Many a stallion currently casts an influential shadow over the sprinting landscape, both in the UK and throughout the rest of the racing world.
Danehill and his father Danzig, are two such stallions. Danehill was bred in the United States. A striking looking bay, by leading American sire Danzig, he was one of the all-time great stallions.
He was owned during his racing career by Khalid Abdullah, who also bred him. Having finished third in the 2,000 Guineas behind Nashwan and fourth in the Irish equivalent, he was switched to shorter trips, becoming a top-class sprinter. Though successful as a racehorse, he became a superstar as a stallion.
He was retired to Coolmore Stud in Ireland in 2000. He spent time in both Ireland and Australia, with Coolmore becoming his sole owner after a $24 million deal, making him the most valuable Thoroughbred in Australian breeding history.
Sensational in Australia, he became just as successful in Europe with offspring of the stature of Guineas winners Rock of Gibraltar and George Washington; the dual Classic winner Desert King and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victor Dylan Thomas.
On 13 May 2003, Danehill broke his hip in a paddock accident at Coolmore Stud, and could not be saved. Thankfully that potent Danehill DNA lives on, in numerous stallions and broodmares throughout the globe.
If Danehill’s impact at stud was unprecedented, then his ‘old man’ Danzig, is no more than a short-head adrift. The pair are known for producing speedsters and many appear on the July Cup roll of honour.
Mozart was one such sprinter, who took the event at Newmarket in 2001. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, and ridden in the main by Mick Kinane, the son of Danehill found a mile just beyond his reach, but having won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, was dropped back in trip to great effect.
Campaigned as a sprinter for the remainder of the summer, arguably his finest performance came at Newmarket in the July Cup. Leading from the off, he went clear inside the final furlong, running out a stunning three and a half length winner. The Telegraph described it as "one of the finest sprinting performances in the modern era". This may have been a slight exaggeration, though it was pretty impressive, with Kinane claiming he had never ridden a horse as quick.
The following month Mozart was dropped to the minimum trip to take in the Nunthorpe at York. He stumbled at the start causing his saddle to slip, yet despite this setback he remained prominent throughout the race, running on powerfully to score by two lengths.
His final start on the dirt at Belmont Park proved a disappointment and he was retired to stud. Tragically his career as a stallion was cut short due to a bout of Colitis. He failed to respond to intense veterinary treatment and died on 12 May 2002.
Half a dozen years earlier Green Desert had advertised the pedigree power of Danzig with success in the July Cup. Prior to that victory he had finished runner-up in both the 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. However, having proved himself a top-class sprinter at Newmarket, he was next sent to Haydock and duly won their Sprint Cup, before a brave fourth place finish in the Prix de l’Abbaye.
Danzig continued to make his mark as an outstanding stallion, leading the US Sires list from 1991 to 1993. He also continued to produce July Cup winners. Polish Patriot took the race in 1991, and Hamas caused a huge upset when winning comfortably in the renewal of 93.
Owington, Anabaa and Elnadim were other July Cup winners in the 1990s, who had a splash of Danzig in their pedigree.
Oasis Dream is another product of the mighty Danzig. The sensational colt had a terrific summer in 2003, taking both the July Cup and the Nunthorpe Stakes. He too has become one of the great stallions, with last year’s champion sprinter Muhaarar one of his offspring.
Fleeting Spirit was a sensational filly. Her victory in the July Cup came at the age of four. She was named European Champion Sprinter of 2009. She was by Invincible Spirit, himself a top-class sprinter by Green Desert, the son of Danzig. Mayson took the July Cup in 2012. He too was by prolific stallion Invincible Spirit.
And what of this weekend’s Darley July Cup? Do we have a sprinter from the Danzig production line hidden away among the contestants?
Surprise, surprise, Aidan O’Brien has a potential sprint sensation among his flock. He’s become one of this year’s most frustrating colts, but Air Force Blue may find the drop to six furlongs the key to success. He’s by War Front, himself a successful stallion by Danzig. Outstanding as a juvenile, it’s hard to imagine an AFB win on Saturday, but his pedigree at least gives hope of an improved performance.
The Charlie Hills trained Cotai Glory is another with the pedigree we are looking for. His sire, Exceed and Excel is by Danehill, son of Danzig. Hills will be hopeful that his four-year-old can step forward again on his last effort, when a brilliant second to Profitable in the King’s Stand Stakes. His only other run at six furlongs came as a juvenile, when beaten by Limato at Newbury, on very quick ground.
We leap a few generations with Magical Memory, yet the link to Danzig remains. Another trained by Charlie Hills, this four-year-old is by Zebedee, himself a son of Invincible Spirit by Green Desert, and so on and so forth. He’s a classy sprinter, with the right kind of pedigree.
The same goes for Profitable of course, who will also be attempting the six-furlong trip for just the second time. By July Cup winner Invincible Spirit, he ought to see out the trip, though nothing is certain until proven.
Finally, both Quiet Reflection and Waady have that crucial DNA, thanks to Oasis Dream. Both have the potential to run well in Saturday’s showpiece, with Karl Burke’s flying filly one of the more fancied contenders.
Danzig has a lot to answer for. Pedigrees are very much the road maps to success, and the Darley July Cup is certainly proof of that.