Sunday, December 1, 2013

Germany's new stallion Maxios has maximum sire potential in his genes

It was announced today that Germany’s Gestut Fahrhof will stand an exciting new stallion in 2014: the Niarchos Family’s British-foaled Maxios, a quality racehorse and exquisitely bred son of Monsun who will cover mares for €10,000.

At two in 2010, Maxios won a debutant maiden race at Longchamp and the Group 3 Prix Thomas Bryon, his only starts that season and both over a distance of eight furlongs. He followed up on his promising start with a forgettable three-year-old campaign, in which he ran off the board in four-of-four starts -- a Group 3, Group 2, and two Listed events, from ten to 13 furlongs.

Returning at four, Maxios won half of his six starts, including the ten-furlong La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte-G3, and was placed second in the 12-furlong Grand Prix de Chantilly-G2. His breakout year was 2013, when as a five-year-old he won two Group 1s: the Prix d’Ispahan (nine furlongs) and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (eight furlongs). He also won the ten-furlong Prix d’Harcourt-G2 and was second in the 11-furlong Prix de Ganay-G1.

Maxios’s sire Monsun (by Konigsstuhl) passed away in September of 2012 -- less than a week before Maxios’s Prix du Moulin win -- having made an indelible mark on the international racing industry with 98 stakes winners, equating to 14% of his foals. Where such a high percentage was once expected of top sires in the 1980s and 1990s, stakes-winners-to-foals figures in the teens is, without getting too involved in the discussion, a rarity with today’s breeding practices.

[As an aside, notable sires who stood in the ’80s and ’90s and up to the 2000s include: Northern Dancer (23% stakes winners), Blushing Groom (18%), Danzig (18%), Nijinsky II (18%), Nureyev (17%), Roberto (17%), Mill Reef (16%), Mr. Prospector (15%), Danehill (14%), Native Dancer (14%), Lyphard (13%), Riverman (13%), Sadler’s Wells (13%), Acatenango (12%), A.P. Indy (12%), Caerleon (12%), Caro (12%), Sir Tristram (12%), Storm Cat (12%), Alydar (11%), Sunday Silence (11%), Alleged (10%), Darshaan (10%), Kris S. (10%), Rainbow Quest (10%), Seattle Slew (10%), Irish River (9%), Konigsstuhl, (9%), Machiavellian (9%), Linamix (8%), Deputy Minister (8%), Halo (8%), Miswaki (8%), Montjeu (8%), Unbridled (8%), Zabeel (8%), etc. **This list is off the top of my head and not meant to be comprehensive!!**

Comparing Monsun’s figure of 14% to some top active sires of 2013, we find War Front, currently with 27 black-type stakes winners, at 11%; Distorted Humor, 10% (114 stakes winners); Speightstown, 10% (53); Dubawi, 9% (64); Galileo, 9% (154); Dansili 9% (86); Oasis Dream, 9% (74); Redoute’s Choice, 8% (108); Smart Strike, 8% (93); Deep Impact, 7% (37); Giant’s Causeway, 7% (136); Kitten’s Joy, 7% (41); Tapit, 7% (44); Unbridled’s Song, 7% (99; not an active stallion but included here because he has some crops yet to race); Awesome Again, 6% (53); Exceed and Excel, 6% (75); More Than Ready, 6% (120); and Fastnet Rock, 5% (52).]

All this is is a long-winded way of pointing out that Monsun, who stood at Gestut Schlenderhan, was an exceptional, very significant sire, although comparing the restrictive German market with the far broader English, Irish, and North American markets probably gives Monsun a bit of an advantage. Either way, 14% is major and Monsun left us with some decent sire sons in Samum, who has sired four Group 1 winners, and Manduro, with two winners at that level from three crops of racing age. Shirocco is also doing well, with 2013 British Group 2 winner Brown Panther.

Maxios comes from a powerful female family: his dam Moonlight’s Box is an unraced (due to a pelvis injury) daughter of Nureyev and French highweighted filly Coup de Genie, who won the Prix Morny-G1 and Prix de Salamandre-G1 against colts. Moonlight’s Box is also the dam of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Bago (by Nashwan), a sire in Japan; and Listed stakes winner Beta (by Selkirk), a broodmare.

Coup de Genie with her first foal, the Nureyev filly Moonlight's Box.
Second dam Coup de Genie (by Mr. Prospector) produced four stakes winners: Denebola-G1 (by Storm Cat), Snake Mountain-G3 (by A.P. Indy), Loving Kindness-G3 (by Seattle Slew), and Glia (by A.P. Indy). Glia is the granddam of Emollient (by Empire Maker), who won three Grade 1 races in 2013.

Moonlight’s Box (aged 17 years) and Coup de Genie (22) are still actively producing -- each is the dam of a yearling filly by Galileo.

Coup de Genie is a full sister -- out of Group 3 winner Coup de Folie -- to champion Machiavellian, who like Coup de Genie won the Morny and the Salamandre; and Group 3 winner Ocean of Wisdom. Another full sister Houdini’s Honey was a winner and has produced two stakes winners, one graded, to date. Exit to Nowhere, an Irish River half-brother to Coup de Genie et al, won the Prix Jacques Le Marios-G1, and their half-sister Hydro Calido (by Nureyev) was a Group 2 winner and stakes producer. (There are three Thomas Bryon winners within the first three generations of Maxios’s family: Maxios, Nureyev, and Exit to Nowhere.) Machiavellian was a 9% sire with 71 stakes winners, including Street Cry (sire of U.S. Horse of the Year Zenyatta) at the forefront of his 13 Group 1/Grade 1 winners. Exit to Nowhere sired six group winners before his death in October of this year.

Machiavellian at Dalham Hall Stud in England in 1997.
Coup de Folie, the third dam of Maxios, was by Halo out of Raise the Standard (by Hoist the Flag), making her inbred 3x3 to Almahmoud (granddam of Halo and Raise the Standard). More significantly, Raise the Standard was a daughter of Natalma and thus a half-sister to Northern Dancer. Another direct female-line descendant of Natalma was the sensational sire Danehill (inbred 3x3 to Natalma, the granddam of his parents Danzig and Razyana). The dam of leading sire Halo was a half-sister to Natalma.

Monsun sired 14 stakes winners, including Maxios, out of mares from Northern Dancer’s male line. It will be especially interesting to see the result of Danehill-line mares crossed with Maxios. Monsun has four stakes winners (by either him or his sons) out of mares from the Danehill male line, and Maxios’s close relative Machiavellian has 15 stakes winners (all by his sons) -- including Melbourne Cup-G1 winner Shocking; Siyouma-G1; Nannina-G1; and December Draw-G1 -- bred on this cross.

Bago’s best foal is Big Week, Classic winner of the Kikuka Sho-G1 (Japanese St. Leger). Big Week was produced from a daughter of Sunday Silence -- whose sire Halo is from the same female family as Bago and Maxios.

Between Danehill, Northern Dancer, Halo, and even perhaps Machiavellian and Exit to Nowhere, there are many possibilities to tap into the quality in Maxios’s female family. Per a news item in the Racing Post, the Niarchos Family, who bred and raced most of Maxios’s above-mentioned relatives as far back as Nureyev and Coup de Folie -- either under the Niarchos name or nom de course Flaxman Holdings -- looks to be moving in that direction after purchasing French Group 1 five- and six-furlong specialist Gilt Edge Girl (her sire Monsieur Bond is a paternal grandson of Danehill) for 550,000 at Goffs in November, with intention of breeding her to Maxios.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Update on Deep Impact following his Japan Cup one-two finish

In May of 2012, I wrote a blog post on Japanese sire Deep Impact, who in two crops (at the time) of three-year-olds had already sired the winners of four Classic races. That Classics figure now stands at eight, with six individual Classic winners (Ayusan; Beauty Parlour; Deep Brillante; Gentildonna; Kizuna; and Marcellina) and a number of other Classic-placed runners from three crops of three-year-olds of racing age.

Clearly, a year and a half after my original post, Deep Impact has continued to stride forward: the son of Sunday Silence has gone from six to ten Grade or Group 1 winners, and yesterday his 2012 Triple Crown-winning daughter, Horse of the Year Gentildonna, became the first-ever dual winner of the 12-furlong Japan Cup-G1 -- Tokyo Racecourse’s flagship event -- nosing out Deep Impact’s three-year-old daughter Denim and Ruby, a Grade 2 winner, in the process.

This summer, thanks to Su-Ann Khaw’s initiative and with North American and European Trainer magazines’ adventurous backingI traveled to Hokkaido, Japan, for a visit to Shadai Stallion Station, where Deep Impact stands, and an extensive tour of Northern Farm, breeder (as both Northern Farm and Northern Racing) of the first four horses home in yesterday’s big race, which it goes without saying is a phenomenal achievement.

If you’re interested in learning more about Japanese racing, I wrote a Trainer article (which begins here on page 44) on Northern Farm and also looked at the international influence of Japanese-bred horses (page 58 of the issue linked above). I’ve also done several posts on my time in Hokkaido, with photos that didn’t make it into the printed article: Little Snow at Northern Farm and New issue online and snippets from Japan; and an entry in TDN here.

Among the horses we viewed in Hokkaido were Gentildonna’s distinguished sire Deep Impact; her dam Donna Blini, a Group 1 winner in England; Deep Impact’s German Group 1-winning dam Wind in Her Hair; and Denim and Ruby, who is a whisker shy of being a Japan Cup winner.

Japanese Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner Deep Impact, now a world-class sire.
Group 1 winner Donna Blini, the dam of Japanese Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner Gentildonna.
Group 1 winner Wind in Her Hair, the dam of Deep Impact.
Deep Impact filly Denim and Ruby (left), who was a nose behind Gentildonna in the 2013 G1 Japan Cup. On the right is Grade 2 winner I'm Yours (by Falbrav), a Grade 3 winner in 2013.
I noted last year that Deep Impact was an outstanding cross with mares tracing to Northern Dancer. This pattern, which is more detailed in the previous Deep Impact post, has appeared in at least ten of the stallion12 new stakes winners. In the wake of Gentildonna’s latest success, it seemed an opportune time to update the now 36 (up from 24 last May) stakes winners (7% to foals), although I was only able to find 35 of them.

As before, the list shows the Deep Impact’s black-type winners; the sires of their first two dams; and highlights the link(s), if any, to Northern Dancer through the first two damsires. Brackets indicate an indirect link (such as sire of the broodmare sire); the names of the stakes winners since May of 2012 are indicated in red:

~Ayusan-G1 (dam by Storm Cat, second dam by Affirmed): Storm Bird
~*Beauty Parlour-G1 (Giant’s Causeway, Day is Done): Storm Bird
~Deep Brillante-G1 (Loup Sauvage, Akarad): [Nureyev]Lyphard
~**Gentildonna-G1 (Bertolini, Lyphard’s Special): DanzigLyphard
~Joie de Vivre-G1 (Caerleon, Lord Gayle): Nijinsky
~Kizuna-G1 (Storm Cat, Damascus): Storm Bird
~Marcellina-G1 (Marju, Distant Relative): Last Tycoon
~Real Impact-G1 (Meadowlake, In Reality): no Northern Dancer
~Tosen Ra-G1 (Lycius, Sadler’s Wells): [Lyphard]Sadler’s Wells
~Verxina-G1 (Machiavellian, Nureyev): Nureyev
~Camino Tassajara-G2 (French Deputy, Caerleon): Vice Regent; Nijinsky
~Danon Ballade-G2 (Unbridled, Halo): no Northern Dancer through first two dam sires
~Denim and Ruby-G2 (King Kamehameha, Nureyev): [Nureyev]; [Try My Best]; Nureyev
~Hiraboku Deep-G2 (Storm Cat, Caro): Storm Bird
~Smart Robin-G2 (Lyphard, Nijinsky): LyphardNijinsky
~Tosen Homareboshi-G2 (Northern Taste, Crafty Prospector): Northern Taste
~Adam’s Peak-G3 (Singspiel, Efisio): Sadler’s Wells
~Aquamarine-G3 (Alzao, Alleged): Lyphard
~Best Deal-G3 (Marchand de Sable, Troy): Nureyev
~Boreas-G3 (French Deputy, Desert Wine): Vice Regent
~Danon Shark-G3 (Caerleon, Shirley Heights): Nijinsky
~**Donau Blue-G3 (Bertolini, Lyphard’s Special): DanzigLyphard
~Final Form-G3 (O’Reilly, Sound Reason): Try My Best
~Frere Jacques-G3 (Nureyev, Blushing Groom): Nureyev
~Gullveig-G3 (Tony Bin, Northern Taste): Northern Taste
~Harp Star-G3 (Falbrav, Tony Bin): Fairy King
~Historical-G3 (Northern Taste, Crafty Prospector): Northern Taste
~Passion Dance-G3 (Jade Robbery, Lyphard): [Nijinsky]; Lyphard
~Tosen Reve-G3 (Caerleon, Lord Gayle): Nijinsky
~World Ace-G3 (Acatenango, Be My Guest): Be My Guest
~Ardent (Kaldoun, Simply Great): no Northern Dancer through first two dam sires
~*Barocci (Giant’s Causeway, Day is Done): Storm Bird
~Para la Salud (Stuka, Stagecraft): [Nijinsky][Lyphard][Lyphard]Sadler’s Wells
~Round World (Tony Bin, Dictus): no Northern Dancer through first two dam sires
~Spielberg (Lycius, Sadler’s Wells): [Lyphard]Sadler’s Wells

*full siblings
**full siblings
full siblings
dams are full siblings

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Honor Flight

The sun sets on the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
Last week -- two days after Veterans Day -- I had the privilege of accompanying my great uncle (my mother’s uncle) on his Honor Flight” (; he lives in Northern Ohio so we went through the Cleveland branch,, which flies veterans -- with first preference to World War II vets -- on an all-expenses paid day trip to Washington D.C. to view war memorials.

Twenty-five WWII vets and their guardians converged upon the Cleveland, Ohio, airport at just past four in the morning. Southwest Airlines flies the veterans for free, and the airline and all of its employees we encountered deserve major kudos for giving us great, great service. The TSA and Honor Flight team on the ground in Cleveland and D.C. were also superb, and along the way, strangers, some of them wiping tears from their eyes, the entire length of the airport terminals applauded our vets. We were welcomed to the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport by uniformed servicemen and servicewomen from, if I’m not mistaken, nearby Fort Myer.

My uncle works out five mornings a week -- he shows up at the gym before it is even open -- and is as independent as anyone I know, so I was there primarily to share in the experience with him; my job as his “guardian” was nonexistent. Actually, I got wrapped up in taking pictures and had a difficult time keeping up with him. Each veteran was required to utilize a wheelchair (provided for the day by the VA) at the airports, and were encouraged to use them at other locations. Uncle Herb, of course, eschewed the wheelchair in favor of walking whenever possible.

Uncle Herb (who will read this on his Kindle!) doesn’t really talk about the war. From the bits and pieces of information Ive gathered, I know that he was drafted at the age of 20 and spent 13 months training in Colorado before he was deployed overseas in the 89th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, and that he participated in the Battle of the Bulge. “But just the end of it,” he is quick to add when it comes up -- as if to detract from the abominations he must have witnessed. I know, too, that he was there on April 4, 1945, when the troops of the 89th, along with those of the 4th Armored Division, were the first Americans to liberate a concentration camp: Ohrdruf, in Weimar, Germany. He was a forward observer, member of the 914th Field Artillery Battalion, and achieved the rank of corporal, with honorable discharge papers identifying him as “Scout 761” and “carbine sharpshooter.

Uncle Herb in 1943. The photo was saved by my grandmother, who I never met but whose husband -- my grandfather -- was Uncle Herb's older brother and whose sister later married Uncle Herb.
I can’t even begin to fathom the horrors that Uncle Herb, and many of the 24 other WWII vets on his flight, saw first-hand, but it was my honor to be in their company. Many of the folks associated with Honor Flight are veterans as well, as were several of my fellow guardians, including one who was not much younger than the WWII vets (average age: 91) and who had been a POW in the Korean War, where two-thirds of the American POWs were killed as a result of war crimes.

It was sobering to visit the National World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004, with these men. Uncle Herb didn’t say much, but we walked around and took some photos, including some of him by the section inscribed with the Battle of the Bulge. Jim Renacci, a U.S. Congressman from Ohio, was by the Ohio pillar to take photos with the vets. Uncle Herb posed with the congressman as he was expected to do, but as soon as Renacci wandered off a few feet in the other direction, I snapped a solo shot of my uncle underneath his state’s pillar.

Battle of the Bulge inscribed on the WWII Memorial.
We also visited the Marine Corps War Memorial, United States Air Force Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial (after which I made a quick detour up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial), and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. A large group of schoolchildren on a field trip detoured our way while we were walking to the Vietnam Wall, and many of them politely said, Thank you for your service,” a phrase I heard repeated many times throughout the day.

Our final stop was at Arlington National Cemetery, which I could have happily spent hours exploring had we had the time. We watched the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and then four veterans of our group placed a wreath at the tombs. I didn’t know until later that one of our veterans -- and one of those who participated in the wreath honors -- is the father of the bugler who sounded Taps” at the ceremony. What a moment that was for them!

It was a long day -- we touched down in Cleveland after nine o’clock at night -- but a very special and fulfilling one that will, I think, remain forever with veterans and guardians alike.

Entrance to the National World War II Memorial.

Uncle Herb taking a photo of the inscription on Pearl Harbor, the moment that started it all for the U.S.

Each of these 4,048 gold stars represents 100 U.S. service personnel who died or went missing and were never recovered in World War II.

The view from beneath one of the arches at the WWII Memorial.
The 25 WWII vets (two obscured from view) and two of the guardians on our trip.
Marine Corps War Memorial.
Statue by Felix de Weldon, based on a photo taken by Joseph Rosenthal.

Uncle Herb admiring the Marine Corps statue!
Air Force Memorial, in the shape of the missing man formation.

Shadows cast by the Air Force Memorial.
The Pentagon as seen from the Air Force Memorial. The top of the memorial would have been clipped had it been there when the plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.
Reflections in Valor, Courage, and Sacrifice.
Flowers at the foot of the statue accompanying the Air Force Memorial.
Our leader, Honor Flight board member and retired Marine Corps drill sergeant Al, with Uncle Herb.
The Vietnam Wall.
The Washington Monument (undergoing repairs and thus behind scaffolding) on the other side of the Reflecting Pool, directly across from the Lincoln Memorial. The monument is the focal point of D.C. and the surrounding area.
Inside the Lincoln Memorial.
Honest Abe's hand.

Korean War Memorial.
Uncle Herb was drawn to the magnificent laser etchings on the granite.

Uncle Herb noticed these front-lacing and rear-fastening boots (also below) on the Korean War statues and said that they were the most comfortable shoes ever.

Perfect rows at Arlington National Cemetery.

Gravesite of WWII hero -- and actor/horse breeder -- Audie Murphy, the third most visited grave at Arlington, after the Tomb of the Unknowns and JFK. 
Sentinel on duty at the Tomb of the Unknowns, guarding the remains of four soldiers who died in World War I (inside the sarcophagus), World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. The guards take 21 steps then pause facing the tombs for 21 seconds, before 21 steps in the other direction, and so on.

The wreaths that had been laid out earlier and replaced by new ones on the day we visited.

The sergeant escorts the relief guard going on duty at the tomb.

More perfection and precision…I was obsessed with the marks made by the horseshoe heel taps on the honor guards' shoes. The tomb has had a 24/7 military guard since July 2, 1937 -- retracing the same steps 24 hours a day all these many years.

The changing of the wreath about to take place, with a bugler in the background to sound "Taps."
The wreath our veterans brought from Ohio to place on the tomb.
The WWII veteran whose hand the honor guard sergeant is shaking is the father of the bugler. I didn't realize this at the time.

I took this post-ceremony photo of the bugler because I liked his smile, and had no idea his dad was one of our group! No wonder he was beaming.
American flag, autumn leaves, and the moon frame the amphitheater.