhro himself is a tribute to Hancock's legacy as he carries strains of six Claiborne-based stallions in the first five generations of his pedigree: Not only did Sir Ivor and Mr. Prospector stand at Claiborne, but so did the Argentine champion Forli, who appears in the fourth generation of Lonhro's pedigree; Nasrullah and his son Bold Ruler, along with Round Table, appear in the fifth generation.)
Unfamiliar pedigrees have generally gotten a jaundiced eye in America during the last several decades, but the time may be ripe for an infusion of new blood. We will have a better idea when The Jockey Club's annual report of mares bred comes out as to whether American breeders have been willing to take a chance on Lonhro and the opportunity he represents.