Lope De Vega: versatile colt could progress again
A deeper look at the breeding behind the Prix du Jockey-Club winner
This article was first published in June 2010
Lope De Vega
3yo ch c Shamardal - Lady Vettori (Vettori)
The prolific Spanish poet and dramatist Lope De Vega is generally considered as second only to Cervantes among his nation's writers of the classical period.
His namesake, having added the Prix du Jockey-Club to an earlier score in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, now seems entitled to rank second only to Workforce among the Classic generation in Europe.
The Shamardal colt had an impossible act to follow, a day after Workforce's stunning triumph at Epsom, and no interpretation of his form can make him more than a local champion at this stage, but his Chantilly display was nevertheless highly impressive; he dominated his 21 rivals completely and had any amount in hand at the finish. Furthermore, it is likely that we have yet to see the best of him.
Bred and owned by Dietrich von Boetticher's Gestut Ammerland, which acquired his dam Lady Vettori for €500,000 at Deauville in 2005, Lope De Vega has won four of his six races to date and is already past the £1 million mark in earnings.
There should be substantial additions to that sum, whether Andre Fabre chooses to campaign him over middle distances or back at a mile in the future, so long as his somewhat excitable temperament does not let him down.
Lope De Vega made a winning debut at Deauville in August and followed with an emphatic victory less than three weeks later over 7f at Longchamp. That performance earned him a supplementary entry for the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere over the same course and distance on Arc day, when he finished a respectable fourth, two and a half lengths behind the winner, Siyouni.
Siyouni was only a short head in front of him when they returned as three-year-olds in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau and they narrowly failed to catch pacemaker Rajsaman, but it was a different story when they returned to Longchamp for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains three weeks later.
While Siyouni had his excuses over traffic congestion down on the rail, Lope De Vega was brought with a smooth challenge to take command a furlong and a half from home, then ran on strongly to resist Dick Turpin by half a length.
Having come from well back when landing his first Classic, Lope De Vega was ridden much more prominently in annexing his second. Sweating and fractious at the start, he was unwilling to load, but having finally complied, he broke alertly from his supposedly disadvantageous stall 20, and was soon chasing Planteur's pacemaker, Vivre Libre, running well within himself.
Three furlongs out Maxime Guyon kicked him on into a clear lead, and no threat to his supremacy emerged, hard though Planteur tried to close the gap. Eased down close home, he still had three lengths to spare as he completed the same Classic double achieved by his sire five years ago.
In fact, the liaison that resulted in Lope De Vega was a plan hatched because of Shamardal's win over Hurricane Run – then owned by Ammerland – at Chantilly in 2005.
Lady Vettori was purchased, in foal to Montjeu, a few months after that event, and it was soon decided that she would be one of Shamardal's first mates at Kildangan the following spring.
Shamardal has had a colourful life thus far, and a highly successful one after a less than auspicious beginning. Having been knocked down for $485,000 as a foal at Keeneland, he was subsequently diagnosed with wobbler syndrome, a usually progressive affliction that sometimes proves fatal. The sale was rescinded and an insurance claim settled.
But by the following autumn the colt was fully recovered and kept a date at Tattersalls in the Houghton Sales. Although there was no announcement about his health history, he made much less appeal than before and would have fetched an even lower sum than the hammer price of 50,000gns if Michael Goodbody and Mark Johnston had not inadvertently bid against each other on behalf of the same client.
By the end of his first season in training, Shamardal had had three races and three different owners. Johnston sent him out in the colours of Abdullah Buhaleeba to win his maiden at Ayr and the Group 3 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, but it was as the property of Gainsborough Stud that he notched his smooth, championship-earning victory in the Group 1 Dewhurst. Soon after that he was taken into the Godolphin fold.
The crucial decision that Godolphin had to make in the following spring was whether to campaign Shamardal in America or Europe, and that was easily made after the colt performed disappointingly when tried on dirt in the UAE Derby. But as ninth in a field of 12, could it be that he had simply failed to train on? That had to be a possibility.
In the space of a month three Group 1 triumphs emphatically resolved that question. After narrow wins in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains and the Prix du Jockey-Club there came a career-best display in the St James's Palace Stakes; he was still a star, and there would surely be further triumphs to come.
In fact, we had already seen the last of him. He damaged his off-fore fetlock joint at exercise during his preparation for the Eclipse, and that was that. Instead of experiencing a northern hemisphere autumn, he departed for a southern hemisphere spring and covered 111 mares in Australia. Among the products of that venture was a dual Group 1 winner in Faint Perfume.
Now, with four individual Pattern scorers from his first crop conceived at Kildangan, and a fine winner-to-runner ratio, Shamardal has made a highly encouraging start in this part of the world. Zazou's Group 2 win in Cologne on Sunday raised hopes of a second national Derby success for the sire in Hamburg on July 18.
The mating which produced Lope De Vega would not have been everyone's idea as a recipe for success, given that both parents had abbreviated racing careers and that their union involved close inbreeding to Machiavellian, maternal grandsire of one and paternal grandsire of the other.
The brevity of Lady Vettori's career was all about her weedy physique. She had talent, and showed it conclusively by winning her first five races at two, then taking third place in the Prix Marcel Boussac, but she had no scope and was always a doubtful prospect to train on.
Sure enough, she started only once at three before trainer Francois Rohaut was forced to give up on her, but she has been doing a sterling job as a broodmare, delivering five winners from as many runners, all by different stallions.
Her second daughter Bal de la Rose earned Group 3 honours in the Prix Andre Baboin and was the best of them until her third son Lope de Vega put her achievement in the shade.
Bred by Brilliant Stable in USA. $485,000 as Keeneland November foal, but sale subsequently rescinded; 50,000gns Tattersalls Houghton yearling. Won 6 (7f-1m2.5f) of 7 races, viz. 3 (inc. Vintage S.-Gr2, Dewhurst S.-Gr1) out of 3 at 2 years, 3 (Poule d'Essai des Poulains-Gr1, Prix du Jockey-Club-Gr1, St James's Palace S.-Gr1) out of 4 at 3 years. RPR: 124 at 2, 127 at 3. Earned £1,098,290.
Strong, well made sort, 16.0hh. Top-class runner on grass, failed comprehensively only start on dirt. Suffered career-ending injury when in training for Eclipse S.
Very well-bred. By an outstanding 1m-1m2f performer, now a leading sire. Dam winner, Listed-placed, sister to top-class Street Cry (Gr1 winner in Dubai and US, successful sire), half-sister to 8 other winners, inc. Historian (Listed) and Grecian Slipper (dam of Gr3 winners Magna Graecia and Graikos). Grand-dam won Irish Oaks, from an excellent Ballymacoll family.
Stands at Kildangan Stud, Co. Kildare, at a fee of Euros 20,000. Sire of 2 northern hemisphere crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Arctic (Gr3), Lope de Vega (Poule d'Essai des Poulains-Gr1, Prix du Jockey-Club-Gr1), Shakespearean (Gr3), Zazou (Gr2). Also sire of a Group 1 winner in Australia from 2 crops of racing age there.
Dam: Lady Vettori
Bred by Andrew Crichton in England. Won 5 (5-7f) of 7 races, viz 5 (inc. Prix du Calvados-Gr3) out of 6 at 2 years, 0 out of 1 at 3 years. Also 3rd in Prix Marcel Boussac-Gr1, 2nd in Prix Imprudence-Listed. RPR: 102 at 2. Earned £77,055.
Smart juvenile, best form (and a bit unlucky) when placed on final outing at 2. Honest runner, but small and sparely made. Did not progress physically, taken out of training after only start at 3.
Quite well bred. Among the best products of her sire. Half-sister to Listed-placed winner Rosey de Megeve (by Efisio), out of a half-sister to Gr2 winner Lady Blessington and Gr3 winner Lowell. Same immediate family as US Gr2 winner Gotta Have Her.
To stud at 4 years and dam of: Flower Bowl (2002 f by Anabaa; winner), Bal de la Rose (2004 f by Cadeaux Genereux; Gr3 winner), Leap Ahead (2005 g by Desert Prince; winner), Le Roc (2006 c by Montjeu; winner), Lope de Vega (2007 c by Shamardal; dual Classic winner), unnamed (2008 f by Hurricane Run; unraced to date). She has a yearling colt by Monsun.
Won his second Classic just as he liked, and looks the sort to progress again.