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Royal Ascot Day 5: Black Day

The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (gr. I) was probably the most eagerly awaited contest of the Royal meet, as it featured Australian wonder-mare Black Caviar, officially rated the world's number one sprinter, trying to extend her undefeated record to 22.

Starting for the first time outside her native land, Black Caviar started at 1-6 to defeat her 13 opponents. She looked set for a workmanlike victory when she hit the front with just over a furlong to run, but around 50 yards out, jockey Luke Nolan dropped his hands, seemingly unaware of the on-rushing Moonlight Cloud and Restiadargent. In the last few strides Nolan realized his error, and Black Caviar found just enough to scramble home by a head. Black Caviar did not seem to be moving particularly well as she trotted back to the winners circle, and it transpired that she had sustained some soft tissue damage to the quadriceps muscle, and the day after the race was somewhat sore behind. Nolan, having sensed his partner was not 100%, was doing his best to ease her home, but with the mare not being at her best and the Ascot six furlongs being a stiff uphill, she lost momentum much more quickly than he anticipated.

We took an in depth look at the pedigree of Black Caviar a few months back, but we'll briefly recap. Her sire, Bel Esprit (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO) (by Royal Academy), is very probably the best stallion in the world today from Nijinsky II's branch of Northern Dancer. He was a multiple graded winner of five of his six starts at 2, and at 3 won the Doomben Ten Thousand (gr. I), and earned a rating as the top 3-year-old in Australia in the 1400-1800m category.

Black Caviar's dam, Helsinge, is a daughter of Desert Sun, a stallion who staked his claim to fame as the sire of Sunline (who is actually a reverse Nijinsky II/Desert Sun cross to Black Caviar). Helsinge was unraced due to an injury suffered shortly after her purchase as a yearling, but was an A$300,000 sales purchase, one of the most expensive ever for her sire. Desert Sun is by the Danzig stallion Green Desert, so Helsinge is bred on similar lines to her half brothers Magnus (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO) and Wilander (both from the Danehill branch of the Danzig line). Magnus, a son of Flying Spur (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO), captured The Galaxy (gr. I) and Linlithgow Stakes (gr. II), while Wilander took the Schillaci Stakes (gr. II) and Blue Diamond Prelude (gr. II).

The second dam of Black Caviar, Scandinavia, was a very fast daughter of Snippets, her credits including the QTC Cup (gr. II) and Blue Diamond Preview (gr. III), as well as seconds in the Victoria Racing Club Stakes (gr. I) and Goodwood Handicap (gr. I), and thirds in the Lightning Stakes (gr. I) and Newmarket Handicap (gr. I). Scandinavia is out of the unraced Vain mare Song of Norway, whose 11 winning progeny also include the stakes winners Russian Tea Room, Midnight Sun, and Frosty the Snowman. Scandinavia and Song of Norway were somewhat appropriately-named, as Song of Norway was out of Love Song, a Danish-born daughter of the Sovereign Path horse Warpath, who captured the 1979 renewal of the Danish Oaks (gr. I).

Turning to Bel Esprit's pedigree pattern, the most obvious factor is a 3x4 cross of Bel Esprit's broodmare sire, Vain, a brilliant Australian sprinter who is duplicated in at least four of Bel Esprit's stakes winners, including another group I winner, Bel Mer. Bel Esprit's dam is a reverse Vain/Silly Season cross to Black Caviar's granddam, Scandinavia.

At the other end of the distance scale, the 12-furlong Hardwicke Stakes (gr. II) went to last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) second, Sea Moon (TrueNicks A+). He is by the Sadler's Wells horse Beat Hollow, a winner of four group or grade I's, three of them in the U.S., and a member of the same family as the tremendously successful European sire Oasis Dream. The dam, Eva Luna, was highweighted older long distance mares in Europe, and she is also dam of the St. Leger (gr. I) victor Brian Boru and stakes winner Kitty O'Shea—two more of the 12 stakes winners from 83 starters for the Sadler's Wells line out of mares by Alleged—as well as their sister, Soviet Moon, dam of the English Derby (gr. I) and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (gr. I) scorer Workforce. The second dam, the Star Appeal mare Media Luna, never won a black-type race but was second in the English Oaks (gr. I) and is granddam of Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Flute.

It appears that Europe has a rising stallion star in the Galileo horse New Approach (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO). He has three first crop winners to date, and all three triumphed at Royal Ascot, with Dawn Approach taking the Coventry Stakes (gr. II), Newfangled capturing the Albany Stakes (gr. III), and on the final day, Tha'ir, scoring in the Chesham Stakes. The start is all the more impressive, since although New Approach was a champion at 2—when his successes included the National Stakes (gr. I) and Dewhurst Stakes (gr. I), both at seven furlongs—he stayed well enough to win an English Derby (gr. I).

Out of the Green Desert mare Flashing Green, Tha'Ir is a half sister to Flashing Colour, a listed winner in Germany. The second dam, Colorsnap, was unraced but produced a trio of stakes winners, including champion Italian 2-year-old filly Croeso Cariad, and Mona Lisa, who also took third in the Irish Oaks (gr. I). The third dam, Reprocolor, won a pair of group III races, but has been much more important as a broodmare. Her offspring included Cezanne, winner of the Irish Champion Stakes (gr. I) and Colorspin, successful in the Irish Oaks (gr. I), and she's ancestress of a slew of other stakes winners, including King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (gr. I) winner Opera House and two-time Ascot Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Kayf Tara (both by Tha'ir's grandsire Sadler's Wells), as well as group I winners Necklace, Zafisio, and Lyric of Light, as well as this year's German 2,000 Guineas captor, Caspar Netscher.

Tha'ir is the product of the Galileo/Green Desert cross that has produced two stakes winners, including group I winner Was, from 11 starters. Like Sadler's Wells, Green Desert combines Northern Dancer with a son of the mare Lalun (Bold Reason for Sadler's Wells, Never Bend for Green Desert). Since Tha'ir's second dam is by Shirley Heights, she actually has a double of Never Bend. As a footnote, we should also mention the runner-up here, Cruck Realta, is from the first crop of Galileo's St. Leger (gr. I) winner Sixties Icon, who had no less than four in this race.

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