It's In The Blood

Celestial Legend

Les Bridge, 85, stunned onlookers on Saturday by declaring Randwick Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Celestial Legend (Dundeel) the best of all the horses he’s trained.

That includes the outstanding Golden Slipper winner Sir Dapper (Vain), three-time Group 1 victor Drawn (Star Shower), Melbourne Cup hero Kensei (Blarney Kiss), and one Bridge didn’t have to remember back to the 1980s for to draw a comparison, 2020 Everest winner Classique Legend (Not A Single Doubt).

And while Celestial Legend doesn’t yet have the racetrack performances to match the likes of Sir Dapper, he does have the pedigree power to say he can get there. Not only is he the latest toptier performer from the burgeoning cross of Dundeel over sons of Redoute’s Choice, but South African racing and bloodstock aficionados will tell you he hails from one extremely formidable family.

Celestial Legend, the grey colt from the unraced grey Snitzel mare Sarraqa, is a new star from the family of his grey super second dam National Colour (National Assembly), who died in 2018, aged 16, with a rare collection of honours on her CV – in three countries.

In South Africa, National Colour shared Horse of The Year and 3YO Filly honours in 2006 after winning three Group 1s in as many starts, on three different tracks, in the back half of that season. Amid five successive wins, National Colour took her toptier trio in Turffontein’s Computaform Sprint (1000m), Scottsville’s South African Fillies’ Sprint (1200m), and the Mercury Sprint (1200m) at Clairwood.

Taken to Britain in 2007, via winning a 1000-metre race in Dubai, she ran sixth in Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes (Gr 1, 5f), in which names familiar to Australians – Equiano and Takeover Target were first and second. She was then second in the rearranged Nunthorpe Stakes (Gr 1, 5f) at Newmarket, and these two efforts against the males were enough to earn her Britain’s Champion Older Female Sprinter title.

Brought to Australia after that campaign – under Arrowfield Stud’s association with her South African owner Klawervlei Stud – she would add a NSW Broodmare of the Year title, after a ballistic string of offspring bred and born at John Messara’s famed farm, most of whom were quickly taken to South Africa.

First foal Circle Of Speed (Sebring), born in 2010, crossed the Indian Ocean and achieved no great fame in Klawervlei’s colours, winning twice in 15 starts. She’s had some success at stud, however, throwing South African Group 3 and Listed winner Full Velocity (Philanthropist).

For National Colour’s second mating, Arrowfield and Klawervlei put her to their triple champion sire Redoute’s Choice (Danehill), and the result was explosive.

The strapping colt, later named Rafeef, was bought at Easter 2014 by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Shadwell Australasia for $800,000. Thus began a love affair between Shadwell and the family, and a powerhouse career that’s just getting started at stud.

Rafeef was a racetrack star in South Africa for Shadwell and champion trainer Mike de Kock. He won four of his first six starts, stepped up to Group 2 for his eighth, he won Turffontein’s Hawaii Stakes (1400m). He then scored a Group 1 at the same track at his tenth start, in the same race won by his mother – the Computaform Sprint, ridden by the now Adelaide-based Callan Murray.

With that, he was retired to stud with six wins and two seconds and a raft of honours including South Africa’s Champion Sprinter and Champion Older Horse of 2017.

At stud, Rafeef has been a runaway success from day one, becoming champion first season sire in 2020-21, with 14 winners from 30 runners. He was leading second season sire, with 44 from 92, including six stakes winners, which was enough to put him tenth on the general sires’ table – a remarkable position for a second year stallion.

Rafeef has sired three top-tier winners including South African Derby hero Aragosta, Master Archie – another Computaform Sprint victor – and the South African Thunderstruck, who won the Scottsville Gold Medallion (Gr 1, 1200m).

Now with four crops running, the 11-year-old Rafeef sits at a career-high seventh on South Africa’s general sires’ table, which is headed by another son of the Hunter Valley who’s headed towards his third such title, Gimmethegreenlight (More Than Ready).

Rafeef, a three-quarter brother to Celestial Legend’s dam Sarraqa, is now the flagbearer for Ridgemont Highlands Farm, his R50,000 (approx. AU$4,050) service fee being the fourth-highest in the country. He’s well on his way to becoming one of the most successful sons of Redoute’s Choice at stud.

National Colour returned to Redoute’s Choice and bore a filly third foal in Turaathy, who fell to Shadwell at Easter 2015 for $600,000, but managed just two placings from her three South African starts for De Kock. Returned to Australia, her best progeny so far has been the Brisbane-winning Duly Elected (I Am Invincible).

But Arrowfield and Klawervlei repeated the mating a third time, and its second male product struck gold again. Mustaaqeem was the third-highest lot at Inglis Easter 2016, bought by Shadwell for $1.75 million, and sent to South Africa.

And at the same meeting where Rafeef won his Group 1 at his last start, Mustaaqeem won at the top level at his second, taking Turffontein’s South African Nursery (1160m) for two-year-olds by four lengths, again with De Kock the winning trainer, and helping Murray to a Group 1 treble that day

Mustaaqeem retired with two wins from eight starts, and was sold to stud in Chile two years ago.

Arrowfield and Klawervlei put National Colour to a son of Redoute’s Choice in Snitzel in 2014 and this time bred a grey filly, who’d stay in Australia. Knocked down to Messara’s trainer son Paul for $675,000 at Easter 2017, Sarraqa would stay in Australia but wouldn’t race, though she’d hit instant paydirt through her first foal Celestial Legend.

This is one of those families that draws people back in. De Kock – along with his Australia-based son Mathew and his Cranbourne co-trainer Rob Griffiths – paid $160,000 for Sarraqa’s second foal, a Written Tycoon filly from Noorilim Park’s draft at last year’s Inglis Premier Yearling Sale. She’s now named National Code and is awaiting her first start for a group including Mike de Kock and regular Griffiths-De Kock client Larry Nestadt, a prominent South African businessman.

Meanwhile, a half-brother to Celestial Legend by Arrowfield’s Japanese shuttler Maurice will be offered in that stud’s Inglis Easter draft, while Sarraqa went back to Dundeel (pictured below) last September.

Also, before he bought Celestial Legend, Bridge’s loyal client Bon Ho of Legend Racing, purchased National Colour’s eighth and last foal, Song Of Freedom (Snitzel), at the Magic Millions National Sale of 2020 – after she’d been withdrawn from Inglis Easter – for $300,000. Another grey, she ended up unraced, but has a colt foal at foot by St Mark’s Basilica, and is now in-foal to Dundeel, seeking to replicate the cross that produced Celestial Legend.

And why wouldn’t you? Putting Dundeel over mares by sons of Redoute’s Choice, such as Snitzel, is dropping some highly impressive numbers.

Arrowfield’s matings guru Peter Jenkins told It’s In The Blood that cross currently has a Group winners to overall runners ratio of 8.1 per cent, and a stakes horses to overall runners figure of 13.5 per cent.

Other sons of Dundeel borne of the cross include the triple stakes winner and Group 1 placed Entente (pictured below) – out of a mare by Redoute’s Choice’s Golden Slipper winner Stratum – plus Listed winner Bengal Boy (from a Nadeem mare) and VRC Derby placegetter Teewaters (from a Not A Single Doubt mare).

For active sires with their oldest progeny four-year-olds plus, Extreme Choice is top, Fastnet Rock second, Dundeel third and Snitzel’s fourth. To be third on that list is pretty impressive

Peter Jenkins

Runners by Dundeel out of mares by Redoute’s Choice himself include Caulfield Guineas hero (now New Zealand-based sire) Super Seth, another VRC Derby placegetter in Hit The Shot, and Paul Messara’s ill-fated JJ Atkins Stakes runner-up Miracle Of Love, out of the great Miss Finland.

“So it’s a cross that seems to work, and Celestial Legend is looking like more proof of it,” Jenkins says.

The cross, and the strength of his female family, appear to be the main forces in Celestial Legend’s pedigree, one which doesn’t hold a great deal of duplications trickery.

“The mare, Sarraqa, brings a double-up of Danzig, and that never hurts High Chaparral-Sadler’s Wells line stallions like Dundeel,” Jenkins says.

He also notes Dundeel – who scored the Randwick Guineas quinella with Militarize running second – is surging on the list of southern hemisphere sires ranked by Group 1 performers to overall runners.

“For active sires with their oldest progeny four-year-olds plus, Extreme Choice is top, Fastnet Rock second, Dundeel third and Snitzel’s fourth. To be third on that list is pretty impressive,” he said.

“And we’re still getting the flow-through now of the foals born on the back of Dundeel’s initial impact, and Celestial Legend is one of those.”

Ho, and his main trainer Bridge, are two jubilant beneficiaries. Despite Celestial Legend’s rich family, Ho had to part with just $220,000, in tandem with Avenue Bloodstock, to buy the colt at the Inglis Classic sale of 2022.

His breeders Arrowfield might have been a little surprised he wasn’t selected for Easter, given the family’s record. But it’s a fair bet that, starting with that third foal by Maurice next month, it will be Easter all the way for Sarraqa’s offspring from now on.

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