Chichicastenango's Never Bend Affinity

A few weeks ago, when looking at the emerging French second year sire Turtle Bowl, we noted that he conformed to something of a recent trend in France, the appearance of a number of good sires with relatively unfashionable pedigrees, other examples that come to mind including Linamix (by Mendez), Muhtathir (by Elmaamul), and Chichicastenango (by Smadoun).

The last named of those, Chichicastenango, was exported from France to Japan in 2009, and died in that country in January last year following complications from colic surgery. A gray, from the Caro branch of the Grey Sovereign/Nasrullah line--represented in the U.S. by sires such as Cozzene, In Excess, and Indian Charlie--Chichicastenango was by Smadoun, who started 63 times over five years, and was a prolific scorer in provincial black-type company, winning nine stakes events. Smadoun tackled group company on only three occasions, his best effort being a third in the Prix Andre Baboin (gr. III). At stud Smadoun sired two other stakes winners, including the group scorer Miss Salvador. Smadoun's sire, Kaldoun (by Caro), scored his only black-type win in the Prix des Reves d'Or at Vichy, but was a good sire getting over 50 stakes winners, including group I winners La Koumia, Mercalle, Occupandiste, See You Soon, and Spadoun. Smala the dam of Chichicastenango, is by the Northern Dancer horse Antheus with a second dam by Fabulous Dancer, so inbred 2x3 to Northern Dancer, and she also has the brother and sister Sir Gaylord and Swansea (Chichicastenango's fifth dam) 3x5.

Despite his relatively unprepossessing (at least from a commercial standpoint) pedigree, Chichicastenango was a very respectable racehorse, winning the Prix Thomas Bryon (gr. III) at 2, and at 3 taking the Prix Lupin (gr. I) and Grand Prix de Paris (gr. I) and finishing second in the Prix du Jockey-Club (gr. I). He sired a pair of group winners, Chinandega and Chichi Creasy in his first crop, and Vision d'Etat--whose group I triumphs included the French Derby, Prince of Wales's Stakes, Prix Ganay, and Hong Kong Cup--and group winner Blek in his second crop. From his fourth crop came stakes winner Roche Ambeau; group winner Bubble Chic and stakes winner Sulle Orme were members his fifth crop; and from his sixth crop is Saonois, who at the weekend upset a frantic renewal of the French Derby (video below).

Saonois is out of Saonoise (by Homme de Loi, by the Alleged horse Law Society). He is the only stakes winner under the his first three dams, but the fourth dam, Scalene, was a listed winner in France and is the dam of the Grand Prix de Vichy (gr. III) winner Sarepta. Going back to the tenth dam, we come to Hallebarde, third dam of the 1947 French Derby winner Good Lucky, and Irish Oaks heroine and great tap-root mare Djebellica.

Saonois is the only stakes winner by a Chichicastenango out of a mare from the Alleged line, but things get more interesting when we come to Garde Royal, the sire of the second dam of Saonois. A son of Mill Reef, from the family of Grey Dawn II and Green Dancer, Garde Royal is also broodmare sire of Chichicastenango's first French Derby winner, Vision d'Etat, and of his group winner Chichi Creasy (those two from only six starters on the direct cross). Mill Reef is also in the dam of another group winner by Chichicastenango, Chinandega.

Mill Reef's sire Never Bend also seems to work, as he's doubled in the mare Exande, who is dam of both Bleck and Roche Ambeau. Strangely, both the Never Bend strains in Exande have ties to Garde Royale, the horse with an almost alchemical impact on Chichicastenango. Exande is by Exit to Nowhere, a grandson of Riverman who is a Never Bend son bred on very similar lines to Garde Royale's sire, Mill Reef (Riverman's broodmare sire is three-quarters related to the dam of Mill Reef). Her second dam is by the Northern Dancer horse Pink, who is out of the mare Pink Valley. She is by Never Bend out of Green Valley, a granddaughter of the mare Ampola, where Garde Royale is by a son of Never Bend out a great-granddaughter of Ampola.

Never Bend though Mill Reef or Riverman appears in six of the eight stakes winners sired by Chichicastenango, and Garde Royale or the similarly-bred Pink Valley in five. As far as the first four generations of Chichicastenango's offspring are concerned, Mill Reef or Riverman appear in 31 starters, of which five are stakes winners (16%) and three of them group winners. Of the Chichicastenango stakes winners without Never Bend, Bubble Chic is out of a mare by Grand Lodge (who combines Northern Dancer and Sir Gaylord, where Chichicastenango's dam has Northern Dancer combined with Sir Gaylord, and with his sister Swansea), and Sulle Orme from a daughter of Double Bed (by Be My Guest). Overall, one has to wonder whether Chichicastenango would have turned out to be anywhere near as effective of a stallion had he not met Never Bend-influenced mares. And it's certainly something that yearling and weanling buyers in Japan should keep in mind when they are looking at his remaining offspring.

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