Broad use of stallions strengthens Godolphin's hand in Europe and United States
Sheikh Mohammed's operation won Derby and Belmont with a little outside help
Sheikh Mohammed's international Godolphin operation achieved a first on Saturday when becoming the first owner to win the Derby and Belmont Stakes in the same year - and, what's more, with homebreds.
Both are by stallions not standing for Godolphin's stallion operations on either side of the Atlantic — at Dalham Hall near Newmarket and Kildangan Stud in County Kildare, and Darley Stallions at Jonabell Farm in Kentucky.
Derby winner Adayar is by Frankel, who stands at Juddmonte's Banstead Manor Stud, also near Newmarket, while Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality is by Tapit, who stands at Gainesway, Kentucky.
Michael Banahan, director of farm operations for Godolphin at Jonabell, said: "We've done that for many years. Even since we've had a strong roster of stallions here, we still have sourced to other stallion farms. We bred a lot of mares to A.P. Indy, which gave us Bernardini and Tempera, who won a Breeders' Cup race for us."
Bernardini became Godolphin's first American Classic winner when he captured the 2006 Preakness Stakes. Tempera won the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on her way to earning honours as the year's Eclipse champion two-year-old filly.
"We definitely go to stallions not on our roster that are the right fit for the mare," Banahan continued. "We might have spread our wings more so in the last five or six years and done more of that. It is helping us achieve our goals and provide some diversity to our gene pool as far as horses coming back into the broodmare band or stallions. We have some nice colts."
Breeding to Tapit, for example, produced multiple Grade 1 winner Frosted, who is among the leading second-crop sires of North America. Should Medina Spirit be disqualified from winning the Kentucky Derby for a betamethasone positive confirmed recently by a split sample, then Frosted would become the top second-crop sire by earnings.
He is already the co-leading sire by number of 2021 stakes winners (three) and stakes horses (six) with Taylor Made Stallions' Not This Time.
Godolphin also stands Nyquist, a son of Ashford Stud's Uncle Mo, who won the 2016 Kentucky Derby for Reddam Racing and went on to become last year's leading freshman sire by progeny earnings and Grade 1 winners.
Darley bred and raced Essential Quality's dam, Delightful Quality, out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Contrive. Former Darley bloodstock agent John Ferguson bought Contrive for $3 million at Fasig-Tipton's The November Sale in 2005, the year her first foal Folklore, also in the first crop by Tiznow, won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and earned champion two-year-old filly honours.
Delightful Quality was not an elite racehorse, but she was certainly good. She won twice in 13 starts and placed in seven black-type stakes, including a third in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses Handicap at Belmont Park. Banahan describes her as a "hard-knocking filly that tired hard in all her races." She was a genuine sprinter that won at six and seven furlongs.
When Delightful Quality retired to the paddocks, Darley bred her first to Bernardini because mating sons of A.P. Indy to Mr. Prospector line mares had been successful.
Delightful Quality is by Darley's late sire Elusive Quality, who is a Mr. Prospector grandson through Gone West. The mare's first foal, however, developed a wind problem and never made it to the racetrack. She was next bred to Tiznow with the hopes of reproducing a horse of Folklore's ability, but that filly also never raced because of a sesamoid injury.
In 2016, Delightful Quality went to Tapit.
Banahan said: "We have appreciated Tapit for many years, as everyone else has, because he is one of the great sires of our time. With her speed and Tapit being a great source of stamina, it seemed like a great blend.
"Tapit has also done well both with Storm Cat-line mares and Gone West-line mares (both sires in Delightful Quality's second generation). She is a good-looking mare with a great shape and her physical qualities really fit well with Tapit."
This first mating produced a handsome colt named Astaire, who showed plenty of talent during his early training but made only one start before injury ended his racing career. Astaire was such a good-looking horse, though, that Delightful Quality went back to Tapit, which produced Essential Quality.
Banahan said: "Essential Quality is a bit more refined and always had a great walk with a lot of scope; an athletic type of horse. If Astaire wasn't as good-looking of a foal as he was, the mare might not have gone back to Tapit. So there is a little bit of luck involved."
Luck is always a factor in racing. Essential Quality offered Godolphin one of its strongest chances to win the Kentucky Derby, but bumping after the start and a wide trip left the colt fourth past the wire. In the Belmont, he was fresh having skipped the Preakness and had history on his side.
Tapit had already sired three Belmont winners — Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016) and Tapwrit (2017) — and sired four others that placed in the New York classic: Frosted (second, 2015), Tacitus (second, 2019), Lani (third, 2016) and Hofburg (third, 2018).
"Tapit continues to add to his legacy," said Sean Tugel, director of stallion sales for Gainesway, of the stallion that was North America's leading sire in 2014-16 and set single-season progeny earning records each of those years.
"He has the most Grade 1 winners for any active stallion. You now add four Belmont Stakes winners to the eight champions he's sired, and he is really the benchmark for all Kentucky stallions."
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