In-depth Analysis

By Andrew Caulfield and Claire Curry

Surely not even Prince Khalid Abdulla can have imagined the impact that His Majesty’s daughter Razyana would have on his breeding operation. Bought for $350,000 as a yearling in 1982, Razyana unfortunately failed to fulfil the considerable promise of her second of 26 at Newmarket on her only juvenile appearance, but her place among the Juddmonte broodmare team was safe, as she was a grand-daughter of one of the most famous mares of modern times - Northern Dancer’s dam Natalma.

Bred to Danzig in her first season in 1985, Razyana got off to a spectacular start by producing Danehill, who was to come close to matching Northern Dancer’s extraordinary achievements as a stallion. Danehill revolutionised the Australian thoroughbred industry, becoming champion sire eight times in the ten years between 1995/6 and 2004/5, to be succeeded by his sons Redoute’s Choice and Flying Spur. And Danehill rose to similar heights in the northern hemisphere, despite having been priced as low as IR9,000gns in his fourth and fifth seasons. Among his achievements were six titles as champion sire of two-year-olds (in 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005) and, after being runner-up no fewer than five times to Sadler’s Wells on the general sires’ list, he finally dethroned the perennial champion sire to achieve a hat-trick of championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Danehill was also champion sire in France in 2001 and 2007.

As in Australia, where Danehill has been replaced as champion sire by his sons Redoute’s Choice and Flying Spur, it also looks as though Danehill is going to be succeeded by his European sons. His son Danehill Dancer took the sires’ championship in 2009 and it was Dansili who became champion sire in France in 2006, when he also gained the first of his two titles as Britain’s champion sire of all-weather horses.

The important thing to remember about Dansili’s emergence as a potential successor to his exceptional sire is that – like Danehill – he has made his name with horses sired at comparatively modest fees. He stood his first season at £8,000, his second at £10,000 and his next four at £12,500. Even so, he has eight Gr.1 winners – Rail Link, Harbinger, Zambezi Sun, Price Tag, Proviso and Passage of Time – in these crops and also has three Gr.1 winners from his first higher-priced crop.

Dansili had only around 60 two-year-olds in 2007, from that often difficult fourth year, but this crop produced a high percentage of juvenile winners, including the Group winners Proviso and Sense of Joy. This crop produced 13 per cent stakes winners, another top performer being the wonderfully consistent Famous Name, who failed by only a head to snatch victory when badly drawn  in the Gr.1 Prix du Jockey-Club.

Dansili’s fifth crop has also produced numerous top performers in Harbinger, Strawberrydaiquiri, Shaweel, Delegator, Zacinto, Bewitched and Father Time. A succession of top-class winners from later crops, including Emulous, Zoffany, Fallen For You, The Fugue, Dank, Winsili, Flintshire, Laughing and Giofra has firmly established Dansili as one of the best stallions in the world.

Thanks to the considerable success enjoyed by Dansili’s progeny on the racecourse and in the sales ring, his fee – like Danehill’s before him – has risen considerably. Fortunately for breeders, they also have the option of using Dansili’s highly talented son Rail Link, who represents the third generation of this remarkable male line to be bred by Juddmonte.

Rail Link’s arrival followed the death of another of Juddmonte’s Arc winners, Rainbow Quest, who established himself as Britain’s most prolific sire of Group winners. With his combination of impressive conformation, championship performance and a pedigree full of outstanding stallions, Rail Link is ideally qualified to step into Rainbow Quest’s shoes.

When Nelson Bunker Hunt’s huge racing empire was dispersed in the depressed days of 1988, one of the mares on offer at Keeneland was the truly exceptional Dahlia. Although she had just turned 18 and was barren, this brilliant daughter of Vaguely Noble and Charming Alibi drew a bid of $1,100,000 from Allen Paulson, her price reflecting her outstanding achievements both on the track and as a producer.

Tough enough to race 48 times from two to six, Dahlia had been talented enough to win ten Gr.1 races during a dazzling international career. In Ireland she won the Oaks; in England she scored consecutive victories in both the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup; in France she took the Prix Saint-Alary and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud; and in North America she was triumphant in the Washington D.C International, Man o’War Stakes and the Hollywood Invitational Handicap.

Anyone who expected Dahlia’s five years of hard labour on the racecourse to compromise her broodmare career was in for a shock. Although not covered until she was seven, Dahlia produced 13 live foals, the last at the age of 26. She became one of the most successful broodmares of the modern era, achieving a magnificent total of six Group/Graded winners, including Bunker Hunt’s Gr.1 scorers Dahar, Rivlia and Delegant. Dahlia’s 1988 yearling filly by Northern Dancer, which drew a bid of $1,300,000 from Sheikh Mohammed, became a Gr.2 winner under the name of Wajd and Wajd later produced the Gr.1 St Leger hero Nedawi, now a successful sire in Brazil. Allen Paulson also did well out of his purchase of the elderly Dahlia, as her first two foals for her new owner were the Gr.1-winning Dahlia’s Dreamer and the Gr.2 winner Llandaff.

This family continues to come up with the goods and Rite of Passage, winner of the 2010 Gold Cup, is a great-grandson of Dahlia. Dahlia’s close relative Golden Alibi (by Vaguely Noble’s Derby-winning son Empery out of the stakes-winning Charming Alibi, a veteran of 71 races) has also played a leading role in maintaining the family fortunes. Golden Alibi is the third dam of two fairly recent Gr.1 winners in France. The first, Linda’s Lad, took the 2005 Criterium de Saint-Cloud and the second, Rail Link, was victorious in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Arc in the process of proving himself Europe’s champion middle-distance performer of 2006. Another good winner from this family was Diamond White, the 1999 Prix de l’Opera winner who showed she had inherited all of Charming Alibi’s toughness by racing more than 60 times. The most recent Group winner from this family, the 2011 Prix des Chenes winner Vizir Bere, is out of a grand-daughter of Golden Alibi.

Golden Alibi’s successes justify her yearling price of $1,100,000 in 1979. Although Golden Alibi proved to be an irregular producer, she did leave a sizeable legacy in the shape of her Riverman filly Dockage. A very useful Listed winner over 9 furlongs in France, Dockage was very closely related to Dahlia’s Riverman colt Rivlia, a Gr.1 winner on turf from 1¼ miles to 1¾ miles in California.

Dockage started her broodmare career in fine style, her first three foals being Rail Link’s dam Docklands, the Gr.3 July Stakes winner Wharf and Linda’s Lad’s dam Colza.

Docklands shared the same sire, Theatrical, as Dahlia’s Gr.1-winning daughter Dahlia’s Dreamer. A winner three times over a mile and twice over a mile and a quarter, Docklands proved very effective as a broodmare, the daughter of Theatrical now being the dam of eight winners, and five of them were good enough to contest Group events. Her 2004 Zamindar colt, Crossharbour, became her third Group winner when he took the Gr.2 Prix du Conseil de Paris in 2008 and the Gr.3 Prix Gontaut-Biron in 2009, while a visit to Grand Lodge had resulted in her smart son Chelsea Manor, winner of the Gr.3 La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte over 1¼ miles at three and third twice at Gr.1 level at four. In 2013, her Oasis Dream colt Mainsail won the Prix Bertrand du Breuil Gr.3 at Chantilly.

Rail Link played a leading role in Dansili becoming champion sire in France in 2006. After losing his rider on his debut, Rail Link won the last five of his six completed outings to share the title of best horse in Europe with George Washington on the 2006 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings. Timeform rated him 132, which places him among the very best colts from the Danehill line.

Rail Link reeled off four successive Group victories and a striking aspect of his success is the number of past and future Group 1 winners he accounted for. In the Prix du Lys Gr.3 he easily defeated the subsequent Group 1 winners Sudan and Prince Flori; in the Grand Prix de Paris Gr.1, he won by two lengths, chased home by the future Group 1 winners Red Rocks, Sudan and Grand Couturier; and in the Prix Niel Gr.2 he defeated the subsequent Group 1 winners Youmzain (who was to fail so narrowly to defeat Dylan Thomas in the 2007 Arc) and Sudan. Then, in the Arc, he showed the type of acceleration people have come to expect of Dansili’s best progeny, to score from Pride, the Japanese superstar Deep Impact and Hurricane Run. The second and third immediately franked the form by jointly going on to Group 1 successes in the Champion Stakes, Hong Kong Cup, Japan Cup and Arima Kinen.

Philip Mitchell, general manager of Juddmonte Farms, said:

“We are delighted to be standing Rail Link, as there’s every reason to hope that he can fill the void left by Rainbow Quest. Besides being a champion son of a champion sire, he’s an excellent physical specimen. He’s a strong, powerful, really good-looking colt, with the correct conformation breeders are looking for. He also has a great attitude.”

Although Rail Link didn’t race until he was three, he succeeded in siring eight two-year-old winners when his first crop raced in 2011, including the Gr.3 winner Bugie d’Amore. This laid the foundation for a rewarding time with his first three-year-olds in 2012.

As three-year-olds the crop really came into its own. Last Train came within a head of winning the Grand Prix de Paris Gr.1; the Listed winner Wild Wolf was just caught on the line in the Italian Derby; and Sediciosa was a good winner of the Prix de Royaumont Gr.3 before only finding an older male too strong in the Prix du Conseil de Paris Gr.2.

There was more blacktype success for Rail Link’s progeny in 2013. Last Train (Timeform 115) won the Prix de Barbeville Gr.3 at Longchamp; Destruct (Timeform 109p) won the Listed Prix Michel Houyvet (beating subsequent Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner London Bridge); Trip To Rhodos annexed the Listed Langer Hamburger; Spillway (Timeform 112) was third in the Gordon Stakes Gr.3 at Goodwood; Wild Wolf was runner up in the Gran Premio di Milano Gr.1.

Several of Rail Link’s two-year-old’s shaped with promise last year – with Nottingham maiden winner Cambridge (90p), Longchamp runner-up Delivery (92p) and the Lady Cecil-trained Fair Share looking to be good prospects for the coming season. Lightly-raced four-year-old Brass Ring (103p) also looks to be a horse to follow.