Monday, June 25, 2012

Canada's Strait of Dover

On Sunday, the 10-furlong Queen’s Plate (first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown) at Woodbine Racetrack was won by Strait of Dover, owned and bred by Canyon Farms of British Columbia and trained by Danny Vella.

The colt’s female family is no stranger to classic and other important wins.

Strait of Dover’s fourth dam Roseliere was a champion in France. The daughter of Misti (a son of Medium inbred 3x3 to Prix du Jockey Club-French Derby winner Tourbillon) and Peace Rose, by Fastnet Rock, won the 2100-meter classic Prix de Diane-French Oaks as well as the Prix Vermeille and the Prix Penelope at three in 1968, coming back to win in the Prix de Pomone at four.

At stud, Roseliere foaled four stakes winners, two of them champions: Rose Bowl and Ile de Bourbon, both trained by Fulke Johnson Houghton.

Ile de Bourbon was a son of Nijinsky II, and he won the Coronation Cup-G1, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S.-G1, the King Edward VII-G2, and the Geoffrey Freer S.-G3 on his way to championship honors at three and four in 1978 and 1979 in the United Kingdom. He is perhaps best known as the sire of Kahyasi, who won both the Epsom and Irish Derbies in 1988. (Kahyasi, in turn, is recognizable as the sire of Prix de Diane winners Vereva and Zainta, and as broodmare sire of Hasili, dam of five G1 winners plus G2 winner and leading sire Dansili.)

Rose Bowl (by Habitat; a full sister to French Group 3 winner Rose Bed) was a champion at four in Great Britain, where her six wins included the Group 1 Champion Stakes and the Group 2 (now Group 1) Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, against males. She also won the Ladbroke Nell Gwyn Stakes-G3 and placed second in the Champion S.-G1, Sussex S.-G1, Waterford Crystal Mile-G3, and third in the William Hill Cheveley Park Stakes-G1 and Prince of Wales S.-G2. She ran fifth in one start -- the Washington D.C., International-G1 -- in the U.S., at Laurel Park in Maryland. In 16 starts racing from two to four, she had six wins, four seconds, and two thirds.

Rose Bowl produced eight winners, three of them at black type level: Rokeby (by Lomond), Golden Bowl (by Vaguely Noble), and Rose Reef-G3 (by Mellon’s great Mill Reef). Another, Pure Bravado (by Dancing Brave), won non-black type stakes races in Austria, where he was highweighted at the 7 - 9 1/2 furlong distance.

Rose Bowl’s 1985 British-born daughter Antigua Rose (by Mill Reef, and therefore a full sister to Rose Reef and to stakes-placed Rose Campion) won at two and at three in England before being exported to the U.S., where she won an allowance at Hialeah Park as a four-year-old for owner E.A. Cox Jr. and trainer Shug McGaughey. The closest she came to earning black type was with a fourth in the Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Antigua Rose, granddam of Queen's Plate winner Strait of Dover, as a broodmare in 1997.

On the strength of her female family, Antigua Rose was bred to leading sires Danzig and Nureyev, among other stallions, without much success on the track. Her six foals yielded five winners from five to race, and the best of these was Gift of Style (by Lure), who earned $27,205.

Black-type aspirations of this branch of the family tracing through Antigua Rose had, it seemed, hit a dead end -- until Antigua Rose’s daughter Bahrain Star (a 1991 model) was introduced to the Smart Strike sire line. The mare’s 2003 daughter Starlite Strike (by Smart Strike) won the Northlands Oaks at Northlands Park and the BC Cup Distaff Handicap at Hastings Racecourse for owner/breeder Canyon Farms. The next of Bahrain Star’s foals bred on this cross is Strait of Dover, who won the Marine Stakes in May at Woodbine. On Sunday, Strait of Dover became the latest in a line of Classic winners going back to Roseliere when he won the Queen’s Plate. He has four wins and a third from seven starts to date, with converted earnings of nearly $750,000.

Canadian-bred Strait of Dover’s Kentucky-based sire English Channel, champion turf male in the U.S. in 2007, is by Smart Strike (out of Belva, by Theatrical), so Canyon Farms was not only reproducing a cross that had worked with their mare, but one that is a proven formula for top-class success, with Canadian Horse of the Year Soaring Free, two-time champion Lookin At Lucky, and Grade 1 winner Shadow Cast among many graded stakes winners bred on these lines.

Strait of Dover appears to be the last foal out of Bahrain Star, but his three-parts sister Starlite Strike is the dam of a yearling filly by Lewis Michael, so perhaps this family will see a continued resurgence.