In-depth Analysis

By Andrew Caulfield and Claire Curry

When Champs Elysees swooped late in the Gr.1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes in 2008, he became an appropriate winner of a race named in honour of his legendary great grandsire. His male line encapsulates many of the virtues which have enabled the Northern Dancer male line to exert such a profound influence on the modern thoroughbred.

Northern Dancer himself collected four Anglo-Irish sires’ championships, plus another in North America, and Champs Elysees’ grandsire, the remarkable Danzig, twice headed the North American list. Danzig remains a major force in the European industry, thanks in no small measure to Champs Elysees’ sire Danehill. It was Danehill – a horse inbred 3 x 3 to Northern Dancer’s dam Natalma - who ended Sadler’s Wells’ 13-year reign as champion sire. He recorded three consecutive sires’ championships in Britain and Ireland, to add to the eight he collected in Australia and the three he earned in France. And that’s not the end of Champs Elysees’ connections to champion sires, as his brother Dansili was France’s champion sire in 2006 and has also been champion all-weather sire on two occasions.

Danehill’s death at the age of 17 in 2003 means that Champs Elysees is one of the last Gr.1-winning sons of this exceptional stallion to become available to breeders. Danehill’s reputation as an outstanding sire of sires has ensured that Champs Elysees has been strongly supported since his arrival at Banstead Manor Stud.

The number of Danehill stallions which have sired Gr.1 winners in Europe already stands well into double figures; one of the latest to reach this landmark being Champs Elysees’ brother Cacique, whose small first crop contained Mutual Trust (Gr.1 Prix Jean Prat), Dominant (Gr.1 Hong Kong Vase), Census (Gr.3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes) and the smart colt Slumber.

 

Of course Danehill’s considerable influence also extends to Australia. The last of his numerous sires’ championships came in the 2004/5 season, since when two of his sons, Redoute’s Choice and Flying Spur, have also secured the championship. These two, along with Fastnet Rock, rank among the most successful of Danehill’s southern hemisphere sons, which include around 30 sires of Gr.1 winners. Combine the two hemispheres and there is good reason to think that Danehill’s dynasty is destined to become the world’s most prolific source of high-class turf performers, especially when three of his most accomplished middle-distance sons.

As an admirably tough performer whose finishing speed brought him three Gr.1 victories, Champs Elysees has plenty to offer in his own right and his potential is firmly underlined by Dansili’s achievements.

After getting three Group/Graded winners in a first crop sired at £8,000, Dansili hit the jackpot with his second crop, sired at £10,000. This 2003 crop produced 11 individual stakes winners, over most distances from five furlongs to 13 furlongs. The outstanding Rail Link led the way, with the Grand Prix de Paris and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe among his sequence of five victories, and Price Tag also enjoyed Gr.1 success in the Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park, having earlier been controversially demoted from first in the French 1,000 Guineas.

Although Dansili’s third crop was smaller, it has made a similar impact. This crop has produced five Group winners, comprising the Grand Prix de Paris winner Zambezi Sun, the American Gr.2 winner Diamond Diva and three Group-winning two-year-olds in Passage of Time (Gr.1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud), Strategic Prince (Gr.2 July Stakes and Gr.2 Vintage Stakes) and Thousand Words (Gr.3 Somerville Tattersall Stakes). 

Dansili’s ability to sire two-year-old winners was also underlined by his 2005 crop. Although this numbered only 61 foals, it produced 18 juvenile winners and two of them, Proviso and Sense of Joy, became Group winners. Famous Name, another of the juvenile winners from this crop, trained on so well that he went very close to winning the Prix du Jockey-Club from a bad draw and Proviso became a four-time Gr.1 winner in the USA as a five-year-old. Famous Name and Proviso are perfect examples of the talent and toughness possessed by many of Dansili’s progeny.

Two-year-old winners continued to flow from Dansili’s fifth crop, led by the Gimcrack winner Shaweel. Two of these juvenile winners, Delegator and Zacinto, trained on into high-class milers and another, Father Time, developed into a very smart middle-distance performer. However, the star of this 2006 crop proved to be Harbinger, a sensational winner of the 2010 King George who earned a Timeform rating of 140. That smart mare Strawberrydaiquiri won the Gr.2 Windsor Forest Stakes to take this crop’s total of Group winners to six. This crop helped boost Dansili’s total of Group winners from his first five crops to 23, which equated to an impressive five per cent of the foals in these crops.

The success story has continued apace. Another eight Group winners emerged from Dansili’s 2007 crop, headed by the Gr.1 winners Emulous and Foreteller, and the following year’s crop has seven Group winners to its credit, including the Gr.1-winning two-year-old Zoffany, dual Gr.1 winner Laughing and the Falmouth Stakes Gr.1 winner Giofra. Dansili’s 2009 crop has provided further evidence of Dansili’s ability to sire high-class two-year-olds, as it features Requinto, Fire Lily and Entifaadha, as well as the Gr.1 winning fillies Fallen For You, Dank and The Fugue. Another eight Group winners have been produced from the 2010 crop to date, including Gr.1 winners Flintshire and Winsili. With Flintshire, along with the likes of Riposte, Remote and Big Break staying in training, further success for this crop seems assured. Classic prospect Miss France has already emerged from the 2011 crop.

The wide range of Dansili’s success suggests that Champs Elysees too will be able to sire everything from Group-winning two-year-olds to high-class middle-distance horses. After all, Champs Elysees is by a stallion who secured the title of champion sire of two-year-olds as many as six times in Britain and Ireland, as well as six times in Australia. 

In addition to pedigree and performance, Champs Elysees is also an imposing physical specimen. Always highly rated by the Juddmonte managers as a youngster, Champs Elysees impressed on the score of his strength, powerful quarters, balance, athleticism and temperament. Lord Grimthorpe’s report on him in the July of his two-year-old season read “robust, strong, handsome colt, very much in the Danehill mould.” If that likeness to Danehill extends to Champs Elysees’ stallion career, he is a safe bet to follow closely in the footsteps of his older brothers Dansili and Cacique.

Champs Elysees’ female line is an impressive blend of speed and stamina. His dam Hasili was an admirably tough and versatile performer who was sufficiently precocious to make a winning debut over five furlongs on May 3 of her two-year-old season. Hasili went on to add further juvenile victories over 6, 8 and 8.2 furlongs, including a Listed race. Her speed was also evident when she was runner-up in further Listed races over 7 furlongs and a mile at three, when she took her total of career starts to 17.

The source of Hasili’s speed and precocity was almost certainly her second dam Sookera, winner of the Cheveley Park Stakes during a distinguished juvenile career. However, there was also plenty of stamina in Hasili’s pedigree, as she was by the Derby-winning Kahyasi, her dam Keralii was by High Line and Sookera was by another Derby winner in Roberto. It was therefore no surprise when another mating between Kahyasi and Kerali produced a different type of filly in Arrive. Although this sister to Hasili shone at up to 1¾ miles, the speed shown by her female line is emerging in her progeny. A visit to Oasis Dream resulted in Visit, a Group winner over 6 and 7 furlongs, and her top class Danehill filly Promising Lead – a sister in blood to Champs Elysees – won from 7 furlongs to a mile and a quarter.

It is a similar story with Champs Elysees’ four brothers and sisters, Dansili, Banks Hill, Intercontinental and Cacique. All four were Group winners over a mile and all bar Dansili went on to Gr.1 success over a mile and a quarter or more. The versatility of this family is highlighted by the record of Champs Elysees’ three-parts-sister Heat Haze, a Graded winner from 6½ to 9½ furlongs, and his Storm Cat half-sister Deluxe, who won blacktype from 8 to 10½ furlongs.

For further details of Champs Elysees’ female line, see the notes on Dansili.

“He’s probably one of the most talented horses I’ve ever seen,” was the tribute paid by jockey Garrett Gomez after Champs Elysees had stormed through from the rear to end his 28-race career with a tremendous victory in the Canadian International Stakes Gr.1. To put that comment into perspective, Gomez secured the highly prestigious jockeys’ Eclipse Award in 2007 and 2008, these awards reflecting his achievement of winning six Breeders’ Cup events during those two years.

Champs Elysees’ Canadian International victory was a fitting climax to two years of determined effort in North America, during which he won four Graded stakes and finished second or third in another eight. Three of his victories were gained at the highest level – in the Hollywood Turf Cup, the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes and the Canadian Interantional - and he was arguably unlucky not to have won more. Because of his late-closing style, Champs Elysees sometimes ran into traffic problems as he tried to close on the leaders on the tight North American tracks. A fine example came when he tried to repeat his 2008 Northern Dancer Turf victory. He had to be checked sharply to avoid being brought down by a veering rival, just as he was making excellent progress. He then demonstrated his courage by rallying to snatch fourth behind the subsequently demoted Marsh Side.

Champs Elysees’ first American victory came in the hands of Gomez in the San Marcos Stakes Gr.2 over a mile and a quarter on turf. “He’s a true professional” was Gomez’s post-race assessment. Gomez was again in the saddle when Champs Elysees finished strongly to take the 2008 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes, but it was Jose Valdivia jr who took the ride in the Hollywood Turf Cup. Second in this race a year earlier after a troubled trip on his American debut, the son of Danehill made no mistake this time. With the firm ground allowing him full use of his acceleration, Champs Elysees quickened through a gap to become the fifth Gr.1 winner from the first six foals out of the astonishing Hasili.

Champs Elysees also demonstrated his versatility with some solid efforts on Santa Anita’s all-weather track. He collected $120,000 for finishing third of 14 in the 2008 Santa Anita Handicap over a mile and a quarter and then did even better in the 2009 edition, when a length second of 13 to the multiple Grade 1 winner Einstein.

Champs Elysees also had a record of consistent improvement during his time in training with Andre Fabre in France.

Lord Grimthorpe reported in early-summer, 2005, that Champs Elysees “looks more precocious than his siblings.” Unfortunately a bout of coughing in the summer denied Champs Elysees his chance to confirm his precocity, but he recovered to show plenty of promise in two end-of-year appearances. He wasted no time in confirming that promise on his three-year-old debut, when he quickened in style to win over 8½ furlongs at Longchamp. That victory encouraged his trainer to run him in the Prix du Jockey-Club, in which he was beaten less than six lengths, and Champs Elysees completed his three-year-old season with second place in the Prix Daphnis Gr.3 over 9 furlongs and a narrow defeat in the Prix du Prince d’Orange Gr.3 over 1¼ miles, beaten by Best Name, who was to finish fourth in the Arc on his next appearance.

Champs Elysees took the Prix d’Hedouville Gr.3 on his reappearance at four and continued to make steady progress at Group level before being transferred to the States, where the faster ground enabled him to make more use of his finishing speed.

Champs Elysees has got off to a highly promising start with his first crop of two-year-olds. There were 13 individual winners in 2013 and 60% of his runners either won or were placed.

The main flagbearers were the Listed winner and Group placed Avenue Gabriel, and the French filly Xcellence, who was beaten just a short head in a Group 3. Other interesting prospects include the impressive maiden winners Elysian Prince (80p), Fray (80p), Regardez (89p) and Field Of Fame (85p), as well as the unexposed winners Trip To Paris (97p) and Lustrous (91p). This success was mirrored in the sales ring, with yearlings making up to 170,000gns and his foals selling for an average of £46,000 (conceived off a £7,500 fee).

Champs Elysees has 155 horses to run for him in 2014 – and with a full book of mares to cover in 2014 – the future looks extremely bright for this beautifully-bred stallion.