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Turtle Bowl: The New French Stallion Star

At the end of 2011, the French-based sire Turtle Bowl drew some attention to himself when his son French Fifteen took the Criterium International (gr. I) to propel Turtle Bowl to a position as leading freshman sire and leading sire of 2-year-olds in France. Promising as that start was, it is the events of the last two weekends that have made it clear that Turtle Bowl is a new French stallion star.

After opening his season with a win in the Prix Djebel (gr. III), French Fifteen went down by just a neck to the favored Camelot in the English 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) on May 5, and on the most recent weekend, another son of Turtle Bowl, Lucayan, captured the French 2,000 Guineas equivalent, the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (gr. I, video below). With two classic-standard group I-winning colts in a first crop of only 43 foals, which was conceived at a very modest fee, it’s clear that Turtle Bowl is a stallion worthy of some serious attention.

So, who is Turtle Bowl? Well for a start, he seems to conform to something of a recent trend in France, that of throwing up good sires with relatively unfashionable pedigrees, other examples that come to mind including Linamix (by Mendez), Muhtathir (by Elmaamul), and Chichicastenango (by Smadoun). In the case of Turtle Bowl, he is a son of Dyhim Diamond. If that name doesn’t ring too many bells, we won’t be shocked. A sprinter who won group III events in France and Germany, Dyhim Diamond initially stood in France, before moving on to Spain, where he died at the age of 18. Actually, despite attracting small books – he sired less than 90 foals in his first five French crops – Dyhim Diamond did have some merit as a sire, as he was responsible for Turtle Bowl and another group I winner in the Prix du Cadran (gr. I) victor Bannaby, as well as Milanais, who was narrowly beaten in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (gr. I).

A brother to the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I) victress Creaking Board, Dyhim Diamond was by the Northern Dancer stallion Night Shift out of Happy Landing, by Homing (a son of Habitat). Night Shift won only a maiden event at Monmouth Park in seven outings, but he was a not only a son of Northern Dancer, but also a brother to Fanfreluche, the best distaff runner and most important broodmare sired by the great Canadian patriarch. In the mid-1980s those credentials were plenty good enough to earn a place at stud in England, and although he began his career at a relatively low stud fee, Night Shift became an extremely successful sire, with nearly 90 stakes winners, nine of them group or grade I winners, including champions Azamour (himself a successful young sire), In the Groove, and Daryaba.

Like Montjeu, the sire of French Fifteen’s Newmarket nemesis, Camelot, Turtle Bowl is out of a mare by Top Ville, a French Derby (gr. I) winner and very good broodmare sire. His dam, Clara Bow, also produced Turtle Bow, a multiple group winner in France and runner-up in the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. I), and Age of Aquarius, winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial (gr. III) and runner-up in the Ascot Gold Cup (gr. I) and Grand Prix de Paris (gr. I). The granddam, Kamiya, comes from a well-know Aga Khan family which has also produced French Oaks (gr. I) heroine Caerlina (out of a three-parts-sister to the dam of Turtle Bowl) and other group I winners Kartajana and Khariyda.

Turtle Bowl himself was a tough, consistent runner best at a mile. He did win the Prix Jean Prat (gr. I) at 3 – although against a somewhat sub-standard field for a group I – but probably ran the race of his life when going down by a pair of heads to Ramonti and Jeremy in the Queen Anne Stakes (gr. I) at Royal Ascot as a 5-year-old.

Rather intriguingly, Turtle Bowl’s two group I winners have notable pedigree similarities. French Fifteen is out of a mare by Ashkalani (by Soviet Star, by Nureyev, and a parallel Northern Dancer/Habitat cross to Dyhim Diamond, the sire of Turtle Bowl). Ashkalani offers some reinforcement of the pedigree of Turtle Bowl’s granddam, as his sire is out of a mare by Venture (sire of the third dam of Turtle Bowl) and his granddam is a half sister to Zeddaan (whose son Kalamoun is sire of Turtle Bowl’s granddam). Actually, Kalamoun is by Zeddaan out of a mare by Prince Bio, where Ashkalani’s granddam is by a son of Prince Bio out of the dam of Zeddaan. This is another Aga Khan family, going back through the great mare Petite Etoile to the late Aga Khan’s foundation mare, Mumtaz Mahal.

Lucayan is out of a mare by Grand Lodge, another Northern Dancer/Habitat cross, and his second dam is by Soviet Star, who we’ve just met as grandsire of the dam of French Fifteen. So both group I winners have broodmare sires bred on the Northern Dancer/Habitat cross, and both have Soviet Star. Lucayan’s third dam is by L’Emigrant, a son of the The Minstrel (and inbred to Northern Dancer’s granddam, Almahmoud). The Minstrel is bred on very similar lines to Night Shift, and Night Shift sired group I winner Night Style with a second dam by The Minstrel. Lucayan’s granddam is also bred on similar lines to the great mare Miesque, as she’s by a son of Miesque’s sire, Nureyev, out of half sister to Miesque.

European breeders are likely to be taking a far more serious look at Turtle Bowl when planning the matings for 2013, and there certainly appear to be plenty of options. It’s firmly established that Night Shift does well with Danzig, the great-grandsire of the dam of Lucayan, and you can expect the Green Desert (another Northern Dancer/Sir Gaylord cross) branch to do well here. The Danehill branch is also worth thinking about, with Holy Roman Emperor (granddam Fanfreluche, the sister to Night Shift) intriguing. Turtle Bowl’s dam worked under Sadler’s Wells (through Galileo) and Fairy King, and of course Turtle Bowl has already scored over their three-parts-brother Nureyev. The Nijinsky II (three-parts-brother to The Minstrel) and Storm Bird (especially Bluebird) branches of Northern Dancer should also be effective. From the Mr. Prospector line, brothers Zafonic and Zamindar are out of a mare by The Minstrel. Mill Reef influenced mares should suit (actually the Nasrullah/Princequillo influence in general, which also includes Riverman), and from other branches of Nasrullah, both Blushing Groom and Grey Sovereign (either Caro, who is in French Fifteen, or doubling up the Zeddaan/Kalamoun influence) are also likely to be positive.

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