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Magnificent Milers Highlight Royal Ascot

The first day of the Royal Ascot meeting featured five stakes events, four group, and three group I. The highlights were the Queen Anne Stakes (gr. I) for older horses on the straight mile, and the St. James’s Palace Stakes (gr. I) – which our colleague Bill Oppenheim has appropriately called the “European 2,000 Guineas” – for three-year-olds on the round course.

The Queen Anne Stakes, which opened the meeting, was by common consent one of the most eagerly awaited events of the whole Royal Ascot program. It featured super-mare Goldikova, against an in-form multiple group I winner Paco Boy – successful in the this race last year – and Ballydoyle’s Rip Van Winkle, successful last year in Sussex Stakes (gr. I) and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (gr. I), a task the commentators were suggesting was her sternest yet. Goldikova was always travelling well in a fast-run race, and after Rip Van Winkle had briefly hit the front, she quickened clear of the field to hold a two lengths lead with a furlong to run. The excitement wasn’t over, however, as Paco Boy closed strongly from the rear. Although the gap had closed to a neck at the line, the mare was always holding her rival, and the time was little more than a half second outside the course record.

We admit to being biased, but with nine group I victories to her name, six against colts, in three different countries, and at five different racecourses, we suspect Goldikova has done enough to enshrine herself among the great performers of the modern era.

We’ve covered the pedigree of Goldikova in detail before. She comes from a female line that has been developed by the Wertheimer family for around 50 years. The third dam, Gold River (by Riverman), was another magnificent mare to carry the Wertheimer colors, winning the Prix du Cadran (gr. I), Prix Royal-Oak (gr. I), and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (gr. I). The granddam, Riviere d’Or (by Lyphard), captured the Prix Saint-Alary (gr. I), and in addition to Goldikova’s dam, Born Gold (by Blushing Groom), also produced Born Gold’s sister Gold Splash (winner of the Coronation Stakes (gr. I) at Royal Ascot). In addition to Goldikova, Born Gold is dam of group winners Gold Sound and Gold Round, the latter dam of the promising Goldwaki (by Dalakhani), winner at the weekend of the Prix du Lys (gr. III).

Goldikova is one of four stakes winners sired by Anabaa out of Blushing Groom line mares, but it has taken 56 starters to achieve that, and each of the four stakes winners is out of a mare that is a Blushing Groom/Lyphard cross (Goldikova and group II winner Plumania) or out of a mare by Groom Dancer, himself a Blushing Groom/Lyphard cross (group I winner Rouvres and group winner Marshall).

Canford Cliffs won the last year’s Coventry Stakes (gr. II) over six furlongs at the Royal meet like a coming superstar. Despite successive defeats – albeit it creditable ones – in the Prix Morny (gr. I), Greenham Stakes (gr. III), and 2,000 Guineas (gr. I), Canford Cliffs’s connections never wavered in their belief in the three-year-old’s class and ability to get a mile. That faith was rewarded in the Irish 2,000 Guineas (gr. I), when Canford Cliffs relaxed in the early stages before powering home for a three lengths triumph.

In the St. James’s Palace (gr. I), his opponents included stable-companion Dick Turpin (who had finished in front of Canford Cliffs in the Greenham Stakes and 2,000 Guineas, and also taken second in the French 2,000 Guineas (gr. I); undefeated 2,000 Guineas winner Makfi; last year’s Dewhurst Stakes (gr. I) victor Beethoven and his highly-rated stable-companion Steinbeck; last year’s Prix Marcel Boussac (gr. I) captor Siyouni; and U.S. grade I winner Noble’s Promise. Held up towards the rear, Canford Cliffs produced a tremendous turn of foot to beat Dick Turpin by a length.

Canford Cliffs stems from a uniquely Irish branch of a U.S. male line. His grandsire, the handsome Taufan, was an English two-year-old group II winner by Stop the Music out of Stolen Date, a half sister to Best in Show. Canford Cliffs’s sire Tagula, the best son of Taufan, won the Prix Morny (gr. I) and July Stakes (gr. III) at two, and the Supreme Stakes (gr. III) at three, as well as earning thirds in the Dewhurst Stakes (gr. I) and French 2,000 Guineas (gr. I). He’s been a useful sire in Ireland, but Canford Cliffs is only his third group winner, and first group I winner. If memory serves correctly, Canford Cliffs is also the first European classic winner from the Stop the Music branch of the Hail to Reason line.

Canford Cliffs is out of Mrs. Marsh, by the solid Irish sire, Marju (by Last Tycoon), and a half sister to minor U.S. stakes winner Pina Colada. The second dam, Drei, is by Lyphard out of the Raise a Cup mare Triple Tipple, a listed winner and group-placed in Europe, and two-time graded winner in the U.S.

Canford Cliffs is the product of a cross that’s had limited opportunities, but his pedigree is not without interest. He has the mare Stolen Hour 3 x 7, and she is combined with Buckpasser (dam Busanda a three-parts-sister to Mr. Busher, the sire of Stolen Hour). Canford Cliffs’s grandsire, Taufan, has Buckpasser’s sire Tom Fool close up with Stolen Hour. Overall, we can find Stolen Hour together with Buckpasser in at least 76 stakes winners, 13 grade I, including Empire Maker (TrueNicks,SRO), Redoute’s Choice, Rags to Riches, Grey Swallow, and Peeping Fawn. We can also mention another 2010 classic winner, this weekend’s Queensland Derby (gr. I) winner, Dariana, who has Stolen Hour and Buckpasser in both sides of her pedigree, through her sire, Redoute’s Choice, and through Try My Best (sire of Dariana’s broodmare sire, Last Tycoon).

Try My Best also appeared in the pedigree of the King’s Stand Stakes (gr. I) winner Equiano. He had made history in 2008 as a three-year-old when taking this five-furlong contest and in the process become the first Spanish-trained horse to win at Royal Ascot. Following a wind operation, and now trained in England, Equiano is clearly back to his best. He stumbled at the start, but was quickly at the head of affairs, and never really looked like being beaten.

Equiano is the second group I winner from the first crop of Acclamation, the Leading English Freshman Sire of 2007. A smart sprinter, Acclamation is by European Champion Two-Year-Old Royal Applause, by the good miler Waajib, who in turn is a son of Try My Best. He sired five stakes winners in his first crop, and one in his second, but who will next year have the first runners from better mares who visited him after his bright start. Equiano, who will be at stud in England next year, is out of the Ela-Mana-Mou mare Etente Cordiale. Equiano’s fourth dam, Aladancer, is a good stakes-winning daughter of Northern Dancer, and also ancestress of Canadian Champion Marchfield, grade I winner Devil May Care, Regal Ransom, Minister Eric, and Pico Teneriffe. This is a branch of a family that goes back to Alablue, also ancestress of Boldnesian; Cryptoclearance; and Cryptoclearance’s son Ride the Rails, the sire of Candy Ride (ARG) (TrueNicks,SRO).

The day also featured a pair of juvenile contests. The Coventry Stakes (gr. II) over six furlongs saw Strong Suit produce a storming late run to get up on the line and deny Elzaam (a son of Redoute’s Choice conceived in Australia to Northern Hemisphere time), with longtime leader Roayh (by Speightstown (TrueNicks,SRO)) in third.

Strong Suit (rated TrueNicks A prior to his win) is by Rahy, who has done well with his European two-year-olds, out of Helwa by Silver Hawk (by Roberto). The dam is a sister to European listed winner Silver Colours, and to Japanese graded winner God of Chance (by Cozzene). The granddam, Team Colors, is by Mr. Prospector out of Private Colors (sister to the great mare Personal Ensign).

The Windsor Castle Stakes, for two-year-olds over five furlongs went to Marine Commando (TrueNicks A). A son of the group I-winning sprinter Pastoral Pursuits, Marine Commando comes from a purely European sire line that goes back to Hyperion via Pastoral Pursuits-Bahamian Bounty-Cadeaux Genereux-Young Generation-Balidar-Will Somers and Tudor Minstrel. He’s from his sire’s second crop and out of a mare by Marju (whose sire, Last Tycoon seems to be everywhere at the moment). There’s no black type in the first two dams, but the third dam, Lyphard’s Lady, produced U.S. graded scorer Lord Sreva and is granddam of Mimi LeBrock, winner of two graded events and the Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic in Australia.

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