With the National Hunt season drawing to a close and the Punchestown Festival still over a week away, the Flat season is slowly gearing towards the first Classics and at Leopardstown on Sunday a few trials may have highlighted some leading contenders for May and the forthcoming season. On the other side of the world, Black Caviar made history the same week that a younger sibling to the great mare stole the show in the Australian sales ring.
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Battle of Marengo (Galileo) continued Aidan O'Brien's impressive record in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes when giving weight and a 1¾ length beating to his rivals under son Joseph for owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs John Magnier. It was the colt's fourth straight win and a step down in grade after signing off his juvenile campaign with victory in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at The Curragh last September.
His dam, the Green Desert-mare Anna Karenina, was purchased as a yearling for €650,000 by John Magnier at the Goffs Orby Sale in 2004 and trained by David Wachman to win the Listed Victor McCalmont Stakes, before embarking on her second career in the paddocks. Since then the mare, who herself is a half-sister to Group 3 winner Windsor Palace (Danehill Dancer), has been bred to Galileo every year which as well as Sunday's winner has produced a Listed-placed sister, Precious Stone and an as yet unnamed two year-old filly, with all three foals of racing age bred along the same lines as last year's Oaks winner Was. Battle of Marengo therefore looks to hold a strong chance of achieving the same Ballysax-Derby double that his sire and High Chaparral achieved for O'Brien in the early 2000s, should he take his chance.
In the Group 3 Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial, the Dermot Weld-trained Rawaaq (Invincible Spirit) ran out a comfortable winner under Pat Smullen for owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. The filly shares her second dam with the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes winner Muthabara and descends from one of her owner's more famous families, that of Champion Miler Bahri, whilst Sunday's win also brings Invincible Spirit, the Joint-Top rated older Sprinter in Ireland in 2001, his 31st Group win as a sire.
"Battle of Marengo therefore looks to hold a strong chance of achieving the same Ballysax-Derby double that his sire and High Chaparral achieved for O'Brien in the early 2000s, should he take his chance."
Fort Knox (Dubawi), a full-brother to dual Guineas runner-up Dubawi Gold, came from last to win the Listed Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial under Johnny Murtagh on his first start since being switched to trainer Tommy Carmody. Like his older brother, the colt runs in the colours of Andrew Tinkler after being led out of the Tattersalls October Yearlings sales ring unsold when bidding ceased at 190,000 guineas, but connections will be hoping that the three year old can land another Guineas for his sire Dubawi, whether it be English or Irish, to follow in the footsteps of the 2010 Newmarket classic winner, Makfi.
The other black-type event to take place at Leopardstown was the Listed Heritage Stakes where the Aidan O'Brien-trained Declaration of War (War Front) eased to victory. Trained in France by Jean-Claude Rouget to win both his starts at two, Coolmore bought a stake in the colt from breeder Joseph Allen and since being transferred to O'Brien last year has won the Group 3 Diamond Stakes, with Sunday's win putting the four year old on course for next month's Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Out of the three-time winning mare Tempo West (Rahy), the O'Brien-trained colt is one of six winners the half-sister to last year's Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags (Dixie Union) has produced, alongside the Listed winner Vertiformer (Dynaformer) and the French Listed-placed, War Pact, a full-brother to Declaration of War. War Front, a Grade 2 winner in the U.S. is himself sire of Grade 1 winners The Factor, Summer Soiree and Data Link - who was runner up to American Horse of the Year, Wise Dan (Wiseman's Ferry) on Saturday when trying to win back-to-back Maker's 46 Mile Stakes - and to the recent UAE Derby winner, Lines of Battle, who is also trained by the Ballydoyle master handler.
Seemingly not satisfied with dominating the National Hunt scene back in Ireland, Willie Mullins sent Blackstairmountain (Imperial Ballet) over to Japan to contest their premier jumps race, the Nakayama Grand Jump Chase and the eight year old duly did the business under Ruby Walsh when gaining revenge on Rikiai Kurofune (Kurofune) for a conditions chase defeat three weeks earlier. It was the gelding's third win at the highest level after success in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown and in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown and Walsh believed the faster ground at Nakayama assisted his charge who is the top jumps representative for his Italian based-sire and probably best known as producer of flat performers, being the father of Prix de l'Abbaye winner, Imperial Beauty.
"Dark Angel enjoyed a Listed-race double on Saturday courtesy of the four-year-olds Gabrial and Lily's Angel, who are both from the Morristown Lattin Stud-resident's first crop."
A homebred out of the Sabrehill-mare Sixhills, Blackstairmountain is a half-brother to Allure of Illusion (Captain Rio) who Mullins trained to be placed in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle and a Bumper and is also related to the Prix du Cadran winner Invermark, as well as more distantly a couple of Australian Group 1 winners in Guineas and Mossman.
Back on these shores, Dark Angel enjoyed a Listed-race double on Saturday courtesy of the four-year-olds Gabrial and Lily's Angel, who are both from the Morristown Lattin Stud-resident's first crop.
In winning the Doncaster Stakes, Gabrial was not only registering his first black-type success, after finishing third to Frankel in last year's Sussex Stakes as well as filling the same position in a Group 3 and a Listed race, but also became his dam Guajira's (Mtoto) first black-type winner, having produced two winners to date. The Richard Fahey-trained gelding has been through the ring twice, first at the Tattersalls December Foals Sale in 2009 where Five Star Bloodstock acquired him for 25,000 guineas before Bobby O'Ryan paid £46,000 at the Doncaster Premier Yearling Sale in 2010.
Lily's Angel completed her sire's double when landing the Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes at Kempton Park, her third Listed race in all, under an hour later for trainer Ger Lyons and jockey Gary Carroll. Her success formed the first leg of another double, this time for her dam Noyelles (Docksider), as her year younger sister Zurigha (Cape Cross) took the Fillies' Conditions Stakes at Kempton just two races later for trainer Richard Hannon. Lily's Angel, like her paternal-brother has been offered at auction twice, firstly making £8,000 at the Doncaster Premier Yearlings Sale in 2010 when purchased by her previous trainer Richard Fahey, before being bought back by the vendors for 105,000 guineas when offered at the Tattersalls July Sale in 2012.
"A Redoute's Choice yearling brother to Black Caviar created his own slice of history when becoming the highest priced yearling ever to sell in Australasia."
Just four days before Black Caviar (Bel Esprit) extended her unbeaten run to 25 in the T J Smith Stakes at Randwick on Saturday, in the process setting an Australian record of 15 Group 1 wins, a Redoute's Choice yearling brother to the great mare created his own slice of history when becoming the highest priced yearling ever to sell in Australasia. The figure of A$5 million paid by BC3 Thoroughbreds, who were also the buyers of the Sydney sale's top lot twelve months earlier for A$2.6 million - a full-sister to Tuesday's sale topper and now named Belle Couture - also equals the record price paid for any thoroughbred at an Australian sale, a record previously held solely by the Danehill-mare Milanova when she was purchased at the Inglis Broodmare Sale back in 2008.
With Tuesday's record-breaking sum, the Desert Sun-mare Helsinge has extraordinarily now been responsible for the last three Inglis Easter Yearling Sale toppers with multiple Group 1 winner All Too Hard (Casino Prince) starting the ball rolling back in 2011 when selling as a yearling for A$1,025,000. In total, the amount paid for the five foals out of Helsinge to have been offered at auction is an astounding A$8.91 million, not bad for an unraced mare who made the relatively meagre sum of A$115,000 when bought by Rick Jamieson at the 2005 Inglis Broodmare Sale.
Unsurprisingly, with a record-breaking top lot and eight other yearlings making seven-figures including a Fastnet Rock colt out of the Group 1 winner River Dove selling for A$4 million, the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale was a huge success with over A$90 million grossed and the average and median prices both increasing by over 25% from twelve months ago.