Thursday, July 28, 2011

Allegretta, Racing's Great Seductress

“She was a useful race filly who gave the impression of not having much heart…but she descended from an exceptional family…I went to look at her. She is not elegant, but she has an exceptional body. I was seduced.”

Allegretta in 1997.
These were the words of Michel Henochsberg, told to Paris-Turf and relayed by John P. Sparkman in a 2001 Thoroughbred Times pedigree profile on Allegretta (GB) (1978-2005). 

As Sparkman wrote in his profile – a must-read for racing history and pedigree buffs – Asterblute, the fifth dam of Allegretta, was sired in Germany by Pharis II in 1946, during the stallion’s last of five years as a Nazi captive. 

Gestut Schlenderhan bred and raced Asterblute, winning the German Derby and German Oaks with her, and cultivated the female line that resulted in the birth of Allegretta in England in 1978. (Allegretta was the first of her direct line to be foaled outside of Germany.) Because of the dodgy circumstances surrounding Pharis’s acquisition by the Nazis, the international stud book outside of Germany didn’t recognize Asterblute and her line until the 1970s, when Pharis’s owner/breeder Marcel Boussac allowed a number of his stallion’s German-bred progeny to be legitimized. 

Horses don’t come much more stoutly-bred than Allegretta. Her sire Lombard was a German St. Leger winner and two-time Horse of the Year in Germany, divisional champion at two, four, five, and six. He was by German St. Leger winner Agio, a son of 1950-1951 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Tantieme. (Tantieme is found in North American and European pedigrees through the full brothers Diesis and Kris). Belle Sauvage, the second dam of Lombard, was also the second dam of 1968 Arc winner Vaguely Noble. 

In 15 crops, Lombard sired 214 foals, 14 of them stakes winners. Allegretta was not among these fourteen, although her full siblings Anno (first in the German St. Leger) and Arionette were. Trained in England by Sir Michael Stoute, she won two-of-three starts at two and placed second in the Group 3 Oaks Trial at three. 

Late in her three-year-old season, Allegretta went through the sales ring at Tattersalls and was sold to American interests. Imported to the U.S., she was bred the following year but failed to get in foal. She returned to the racetrack, running exclusively in sprints (for which she was clearly not bred) at Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts, making her four-year-old debut in the autumn for Big E Farm and trainer Bruce G. Smith and finishing sixth. She was third and seventh in her subsequent starts. 

She was retired again and covered in 1983, resulting in a second barren year. When, during her third season at stud, she conceived to the cover of Irish Castle, Big E understandably wanted to cut their losses on her and sold Allegretta in the 1984 Keeneland November sale, where Robert Nataf of Horse France purchased her for $55,000 on behalf of Marystead. 

She had been culled by Schlenderhan; sold by Big E after numerous unproductive years; but for Marystead (who also breeds under M3 Elevage), Allegretta was to become one of the most influential broodmares of our time. 

One interesting aspect of Allegretta’s bloodline is that her fifth dam Aster (dam of Asterblute) was also granddam of Lombard’s sire Agio, reinforcing this strong female family with Aster 4x5 in Allegretta’s pedigree. Allegretta was also 4x4 to German Derby winner Alchimist. 

Lombard’s daughters produced just twelve stakes winners. Allegretta foaled three of them. Here is her produce record:

1983 not pregnant
1984 not pregnant
1985 Marlene Kelly, f. by Irish Castle; winner 
1986 Anzille, f. by Plugged Nickle; placed; stakes producer 
1987 Irish Allegre, g. by Irish River (Fr); winner 
1988 Shadideen, g. by Shadeed; winner 
1989 URBAN SEA, f. by Miswaki; Group 1 winner; stakes producer 
1990 Turbaine, f. by Trempolino; stakes-placed winner; stakes producer 
1991 ALLEZ LES TROIS, f. by Riverman; Group 3 winner; stakes producer 
1992 Oslo Connection, c. by Trempolino; placed 
1993 Albada, g. by Houston; winner 
1994 no report 
1995 Saleela, f. by Nureyev; winner 
1996 not pregnant
1997 KING’S BEST, c. by Kingmambo; Group 1 winner 
1998 no report 
1999 Altruiste, f. by Diesis (GB); unraced; stakes producer 
2000 not pregnant
2001 not pregnant

King’s Best – one of just two colts out of the temperamental Allegretta who wasn’t gelded – was lightly raced, winning three-of-six starts in England. Trained, like his mother, by Stoute, he won the Listed Acomb Stakes at two and the 2,000 Guineas at three. He was injured in the running of his next start, the Irish 2,000 Guineas, and subsequently retired under the Darley Stud banner, where he his six G1 winners include Workforce, who won the 2010 Epsom Derby and Arc, and last year’s Japanese Derby victor Eishin Flash.

Allegretta and King's Best as a foal.
Criquette Head-Maarek trained Allez les Trois to score three wins, including the Prix de Flore-G3, in France. The filly later placed in the Grade 3 Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap when trained in the U.S. by Christophe Clement. Her first foal was Prix du Jockey Club-French Derby winner Anabaa Blue, one of her three stakes winners to date. She is also granddam of two-time Group 1 winner Tamayuz.

Allegretta's daughter Allez Les Trois.
Globe-trotting Urban Sea, trained by Jean Lesbordes, ran in France, Germany (where she was third in the 1,000 Guineas), England, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. All seven of her stakes wins came in France, highlighted by her victory in the 1993 Arc. 

Yet Urban Sea went on to greater fame and fortune. At stud, she produced eleven foals, seven of them stakes winners, six at Group or Graded level: Sea the Stars-G1, Galileo-G1; My Typhoon-G1; Black Sam Bellamy-G1; All too Beautiful-G3; and Urban Ocean-G3. She died in 2009. Her final foal is a two-year-old son of Invincible Spirit named Born to Sea, for the Sea the Stars connections – owner/breeder Christopher Tsui and trainer John Oxx. 

Of the European Broodmare of the Year’s four daughters, the only two with foals of racing age to date are All too Beautiful, dam of this year’s Cheshire Oaks [L] winner Wonder of Wonders, who was placed in the Epsom Oaks and the Irish Oaks; and Melikah, granddam of 2011 U.A.E. Derby-winning filly Khawlah. 

Urban Sea’s European Horse of the Year son Sea the Stars received a Timeform rating of 140 – placing him on a par with Dancing Brave, Dubai Millennium, Shergar, and Vaguely Noble. He lost only the first of his nine lifetime starts, scoring emphatic victories in all six of his Group 1 races as a three-year-old: the Arc, English 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Eclipse, International, and the Irish Champion. He became only the second foal of a female Arc winner to follow in his dam’s footsteps. (Detroit and Carnegie were the first mother-and-son Arc winners.) Retired to stud in Ireland, Sea the Stars’s first foals were born this year. 

Sea the Stars will have a long way to go to emulate the stud career of his 13-year-old half-brother Galileo. 

Galileo was European champion three-year-old after winning the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby, and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. His two losses in eight starts came at the end of his career, when he was second in the Irish Champion and unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont. 

Surely, Galileo is the best proven Thoroughbred stallion at stud in the world. In his current three-year-old crop, he’s the sire of European Classic winners Frankel (2,000 Guineas); Golden Lilac (Poule d’Essai des Pouliches-French 1,000 Guineas and Prix de Diane); Misty for Me (Irish 1,000 Guineas); Roderic O’Connor (Irish 2,000 Guineas); and Treasure Beach (Irish Derby). His Nathaniel won last weekend’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S.-G1 over Workforce. Many racing luminaries are hailing Frankel as the possibly best ever; Timeform has the undefeated colt, who on July 27th won the Group 1 Sussex Stakes against older horses with a chilling turn of foot, rated at 142, the greatest since Brigadier Gerard (144), a foal of 1968. Only Sea-Bird (145), Tudor Minstrel (144), and the Brigadier are rated higher than Frankel, who may yet improve his figure.

Other Galileo flagbearers this month are four-year-olds Cape Blanco, who won the Man o’ War Stakes (and last year’s Irish Derby), and the filly Igugu, winner of the prestigious Grade 1 Durban July over colts. 

If Allegretta “gave the impression of not having much heart,” the same cannot be said for many of her sons, daughters, and their progeny. And 33 years after her birth, the grand old mare continues to “seduce” those of us who follow horseracing, with the likes of Frankel, Sea the Stars, and Galileo, who will hopefully continue to sweep us off our feet for many generations to come.