Fresh twist in Ascot legacy of Warren Place
Nancy Sexton on the lasting impact of a great trainer as a part-time breeder
It is 40 years since a racecard carried the name of Sir Noel Murless as trainer. Master of Warren Place before it came into the possession of his son-in-law Sir Henry Cecil, Murless sent out 19 Classic winners during a career that featured names long woven into the fabric of racing history: Abernant, Petite Etoile, Lupe, Royal Palace and Crepello, to name but a few.
Naturally such stalwarts gave the Murless stable many fine Royal Ascot moments – and while these are now embedded in a bygone era, there was a moment on Tuesday when his contribution to the thoroughbred once again rose to the fore.
For the Coventry Stakes winner Rajasinghe was bred by James and Geoff Mulcahy out of Bunditten, a quick Soviet Star mare who hails from former Murless stock as a great-granddaughter of his 1,000 Guineas winner Caergwrle.
Caergwrle carried the colours of her trainer's wife Gwen to win three of her six starts. The pair had bred the filly at their Cliff Stud in Yorkshire out of Caerphilly, a mare from a family that had served the monarch well – Caerphilly was out of Cheetah, a Big Game half-sister to her 2,000 Guineas winner Pall Mall bred by the Queen.
In the ownership of Murless and his wife, Caerphilly's branch of the family went on to provide them with a homebred Classic winner – a fitting result in view of Murless' tenure as royal trainer, highlighted by Carrozza's victory in the 1957 Oaks.
Named after a Welsh village, Caergwrle had the Murless imprint all across her background. First, Caerphilly was a daughter of Abernant, trained by Murless when he was based at Beckhampton and rated by Sir Gordon Richards as one of the fastest horses he rode. Abernant won the Champagne and Middle Park Stakes at two and, when cut back to sprinting, the King's Stand Stakes and two renewals of the July Cup and Nunthorpe Stakes at three and four.
Most trainers would testify that winning a Classic is hard enough in itself; never mind doing so as a breeder as well. So Caergwrle's length defeat of Photo Flash in the 1968 1,000 Guineas, under 19-year-old Sandy Barclay, must have been a very special day for connections. It also set the tone for a championship season at Warren Place, sustained by the likes of Royal Palace and Connaught.
Unfortunately, Caergwrle didn't meet with tremendous success at stud. She foaled four winners, the best of whom was Claerwen, second in the Molecomb Stakes and subsequently dam of American Grade 3 winner Bravely Bold. Another daughter, Cricceith, foaled New Zealand Group 2 winner Batavian.
Rajasinghe belongs to the quick line that descends from her last foal, Abergwrle. By the moderate Abernant stallion Absalom, and therefore inbred to Abernant, Abergwrle was unplaced at two years but later foaled six winners led by a single black-type winner, Felicita.
Winner of a Listed race over 5f at two, Felicita proved one of the few worthwhile legacies for Catrail, an early but ultimately disastrous attempt to bring the Storm Cat sire-line into Europe. She was also relatively disappointing at stud herself, but did impart her share of speed to daughter Bunditten, another 5-6f specialist who ran third in the 2004 Star Stakes and fourth in the Queen Mary.
Rajasinghe, an £85,000 Goffs UK Premier yearling purchase by Bobby O'Ryan and Rebel Racing, is the ninth foal out of Bunditten and preceded by the Listed-placed Kheleyf filly Kurland. Both black-type runners, incidentally, popped up on the page following their dam's sale for 21,000gns to the Mulcahys' Arraghslea Stud at Tattersalls in December 2012.
Rajasinghe is from the final European crop of Coolmore's former shuttler Choisir. He is the 80th stakes winner for the son of Danehill Dancer, who commands a fee of A$29,700 in Australia this season –and appeals as a type capable of one day emulating the Group 1 achievements of the sire's flagbearer in 2016, The Last Lion.