Juddmonte Farms

A PHENOMENAL ACHIEVEMENT

Article by Tony Morris

Tony Morris will contribute monthly features to www.juddmonte.com. If you have a query relating to historic events, horses or racing personalities, or want his view on any aspect of Flat racing and breeding, past or present (with the exception of advice on matings), write to tony.morris@mail.com with your request.

The usual focus of this monthly feature is to highlight a subject chosen by you, the visitors to this website, but this one represents an exception to the rule.  I make no apology for paying tribute to the home team, which at the end of May celebrated the phenomenal achievement of having bred its 100th Group 1/Grade 1 winner.  

And no, I don’t mean that when Noble Mission notched his victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on the Curragh he was recording the 100th top-level success for a Juddmonte-bred.  The century he brought up, much more remarkably, was for individual winners.  The number of victories in that elite category is actually far higher, and if the calculations of one who got seven per cent in ‘O’ Level Maths in 1958 – and still struggles with figures – are to be credited, the tally stands at 182.  My best guess for when Juddmonte’s double century of wins will be chalked up would be 2018, but it might well come sooner, such is the regularity with which star performers have been coming along.  

Little did I, or anyone else, envisage what would follow when I sat in the press box at Keeneland in July 1978 and watched Humphrey Cottrill sign the docket for a $225,000 In Reality yearling who would go into training at Beckhampton with Jeremy Tree under the name of Known Fact.  It was the start of a venture that has delivered world-wide success at an unprecedented level, consistently dominating its competitors.  Who is to compare?  Yes, the Aga Khan has bred winners of more than 100 Group 1/Grade 1 races, but he had a 25-year-old headstart over Khalid Abdullah and he remains some way short of a century of individual winners in that bracket.

Under 15 months after the purchase of Known Fact that colt became a Group 1 winner in the Middle Park Stakes, and it was he who recorded the first classic triumph in the green, white and pink in the 2000 Guineas of 1980, benefiting from the disqualification of Nureyev.  He was also to record a notable victory over the tip-top miler Kris in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which then carried only Group 2 status.  

Another US yearling purchase, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky graduate Dancing Brave, had come and gone, having created a tremendous impression as winner of the 2000 Guineas, Eclipse, King George and Arc, before his owner began to make his mark as a breeder.  Fittingly, it was Known Fact who was responsible for the first to collect at the top level, when Warning, his son out of Oaks runner-up Slightly Dangerous, won the 1988 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, and the same colt notched again later, lowering the colours of Salse in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, by then elevated to Group 1 status.  

The 1986 crop included Danehill, who won the Haydock Sprint Cup and went on to become a multiple champion sire for Coolmore, and in the following year the operation gave notice of its growing impact with the production of four colts and a filly who were all to succeed at the highest level.  Roger Charlton, Jeremy Tree’s successor at Beckhampton, registered a wonderful Derby double, with Quest For Fame at Epsom and Sanglamore at Chantilly, while Houseproud picked up another French classic for André Fabre in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches.  Juddmonte was already flying.  

Another English classic, the St Leger, was secured through Toulon, the pick of the 1988 crop, and 1989 saw the births of three fillies who were to earn renown – Dancing Brave’s sister Jolypha in the Prix de Diane and Vermeille, All At Sea in the Prix du Moulin, and Toussaud in the Gamely Handicap in California.  

The crop foaled in 1990 proved exceptional, with no fewer than nine registering successes in the top bracket.  There was a second home-bred Derby success with Commander in Chief, who promptly added the Irish Derby to initiate a Curragh classic double completed by Wemyss Bight in the Oaks.  The star of the juvenile set was Zafonic, a triple Group 1 scorer in Britain and France who went on to excel again at three with an outstanding performance in the 2000 Guineas.  

Sunshack and Wandesta were both three-time winners from the 1991 crop, the former in Europe, the latter in the States, but a quieter period followed, just two notching in America among the foals of 1992, while the next year’s team drew a blank.  Any idea that the operation might now be on the wane was soon scotched.  Three top-class fillies emerged from the 1994 group, including Reams of Verse, whose Oaks victory provided the first in an English distaff classic, and another juvenile champion, Zafonic’s son Xaar, proved the headline act among those foaled in 1995.  Of the four to score from the 1996 crop, three notched in the States, but the other was Wince, whose victory in the 1000 Guineas meant that Juddmonte now had a full set of home-bred English classic winners.  There was unquestionably one better than that quartet in Dansili, whose efforts at the top level included three seconds, three thirds and a fourth, but his ill-luck has been overturned at stud, where he has become a prolific sire of Group 1 celebrities.  

Of the six to score at the elite level from the 1997 crop, the pick in America was probably Aptitude, by virtue of his successes in the Hollywood Gold Cup and Jockey Club Gold Cup, while the home team was headed by Observatory, who famously halted Giant’s Causeway’s triumphant skein in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.  The second foal of that wonderful matron Hasili was Banks Hill, foaled in 1998, and far from suffering the frustrations of her brother Dansili, she excelled in the highest bracket, collecting wins in three countries, the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Belmont Park, and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.  Her contemporary MIZZEN MAST, whose biggest win came in the Malibu Stakes, has thrived as a sire for Juddmonte at his base in Kentucky.  

Three of the successful half-dozen from the 1999 crop were fillies, Heat Haze (by Green Desert out of Hasili) and Sightseek collecting nine wins between them to make Juddmonte dominant among the older distaff ranks in the States, while in Europe the star was Zenda, heroine of a Poule d’Essai des Pouliches.  Hasili figured among the successful mares again with her 2000 Danehill product Intercontinental, winner of a Matriarch Stakes and a Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but there were three classic scorers in that crop – Nebraska Tornado in the Prix de Diane, Empire Maker in the Belmont Stakes, and Brian Boru in our own St Leger.  In addition, there was crack sprinter OASIS DREAM, hero of a July Cup and a Nunthorpe, and now a flagship sire at Banstead Manor, renowned for much more than mere sprinters.  

American Post, leader of the 2001 generation, added to the tally of classic victories with his win in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, and there was a narrow miss in the St Leger by Quiff, who had preceded her trip to Doncaster with a success in the Yorkshire Oaks.  A lull followed when none of the 2002 crop rose to the top, but among the 2003 foals was RAIL LINK, who brought the big breakthrough for DANSILI as a sire with his triumph in the Arc.  His contemporary Price Tag briefly seemed to have ensured that months earlier, only to be disqualified after finishing first in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, but by the end of her three-year-old campaign she was a legimitate Grade 1 winner, successful in the Matriarch Stakes.  

DANSILI had two more of the leaders in the 2004 crop, Passage of Time landing the Critérium de Saint-Cloud, and Zambezi Sun emulating RAIL LINK in the Juddmonte-sponsored Grand Prix de Paris, and among his foals of 2005 was Proviso, a four-time Grade 1 winner as a five-year-old in the States.  Not to be outdone, that mare’s contemporary, Observatory’s son Twice Over, also hit the target four times, with an Eclipse and a Juddmonte International alongside two scores in the Champion Stakes.  

A great public favourite emerged from the 2006 crop in OASIS DREAM's daughter Midday, who failed by a head to cope with Sariska in the Oaks, but went on to collect six times at the top level, adding the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille to an unprecedented triple in the Nassau Stakes.  The best of her sex from the following generation finished first only once in Group 1 company, taking the Cheveley Park Stakes, but her score was trebled and a classic double secured when Special Duty was awarded the 1000 Guineas and the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches by the stewards at Newmarket and Longchamp respectively.  Prestige victories came more conventionally for her contemporary Workforce, hero of a Derby run in record time before notching a first success in the Arc for Sir Michael Stoute after several near-misses.  

There had been stars a-plenty before, but in 2008 came the megastar – the magnificent, unbeaten, unbeatable FRANKEL.  In a career master-minded by the incomparable and much lamented Sir Henry Cecil, he was a champion for three consecutive seasons, won fourteen times, at the top level in ten of them.  He earned so many accolades, not least as the highest-rated horse in Timeform’s history, while adding another certainty to the long-cited duo of death and taxes; we will never see one better.  

While FRANKEL thrived at two, three and four, his year-younger brother Noble Mission has waited until five to achieve peak performance, aided by a change in tactics.  There may yet be more to come from him, perhaps a Group 1 in England, where his generation has so far missed out.  DANSILI came to the fore again as sire of two of the stars from the 2010 crop, Flintshire taking the honours in the Grand Prix de Paris, Winsili exceeding expectations to capture the Nassau Stakes and earn a date with FRANKEL in her first season as a broodmare.  

In the unlikely event that you have failed to notice, the generation foaled in 2011 has uncovered the best since FRANKEL in Kingman, an undoubted star among the three-year-olds after his victories in the Irish 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes, and surely destined to confirm his class in open-age contests in the months to come.  In common with so many of Juddmonte’s stars over a long period, he exemplifies the continuity of quality in the operation’s families, being a son of Zenda, herself a mile classic heroine in her racing days.  

Tony Morris has been writing about racing and breeding for over 50 years, contributing to numerous publications at home and abroad. He is the author or co-author of several books, was named Racing Journalist of the Year in 1990, and in 2010 received the TBA's highest award, the Devonshire Bronze, for his 'outstanding contribution to the British breeding industry. He has travelled widely, attending race meetings and bloodstock sales in various countries, and has been privileged to see many of the best horses and meet many of the most prominent personalities in the industry over the last half-century. 

Date: 3 July 2014